Mandolin vs. Ukulele: (Differences & Which One Is For You?)

As a beginner, it is more prudent to start with the easy to learn and most affordable instrument. An instrument that you can learn to play with less effort will encourage you to practice passionately.

The mandolin and the ukulele are both string instruments. They have different tunings, sizes, and shapes.

The mandolin is a fretted instrument with eight strings that can be tuned to produce chords while the ukulele has four strings that can be played as individual notes or together to make chords.

This blog post will discuss what distinguishes these two popular instruments so you can decide which one best suits your needs!

First off, to make your work easier, this article discusses at length the fundamental differences between ukulele and mandolin. The instruments are dissimilar despite categorization as both lute family members, which is even more confusing.

After understanding various features and benefits of learning each of them, you should be able to decide based on portability, affordability, ease of leaning, and others entirely unbiased.

Difficulty: Which One Is Easier?

As a beginner, the ukulele is usually the best bet. No matter how much you love the mandolin, going for the ukulele first is safer as you can learn to play first and costs affordably.

The final decision is yours, but the the ukulele is incredibly easy to understand.

The Mandolin requires more intuition in tuning, and the form of music it plays also calls for a higher degree of expertise.

For that reason, you will need so much practice to have a presentable skills in playing mandolin. You can always learn the mandolin after.

Differences Between The Mandolin and Ukulele


The ukulele is a plucked lute that originated from Hawaiian musical traditions brought there in 19th century by Portuguese immigrants. It is in the 20th century that the instrument became famous in America and elsewhere around the globe.

About mandolin, they are strummed or plucked instruments where the modern types originated from Naples, Italy, in the late 18th century. However, the original mandore form of mandolin evolved around the 14th century.


At first glance, their strings may appear similar, but mandolins have 8 strings and therefore has 8 turning pegs.

In some cases, mandolins have 8 to 12 strings. Their strings are metallic, which makes them hard to press or strum with bare hands and so uses pick when playing.

Ukulele, on the other hand, has 4 strings made of nylon hence easy to strum without a pick or anything.


Tuning these two instruments makes a significant difference, where standard ukulele strings tuned to GCEA. The ukulele tuning sounds like a guitar and, in fact, like the highest sounds of a four-string guitar. It is common to find ukulele playing various guitar sounds in concerts correctly. The nylon strings make ukulele sound mellow.

Typical mandolin is tuned to GDAE, which matches a violin sound. The steel mandolin has some timbre biting tone, and someone who can play the violin can as well ply mandolin scales.

Although you can you tune a mandolin like a ukulele if you want.

Music Style

Comparatively, mandolins have a bit louder sound therefore used in playing bluegrass music, American folk, and European classical tune.

The need for mandolin’s steel strings strumming makes the instrument best for precise with notes and good enough can be used with banjo, guitars, and others.

The musical sound from ukulele nylon strings is very crucial when playing folk music. Dancing with ukulele sounds is preferable due to the sweet low tone produced. The unique timbre mandolin sound is also prestigious.


Ukuleles use woods in designing and construction, although there are variations where some comprise a partial or entire plastic material. What makes ukulele cheap is their construction, where some are from laminate spruce or plywood.

Costly ukulele involves hardwood construction like mahogany or Hawaiian fine wood known as acacia koa.

Mandolin is designed with a hollow wooden body, and a flat necked fretted fingerboard. Further has floating bridge pinblock where strings are attached and automatic tuning tackles instead of friction pegs to fix metal strings.


The ukulele comes in four categories based on their sizes, which are tenor, concert, soprano, and baritone.

The sopranos are the smallest model and the earliest size from Hawaii. The concert size was developed after the soprano and was a little larger, louder, and with a deeper tone.

After that, the tenor type was devised larger in volume and bass tone. Finally came to the most recent type called baritone, designed in the 1940s.

Mandolins are in three typical forms. The earliest is the Neopolitan style, also known as bowl-back, which involves a vaulted back designed from several wooden strips that are either two-plane or canted with uncarved top.

The other style is a banjo-styled body. In the late 19th century, came a new form with a carved top and a violin family inspired back, which won many enthusiasts, especially in the USA.

Spring Tension

Practically, comparing the 8 vs 4 strings on ukulele and mandolin, respectively, and mandolins have metal springs whereas ukulele has 4 made of nylon. Hence ukulele strings are soft to play hence easier best choice for first time players.

It means the high tension hand mandolin strings require strength or thick cellulose to pluck. Ukulele is, therefore, easy!


The cost of purchasing a mandolin is far in comparison to the price of the ukulele. The cost of a reliable mandolin starts at 0 and up. An excellent ukulele to tune is less than 0. Therefore it is safe for a beginner to invest in ukulele than having a mandolin that costs that much and discouraging the when learning takes long.


With all the factors and differences mentioned above, it is easy for you to choose, which is the ideal musical instrument to start learning first. If you decide to pick ukulele, be careful as not all cheap tools come with good quality. Both the devices have pleasant sweet sounds.

However, a beginner for the most affordable and easy learning is wise!

Leave a Comment