Most people find it harder to play ‘ukulele standing up than sitting down. With practice it gets easier, but some things are still close to impossible to play well without an ‘ukulele strap. By removing the need to support your ‘ukulele with your hands it is much easier to focus on playing with proper technique and efficiency.
Haters will say “that’s not traditional.” Of course, it isn’t! But say what you will, if it helps you play better – go for it.
Here are your main options when it comes to ‘ukulele straps:
A standard guitar strap is one of the most common options for ‘ukulele. It requires the installation of two strap buttons – one on the base of the neck, one on the “butt” end of the ‘ukulele.
These are little metal or wood buttons held onto the ‘ukulele with a screw. A pickup jack can also double as the button on the end of the ‘ukulele. A guitar strap can then be slipped over each button.
The standard guitar strap as double-demoed by Tobias Elof and James Hill
A standard ‘ukulele strap can be very comfortable and spread the weight of the instrument across your whole back and shoulder. The only downside is that many ‘ukuleles don’t balance well this way. If this is the case, you’ve got to be careful when you take your hands away from your instrument or it might fall forward.
This can be helped by where you put the strap button on the neck heel. Some people put it pointing straight back at the player. I find this encourages the forward flop. Instead, I like the ‘ukulele strap button on the bottom of the neck heel, pointing in a left and down direction.
Any adjustable guitar strap should work fine for ‘ukulele. Pick one that looks cool and give it a spin. Just by chance I ended up with a couple of the basic Ernie Ball ones. They are plain, but come in cool colors and adjust well to ‘ukulele lengths.
This type of strap only uses one button on the end of the ‘ukulele. The other has two strings that tie around the headstock/neck right behind the nut under and in between the strings and tuning pegs.
This is a good option for folks who already have a pickup installed and don’t want to mess around with putting another screw hole in their ‘ukulele. Some people, depending on body type, find this strap style more comfortable than the traditional two-button guitar strap.
The only problem I foresee with this style strap is that it puts strain on the ‘ukulele’s neck. This could be a problem in the long run, though if you have a modern workhorse uke, it’s probably not something you need to worry about. I have seen thrifty artists (Byron Yasui) make straps like these out of twine.
You can also tie a shoelace to one end of a normal guitar strap to adapt it for ‘ukulele.
The two above styles need strap buttons of some sort to hold the strap onto the ‘ukulele. If you have some basic handy skills and are willing to take a drill to your ‘ukulele, you should be able to install them yourself. A quick Google search will pull up plenty of instructions. Just be sure to drill a pilot hole so you don’t crack the wood when you put the screw in.
This type of strap goes around your neck in a loop and wraps under the ‘ukulele to hook into the sound hole. It doesn’t require a strap button or cause stress on the neck and is completely removable when you don’t want to use it.
Concerns have been voiced about the pressure the hook puts on the soundboard, but Jake Shimabukuro has been using one of these recently on his very valuable Kamaka so it can’t be that big of a deal. Just be sure to find a strap with a well made hook that is wide enough to stably support the top of your ‘ukulele.
This is an ‘ukulele-specific creation and is described as a “half strap”. One end of the strap fastens to the ‘ukulele’s headstock, the other, to various “anchor points” (your arm, waist, leg). The headstock gets supported by the strap, but the body is held up like normal with your strumming arm.
Like the classical strap, it doesn’t require the installation of any buttons.
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