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Sometimes we stumble across a guitar that doesn’t really fit into one single category and, today, that guitar is the Yamaha GL1. While this tiny six-string guitar/guitalele could fit into the travel category quite easily, we have slotted it into our chart highlighting some of the best mini guitars, because that’s exactly what it is! Yamaha market this instrument as ‘half guitar, half ukulele, 100% fun’, so let’s see how accurate they are…
First thing’s first – the GL1 is not a toy. Despite the budget-friendly price tag and the fact that it comes in at around 26” long, it’s a decent little instrument. It features the 17” scale of a tenor ukulele with a solid nato neck that has a nut width of around 1.88”. This neck, which features a sonokeling fretboard and 18 frets, is a little cramped, but actually quite comfortable when you get used to it.
In addition to scale length, the body itself is also very comparable to a tenor ukulele in size, so it should prove easy enough to hold for most players. As for tonewoods, the GL1 is an all-laminated guitalele, with a top made from spruce, and back and sides made with meranti. This features a satin finish with sophisticated black body binding, finishing it off nicely.
Tuning-wise, it features both that of a guitar and ukulele, with an A-D-G-C-E-A tuning. Imagine a regular guitar with a capo sitting on the 5th fret and you have the pitch of the GL1. Of course, you can tune this guitalele down to standard guitar tuning (E-A-D-G-B-E) allowing you to play along with songs and other guitars more comfortably, yet the string tension will be a little looser when doing this.
It’s an affordable mini guitar so you can’t expect too much in terms of hardware, yet what is included with the GL1 is reliable. Up top on the slotted headstock is a set of six open-geared tuning machines, while a sonokeling bridge secures things at the other end. The strings that come with the guitar are a little cheap and lackluster, so change these when you have a chance. The GL1 also arrives with its own gig bag, which is adequate although not particularly protective, so think about an upgrade if you are traveling further afield.
While half guitar, half ukulele, it’s certainly more of the latter in terms of tone due to the body size and higher tuning. It has the bright, happy and slightly tinny sound of a ukulele, while the projection is on par with a tenor uke, as you may expect. It’s therefore great as a practice tool or for casual unplugged performances, but it won’t fill a room unless you mic it up. When you consider the price and the size though, we can’t really complain.
For an instrument that doesn’t fit into one specific category, it certainly ticks a lot of boxes. Ignoring the top two strings, you can play any ukulele chords, while utilizing all six strings turns it into a guitar, allowing you to practice both instruments wherever you are. The GL1 isn’t a guitar that takes itself too seriously, yet Yamaha have ensured it is still well built and sounds decent, despite the small size, low price and overall feeling of fun.