Did you know there’s a way that you can turn a guitar into a ukulele?
It’s actually pretty easy, but before we get to it let’s take a look at the main differences between a guitar and a ukulele that we’ll have to contend with.
Differences between a guitar and a ukulele
Aside from the size difference, the most obvious difference is the fact that a guitar has 6 strings and a ukulele has 4. That’s a relatively easy fix, the harder part to deal with is the fact that those strings are tuned differently.
Starting from the bottom to the top, the guitar strings are E, B, G, D, A, and E
When it comes to ukulele, again going bottom to top, the strings are A, E, C, and G.
Let’s simplify things a little bit by forgetting about the top two strings on the guitar. We don’t need them.
That gives us the following notes (again, bottom to top)
That’s a little simpler to work with.
Now we’re going to use the chromatic scale to work out the difference between the notes.
The steps in the chromatic scale correspond to your fretboard. Starting with the E note, how many steps does it take us to work our way up to the A note from our ukulele? Give yourself a pat on the back if you said 5.
Now let’s try the same approach with our B note. How many steps to make it an E? You can feel pretty smug now if you answered 5 again.
They’re all 5 notes apart.
This means that if we place a capo at fret 5 on our guitar we have now essentially turned our guitar into a ukulele by shifting all of the notes 5 steps up the chromatic scale.
If you don’t have a capo to hand it is possible to create a makeshift capo with an elastic band and a pencil. The pencil presses against the fretboard and the elastic band holds it in place. Take a look at the video if you want a little help with this.
What about re-entrant tuning?
Those that know ukuleles well will no doubt be asking about re-entrant tuning right now. If you don’t already know what re-entrant tuning is, it simple means that the strings on a ukulele aren’t quite as linear as they are on a guitar.
On a guitar, the thickest string is at the top and they get thinner as you move toward the bottom string. On a re-entrant tuned ukulele, this is not the case. The thickest string isn’t the one at the top, it’s the next one down.
Without changing strings there’s no real way around this and we’re looking for simple here.
What we have essentially created is a ukulele with a low G string.
If you’re just planning on strumming a few chords then you’re good to go, just make sure you’re not strumming those top two strings as you’re playing.
A Note On Fingerpicking
Where it gets a little different is fingerpicking. Some arrangements will work fine, with others the low G may sound a little out of place. Sometimes you can get away with omitting those notes. Or you can check out some arrangements specifically for low G ukulele.
If you find working around the top two strings without accidentally strumming them a little difficult, you can mute them by adding something underneath those strings to deaden the sound.
A small piece of cloth, part of a sponge or anything like that will do the trick.
And that’s it, you’ve turned your guitar into a makeshift ukulele. Now you have no excuse for not learning a few ukulele songs.