Which instrument is better?
I am learning the cavaquinho myself and recently asked my teacher Thiago Alvares to briefly give me his opinion on the debate between Cavaquinho vs Ukulele. Hopefully, his opinion helps you decide which one is for you.
One of the most common questions asked to me during lessons has been “which instrument is better cavaquinho or ukulele?”
Before I answer that question, let’s look at what these two instruments have in common. First of all, they are both small four-stringed plucked instruments. Cavaquinho is tuned in fifths, while ukulele is tuned in fourths.
Both instruments are typically associated with the Bossa Nova style of music that has become very popular in recent years. They are also both associated with Brazil since they were developed there and have been immensely popular over the past century throughout Brazil and around the world.
The ukulele was created in Portugal but has been adopted by Americans more so than any other country, both of these instruments have a connection with Brazil because of their popularity there.
Cavaquinho is a member of the guitar family, while the ukulele is a distant relative of the lute family.
These are the similarities, so it looks like cavaquinho might be better right? Well, not really. There are many factors to consider when choosing between these two instruments. The most important things you have to consider are your reasons for learning an instrument in the first place and what type of music you plan on playing.
If your reasons for learning a musical instrument are because you want to be a performer or you want to play for pleasure and personal satisfaction.
If your goal is to become a performer, then I personally prefer the cavaquinho. This is mainly due to its smaller size and the sound it produces reminds me of home (Salvador Brasil).
The cavaquinho is closely related to the guitar family since it has six strings, four of which are played like a guitar while strumming with the other hand. It was traditionally used as an accompanying instrument to the voice in Bossa Nova music.
Cavaquinho can be heard accompanying many Bossa Nova musicians like Tom Jobim, Joao Gilberto, and Sergio Mendes. If you are trying to become the next Brazilian music sensation this is the instrument for you. One of my students in Brazil said he dreamed of playing alongside famous Bossa Nova artist Marcos Valle one day, so cavaquinho was his instrument of choice.
Cavaquinho vs Ukulele – What are your reasons for learning?
The lack of cavaquinho’s six strings makes it significantly less intimidating than the guitar family to pick up and learn.
If your reasons for learning an instrument are simply to quickly learn something new and play for personal satisfaction, then the ukulele is a better choice.
Ukuleles also tend to be tuned in fourths, which makes it less difficult to transition into if you are already familiar with guitar chords.
There are many amazing ukulele players all over the world today, especially in Hawaii where the ukulele originated. Ukulele is very popular among beginners due to its small size and simplicity. Many of my students started on cavaquinho but switched to ukulele when they realized it wasn’t for them.
I have seen several people in my life who have taught themselves the cavaquinho in a few months because of all its benefits, while there are a lot of others who have been playing the ukulele for years and continue to play it to this day, so there are some pros and cons of each instrument.
The choice between cavaquinho or ukulele is ultimately up to you, but I would recommend considering your reasons for learning the two instruments before making a decision.
Hopefully, this article will help lead you in the right direction.