The answer is that the first four strings of the guitar have essentially the same tonal relationship as the four strings of a ukulele.
In a way, the first four strings of a guitar actually ARE a ukulele: a baritone ukulele. The most common tuning for a baritone ukulele is the same notes as the first four strings of a guitar.
As you may know, you can take anything you know on your soprano ukulele and play it on a baritone uke. It will sound the same except at a lower pitch.* It follows that anything you know on a uke can be played on the first four strings of a guitar.*
It works both ways!
Not only are guitar players instant ukulele players, but ukulele players are instant guitar players. Did you know that? Did you know that as a ukulele player you can pick up a guitar and play it?
I am not saying you have to become a guitar player. I can remember a uke group chanting, “4 strings good. 6 strings bad!” But, maybe you’ll be in a situation where you want to practice and you don’t have your uke. If there happens to be a guitar lying around, pick it up and give it a play! Give it a try. Let me know how it goes.
*SPECIAL NOTE: With uke arrangements that are specifically for high-G tuned instruments you might notice that notes on the fourth string will sound quite different if you move the arrangement to a guitar or baritone. Usually, the arrangement will still work but sound different.
Learning the uke changed how I play guitar.
For me, being introduced to the ukulele and becoming engrossed in arranging and improvising on the the instrument, has changed how I play the guitar. When I play guitar these days I spend a lot more time on the first four strings. I have a much deeper understanding now of the possibilities of the upper register of the guitar than I did before I played the uke. This is particularly true when it comes to playing jazz. Jazz guitar players are often encouraged to play chords on the first four strings so as not to interfere with the bass player. So, if you’re a guitar player and want to open up this area of your playing, ukulele is a magnificent way to do that.
That’s all for today’s newsletter. Here’s a little video showing how we can play uke songs on the guitar and vice versa. Next newsletter, we will further explore the ukulele guitar connection and look at how a famous classical guitar piece can be played on the uke without changing very much…
Here is a link to the lesson on Happy Birthday mentioned in the video: LEARN HAPPY BIRTHDAY
Also, here are some DIAGRAMS!
Here are the notes on a guitar fretboard with the top four strings highlighted. These are the same notes as on a baritone ukulele! Cool eh?
Here are the notes on a guitar fretboard with the notes from a soprano ukulele highlighted in red. You can see that if you put a capo on a guitar on the 5th fret you have a soprano ukulele!
All for now,
P.S. I am regularly adding new lessons to Ukulele in the Dark. Please subscribe to my mailing list below to receive every lesson right when it comes out. Be sure not to miss a thing!