Best Guitaleles for Beginners and Traveling Musicians
If you’re struggling to appreciate the sound of a travel guitar and if a ukulele simply doesn’t have the range to fit your practice needs, you may be thinking that you’re out of luck. I want to tell you that until you’ve sampled some of the best guitaleles on the market, you shouldn’t give up hope.
A guitalele is a hybrid between a guitar and a uke. It’s smaller than guitar, but has more range and a more powerful resonator box than a ukulele. Its sound is quite distinctive and can help you stand out in an ensemble, should you want one for more than on-the-road practice sessions.
6 Best Guitaleles Out There - My Picks
The Yamaha GL1 is not just one of my favorite guitaleles; it’s also one of the most popular guitaleles in the world. Similar in size to a baritone ukulele, the GL1 model is very small, even when compared to a short-scale guitar. This is just one of the many reasons why it’s a great choice if you’re looking for something to travel with.
Six nylon strings come with the guitalele. The factory tuning is ADGCEA, which may be a bit higher than what you’re used to as a guitarist. But, due to the unique resonator box design and unique sound, this works great for the GL1.
When it comes to sound, the GL1 is not as bright or crisp as most ukuleles out there. But, it doesn’t resemble a guitar too much, either. If you are looking for a unique, different sound, the GL1 will provide it.
A soft bag that is also included will make it even easier to take the instrument along with you on the road. The bag can serve as storage, too.
There aren’t too many color options which is not surprising for a stringed Yamaha instrument. Still, you can get the GL1 in Natural, Persimmon, and Tobacco Sunburst finishes. I recommend the last one if you plan on taking the guitalele with you to jam sessions or live shows. It has a better stage presence.
The Kmise Guitalele is not for everyone. Not because it doesn’t sound impressive or because it doesn’t have a smooth fretboard feel. That’s all covered. But, this guitalele is a 31” model, which makes it considerably larger than your average guitalele.
With that said, even though it may be more difficult to carry at times, there are clear benefits to a larger guitalele. First and foremost, you’ll get a louder projection that comes with a larger resonator box.
Secondly, you’ll be able to enjoy some extra space between the strings which is more akin to the spacing on a standard six-stringer. The 15:1 tuning pegs can keep the Kmise Guitalele in tune even after prolonged jam sessions.
I also like that the instrument has adjustable action and that an Allen wrench is included. With adjustable action, you can raise the strings for chord work or lower it for the lead stuff.
Another reason why I recommend you check out the Kmise Guitalele is the copper hardware. It has excellent rust resistance and looks beautiful on this guitalele.
Guitar players love mahogany for its warm and beefy sound. But what really sets this Caramel Mahogany Guitalele apart is the value bundle that comes with it and the acoustic electric design. The overall versatility of this guitalele may be hard to match.
So, let me start off with the electronics. First of all, you will notice the built-in 3-band EQ. It has an LCD display with an integrated digital tuner. To pick up the sound and amplify it, the guitalele features a microphone in the resonator box.
The clarity is not spectacular, but it’s good enough for this price range, especially for a beginner instrument. For those worried about transitioning from a full-sized guitar to a guitalele, you should know that this Caramel guitalele has the standard guitar tuning (EADGBE).
What is interesting about this instrument is that when played as an acoustic, it actually sounds a lot clearer. The microphone pickup is not the most high-end solution, but if all you need is extra oomph and volume, it will get the job done, just not for recording purposes.
As you’ve probably figured out by now, guitaleles are evolving. There are more sizes and styles available than ever before. But, if you are looking for a classic 28” guitalele, you may not need to look further than the Donner DGL-1.
This one is similar in size to a tenor ukulele and offers the range of a mini or travel guitar. The fretboard has 20 brass frets, and position marks up to the 17th fret. Traveling with this tiny instrument shouldn’t be an issue under any conditions, especially since it comes with a gig bag and all accessories you need for maintenance and tuning.
What I really like is the classic combination of the spruce top and mahogany back and sides. This gives the DGL-1 a well-defined and rich sound, more impressive that most people would expect for sure.
In terms of volume, you can’t expect it to overpower a band, but the tonal clarity should compensate for that.
Whether you’re buying a Luna guitar, uke, or guitalele, you’re almost always guaranteed to get something with spectacular graphics. I recommend the Luna Tribal 6 if you’re looking for a guitalele that can make a big splash with an audience.
The detailing on this guitalele, the black on dark brown tribal design, and the satin finish all go very well together. When it comes to sound, you won’t be disappointed in this department, either. The Tribal 6 is a guitalele with an impressive volume and bright tone. It also boasts superior note sustain for its size.
The hardware is also good, especially if you take the chrome tuners into account. What is a bit odd is the limited range for neck adjustments. You can still do it but not to the extent allowed on many other guitaleles, particularly the larger models.
That said, I do think that the gig bag, high-end strings, chrome tuners, and beautiful artwork should compensate for the limited neck adjustment range.
Here’s what you need to know about guitaleles if you’re not familiar with them. They sit between large ukuleles and travel guitars when it comes to size. They can be acoustic or acoustic electric, but very rarely feature professional-level electronics. That is, unless you’re looking at premium models.
Modern guitaleles can exceed 28” in length, with some models going well over the 30” mark. Unlike ukuleles, guitaleles always come with six strings, hence the reason why guitarists prefer them as transitional, practice, or travel instruments.
How to Get Good Volume
If you want a loud guitalele, you have to look at the bigger models. 30” guitaleles will almost always have a superior resonator box, at least in terms of projection potential. But, some resonator box design variations can also play a part in enhancing the volume.
Wide-body guitaleles can also give you a boost in volume, without having to compromise on comfort. Cutaways are nice if you want to solo, but they can take away from the loudness. Luckily, they are not really a common trait in guitaleles.
Materials Always Matter
There’s not a lot of variation in materials when it comes to guitaleles. If you’re familiar with acoustic guitars and the properties of various tonewoods, you can apply the same here to narrow down your search.
A solid body will always be preferable, as long as you’re not paying too high of a premium for it. Mahogany and spruce is the most common combination for the body because it combines the warmth and power of mahogany back and sides with the clarity and resonance of the spruce top.
Avoiding laminate is advised, only if you can afford to pay top dollar. While the differences may be more noticeable in acoustic guitars, for a smaller instrument such as a guitalele, the differences in sound won’t be as pronounced.
Of course, if you want to play flamenco or classical music on your guitalele, you might want a laminated body.
Best of Both Worlds
I’d say that they’re definitely worth it if you can’t decide between a uke and an acoustic guitar. That said, don’t forget that guitaleles can hold their own on a large stage and can also be used to record unique melodic lines.
All the guitaleles listed in this article are medium to high-end in terms of sound quality. And yes, that may surprise you in this price class, but you can’t compare the costs of a guitalele with that of a standard acoustic guitar. Pick one up as soon as you can if you want to experience a familiar but different play style with a unique sound.