Kalimba Vs Ukulele – What Is Easier To Play?

Many people claim that ukulele is the easiest instrument to learn. Even if you don’t have any experience with music, you can still master this instrument with ease. But is this really the truth?

There is another instrument you can try out and that’s kalimba. This African instrument is great for beginners, and you won’t need to know music theory to learn it. Moreover, you won’t even need lessons or classes to know your way around kalimba.

But which instrument is actually easier to learn, kalimba or ukulele? The answer is kalimba. If you just want to learn to play an instrument, and you don’t have any preferences, kalimba might be the best option. 

Not to say that ukulele is not a great instrument as well, but in reality, you will need to spend a lot less time learning how to play the kalimba. 

Learning How To Play Kalimba

If you never had any experience with kalimba, you should probably check it out. This amazing instrument dates to several thousand years, and it originated in Africa. Unlike ukulele, which is a string instrument, kalimba is in the family of lamellophones. 

Similarly to the xylophone, you will need to hit plates or tines, and their vibration will create sound. However, there are many differences between a xylophone and kalimba. 

As you can probably expect, there are several types of this instrument available, but each will have the same idea. You will use your thumbs to pluck notes and create beautiful music. 

This is the main reason why this instrument has the nickname thumb piano. Learning how to play the kalimba is probably one of the simplest things in the world. You will need to have only a slight practice, and you can probably play your first song in a couple of hours. 

While the learning process is still required, you can easily find many videos online that will aid you in your musical journey. 

It is a great way to learn to play an instrument, and especially if you are inexperienced. Kalimba is also an excellent choice for children and for those who never knew anything about music. 

Kalimbas usually have a bit over two octaves, and the two most popular types are alto and treble kalimba, which have fifteen and seventeen keys. 

Pros And Cons Of Playing The Kalimba

Even though there are different models available, kalimba is quite small. Moreover, some models can even fit in your pocket. Besides its mobility, many decide to pick kalimba because it’s easy to learn. 

The instrument also sounds magical, and there are so many songs you can learn online. Since it is so easy to follow tablatures for kalimba, you’ll be able to learn a song in a couple of hours or even less. 

Kalimbas are also unique, and they will give you a chance to experience and enjoy a piece of African culture. 

But as you can expect, there are a couple of flaws as well. The main one is probably the tuning and number of keys. On kalimba, there are no sharps or flats, at least if you pick a model in standard C tuning. 

Playing and even listening to kalimba music can be almost meditative, and there is no doubt that you will enjoy the sound of this beautiful instrument. 

While this is great for beginners since they won’t need to worry about additional notes, it can be problematic for experienced players looking for the missing notes. 

It can also be a bit limiting since it works best with soft and slow music. While you can experiment with other genres, these are the ones where kalimbas shine. 

Kalimba can be quite soft, which also means that you won’t be getting any noise complaints from your neighbors. 

Learning How To Play Ukulele

The instrument possesses an incredible charm, and many people are simply drawn to it. This string instrument has many qualities, but the main one is that it’s easy to learn. Many list this instrument as one of the easiest ones, and even if you don’t have any prior experience, you can still learn it. 

But this doesn’t mean that ukulele is exciting only for beginners. Many experienced guitarists love messing around with this instrument if they are looking for variety and distraction. 

Another great thing about the ukulele is that the instrument is rather inexpensive. Unlike guitars or pianos, you won’t need to spend a fortune to get one. 

But if you want to learn how to play it at least to some degree, you will need to practice and learn basics. 

Since it is essentially a very small guitar with fewer strings, this means that you will need to know the basics of music theory. Furthermore, you will need to know how to tune the instrument and learn chords. 

While the chords have the same principle as the ones on the guitar, you’d still need to spend some time before you’re able to play the song. 

Just remember that even though many put a ukulele in the same family as guitars, they are actually a lot different. In fact, the ukulele is one of the instruments in the lute family. 

Many beginners opt to try this instrument since it is a lot simpler than the guitar, and you can create beautiful music with it. Compared to other instruments, you will undoubtedly need a lot less time and practice to become good at it. 

Pros And Cons Of Playing Ukulele

To learn to play this instrument, you will need a lot less theory compared to the piano or guitar. The strings are usually made of nylon, which means that you won’t need to worry about calluses and painful practice. 

Of course, many enjoy the fact that the ukulele is quite mobile, and you can easily carry it with you wherever you go. 

Obviously, the main quality of ukulele is simplicity and the fact that you won’t need to invest thousands of hours into practicing. 

But the instrument has many cons as well. Since it is a lot smaller, you’ll get a limited number of octaves, and you will have to compensate a lot. Due to the fact that there are only two octaves, there is a chance that you will need to get creative to make the song sound good. 

Furthermore, the sound of the ukulele is a lot quieter than you’d expect. If you are looking to play with other people, it will be nearly impossible to hear your instrument unless you find a way to amplify it. 

Moreover, if you are a guitar player, you might be a bit confused when you start playing the ukulele. The tuning on this instrument is different than the one on the guitar, and it might take you a bit to adjust. While it is still a simple instrument, your muscle memory will probably switch to a guitar mode. 

Which One Is Easier To Learn Kalimba Or Ukulele

All things considered, kalimba is a lot easier to play compared to the ukulele. The main reason for this is the simplicity of the instrument and lack of sharps and flats. You won’t need to worry about tuning each string, and how to play chords.

On kalimba, all you need to do to get a certain chord is to play three adjacent tines since the instrument is tuned to a major scale. Thanks to its unique layout, two keys next to each other are actually three steps of the scale. 

This way, you won’t need to worry about music theory and which note is the major third of the scale. 

But kalimbas also win when it comes to mobility since you will have a lot easier time carrying one around. 

Of course, both instruments have their own qualities and advantages. But if you are looking for the one that’s easier, kalimba is the one you should pick. 

Moreover, kalimba is a lot more beginner-friendly, and the whole premise of the instrument is simpler. 

This is the main reason why many beginners opt for getting a kalimba. Finally, even though the ukulele can be quite cheap, kalimbas are even cheaper. You can get a beautiful, hand-made instrument for under $50. 

To successfully play the kalimba, you will mostly use your thumbs only, while on the ukulele, you will need to practice coordination and fingerpicking, as well as chord shapes. 

Which One To Pick

Now, it would be quite wrong to say that one instrument is better than the other, especially when they are so different like kalimbas and ukuleles. 

These instruments are from different families, and comparing them wouldn’t make any sense. 

But there is no secret that they require different levels of music theory and understanding. If you want to learn how to play the instrument quickly and without any problems, kalimba might be the one for you.

The very idea behind the kalimba is something even beginners will easily understand, and having only one major scale at your disposal means that you can’t really play a “wrong” note. 

On the other hand, if you are really a fan of string instruments, you probably won’t enjoy kalimbas. 

In the end, the choice is up to you and it is completely subjective. You should always pick the one that makes you happier, and that you will enjoy playing. Regardless of the instrument you choose, you will still need to invest time into practice and learning if you want to know how to play it. 


Comparing kalimbas and ukuleles might seem like a strange choice, but there is one common thing that these instruments share. They are both easy to learn. 

But which one is easier, you might ask. In my opinion, kalimba is a lot easier to learn since there are so few things you need to know. Furthermore, you will get only one scale, and you won’t need to worry about sharps or flats. 

Kalimbas are also an excellent choice for children, and they can have almost a meditative sound. 

But in the end, the choice is only yours, and both of these instruments are a great choice. 

If you found this article useful you may want to save this pin below to your Kalimba board

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