Saturday, May 3, 2014

Yamaha Guitalele review

It's a ukulele! No's a guitar! No's a Ukutar? Yeah, Guitalele sounds a lot cooler. Nice Job, Yamaha! My wife got me this Yamaha Guitalele (GL-1) for my birthday this year. I thought it was a cool idea, but since it was around $100, I really wasn't expecting too much from it. But I'm pleasantly surprised by it! Smaller scale guitars (like pocket guitars) have been around for some time, but these guitaleles are new territory. Here's the report card....

Specs and details: Spruce Top, Meranti back and sides, Rosewood fretboard and bridge. Scale length 17". Geared tuners.

Who's it for? Well...that's a good question. I don't see this as a good fit for the beginner uke player. It's probably best for someone that dabbles on both the guitar and uke. Coming from a guitar playing background, this instrument makes a lot of sense to me. The tuning is similar to a uke, but chord positioning is the same as a guitar....think of it as playing a guitar with a capo on the fifth fret.

Intonation - B-

My wife bought this one from a random Amazon shop which means that it most likely went through a very VERY light setup or no setup at all. I'm assuming the latter. That being said, it doesn't have great intonation, but I the intonation is decent. Action is decent. Could be better, could be worse.

One thing that I am a little annoyed by is how often I have to tune. Most of my ukes will stay pretty close to in tune for 2 or 3 sit downs. This one needs tuning adjustments every single play...and sometimes during. I initially chalked this up to new strings stretching, but after owning it for a couple months, I don't think that excuse holds up.

Tone - B-

I do like the classical guitar type of tone that this puts out. I swear, sometimes I hear a hint of a dobro sound in it. While I like the overall sound, the tone is a little muddy. It does pack a punch when it comes to volume.

Finish and Appearance - B+

Minor finish flaws are to be expected with any factory mass produced instrument. Nothing on this that really stands out as unreasonable. The "binding" (if you can call it that) looks like black paint and it very well might be. I think the look would be improved had they left that out of the design. It doesn't look bad from a distance, but up close it just doesn't look good.

I do love the classical guitar style design and the open head stock!

Materials and Construction - B-

Spruce is known for it's resonant acoustic properties and is an excellent choice for the top on this instrument. Can't say I know much about Meranti. The construction seems to be solid.

I feel like they slacked a little bit on the tuners. They don't stay in tune incredibly well.

Another gripe that I have is with some minimal fret buzz on the two low strings. I call it minimal because it's only apparent when you're strumming or picking aggressively. This doesn't show up too much in my playing since I tend to play softer. Still, it's annoying to hear it even occasionally.

Innovation and Ingenuity - A-

High marks in this category. While Yamaha can't claim the guitalele as their own invention, I'm happy that Yamaha has taken the guitalele and pushed forward with making it available at a very reasonable price.

Feel and Playbility - B+

It feels nice to hold and play. Sometimes the fretboard width feels a little crowded with certain chords and positions...but really, that's to be expected. Chord and position changes are fairly smooth.

Value - A+

As I stated at the beginning of this review, I wasn't expecting much out of a $100 instrument...especially one that falls more in the novelty range, but I'm surprised at how much I enjoy playing it and the quality of it for the price. It's really a great bargain!

Overall - B+

When it comes right down to it, you'll have trouble finding a quality basic instrument for $100. This is one of those rare deals. It's fun to play and super addictive...I have trouble putting it down. Sure, it has it's issues and problems, but it's a solid buy for what it is. If you're curious about diving into the world of guitaleles, this is a good choice for a first one.


  1. You are right!
    At the begining y doubted because of price, but it´s worth!

    Regards from Spain

  2. I like the SoundCloud example of playing the Guitalele. Is there a PDF or sth. with sheet music or TAB for this lovely small piece available?