Guitalele – Guitar Alternative for Kids?

At first glance, the guitalele is an instrument somewhere between a guitar and a ukulele, and it looks a lot like a small toy guitar. The guitalele is definitely not a toy guitar. In this article we’re going to find out what a guitalele really is, if it’s an instrument for children and what the advantages and disadvantages are when children start to play it.

Invention from Yamaha

The name of the instrument was invented by Yamaha and it’s a play on words of guitar and ukulele. Yamaha was the first manufacturer of this type of instrument on the market. For a long time, the Yamaha GL1 guitar was the only one on the market. But since then, this small guitar has gained some popularity and other guitar manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon. Nevertheless, the Yamaha GL1 remains the most popular and best-selling model on the market.

Rather a guitare or ukulele?

guitalele for beginners

In terms of construction, the Guitalele is a guitar. It also has 6 nylon strings like a real guitar instead of the 4 strings we find on a ukulele. The body of the instrument and its head are very similar to a classical guitar. The image of a ukulele actually comes from the sound of the instrument. It uses a tuning that reminds many of us more of a ukulele sound than a guitar sound. A guitalele is tuned a 4th higher than standard, which gives us the tuning of a requinto guitar (A D G C E A) and is responsible for the typical ukulele sound.

Theoretically, you could tune a guitalele in standard tuning, but it’s not really made for it. The strings wouldn’t have enough tension and they would touch the fretboard when you pluck them. However, if you replace the strings with 1/4 guitar strings, the problem is solved and you can play this little guitar in standard tuning.

Guitalele Chords

Since the tuning is different, the same chords we are used to from the guitar won’t sound the same. You can play the same chords but they will sound a a way higher and you couldn’t play along with others since you would play in a different key. In addition to that, singing becomes also quite harder as you would sing higher. So you may know or learn the transition of the notes on the guitar neck for this certain tuning (look here for basic guitalele chords) in order to get the same sound as you are used from the guitar.

Basic Guitalele Chords
guitalele chords for kids

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Guitalele Strings

You can’t use standard guitar strings on a guitalele. Just cutting them a way shorter won’t be enough. Guitalele strings are in general also thinner. So you need to get guitalele strings When buying a string instrument it’s always a good idea to buy some extra strings as well in case one will break. Anyway, afterwhile you need to change the strings anyway. A brand I like when it comes to strings is  Aquila. They have guialele and ukulele strings for a good price. If you want to tune the guitalele in standard tuning, then get rather strings for a 1/4 size guitar.

You can’t use standard guitar strings on a guitalele. Just cutting them a little shorter won’t do the trick. Guitar strings are also generally thinner. When you buy a stringed instrument, it’s always a good idea to buy a few extra strings in case one breaks. After a while you will need to change the strings anyway. A brand I like when it comes to strings is Aquila*. They have guitalele and ukulele strings for a good price. If you want to tune the guitalele in standard tuning, then get strings for a 1/4 size guitar.

Guitalele for Kids

guitalele kids

The guitalele has as many notes as a guitar, which makes the neck and the space for each fret much smaller. People with bigger fingers may find it harder to play certain chords. But it’s much easier for kids to play chords on the guitar. A guitalele also fits a small child’s body much better.

It is possible to learn to play the guitar on a guitalele, but as a parent or teacher you should be aware of certain things. If you just want to buy a stringed instrument for a child to have fun and discover the world of music on his own, a guitalele is as good as it gets. It’s relatively inexpensive and much better than many toy guitars. It’s a real instrument that looks like a high-quality toy instrument.

However, if you want to buy a guitar for a child to learn to play properly, you should consider the different tunings. I would recommend getting guitar strings for a 30 inch guitar and tuning it like a standard size guitar. All learning materials are designed for standard tuned guitars. The same goes for group lessons with teachers. They are also designed for standard tuning because most students have standard tuned guitars. In addition, mastering the guitar in standard tuning should be the basis.

Best Guitalele: Yamaha GL1

There are a few models on the market, but in my opinion the best one is the Yamaha Guitalele GL1*. It’s unbeatable in terms of price and quality. It’s definitely a long-term investment. For a guitar of this size, the sound is really beautiful and quite powerful. The finish is clean and very precise. The Yamaha GL1 is not a toy, but a real musical instrument. It also comes with a gigbag, which makes it a perfect instrument for outdoors and traveling.

yamaha gl1 guitalele
Yamaha GL1
– well-known brand for guitars
– affordable for beginners
– solid quality and workmanship

More information on the Yamaha website.