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Thread: Why do people say sopranos are hard to play?

  1. #1
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    Default Why do people say sopranos are hard to play?

    There are many comments on the internet, here and elsewhere, suggesting that "sopranos are hard to play". They usually mention the close fret spacing and short string length. But a soprano's string length is almost identical to that of a violin, and that hasn't stopped people playing Paganini caprices on violin(!). (In fact, it's usually considered harder to play such virtuosic music on the viola.) The soprano's string length is also identical to a mandolin, but Chris Thile, Mike Marshall and others can work wonders on mandolin.

    Is it possible to play Jake style on a soprano? Does anyone do it? I ask this in earnest. I've never played a tenor, and like the size and sound of sopranos and concerts. Do I need a tenor in order to attempt the figurations that Jake, James et. al. do on their tenors?

  2. #2
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    Just play what ya like and have fun. My sizes of choice is a sopranino, and Concert. I have no idea why people would say Soprano is hard to play. I played Soprano almost exclusively. Its not a "size thing" because I am 6'5" and several years ago weighed 700 lbs, and played my Soprano and Sopranino with no problem (I gave IZ a run for his money Girthwise, not musical wise. ). Thank God I am not 700 lbs anymore (lost over 350 of those), but still play the sopranino, and a concert.
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  3. #3
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    I think it's often the narrow nut width that can make a soprano feel cramped. Especially with three or four finger chords, if the nut is narrow it can be hard to squash them in. The violin comparison doesn't work very well because there are no frets to restrict the space and they are usually played for melody (one note at a time) rather than rhythm (all strings at once). Proper mandolin technique is very different to playing a uke - instead of barring, for example, the strings are close enough to fret two courses (i.e. four strings) with the pad of one finger. Apples and oranges!

    I have a two sopranos with the typical 34mm nut width and one that's a shade over 35mm at the nut. The difference in ease of playing is ridiculous - 1mm shouldn't make that much difference but it really does. Would like to try one of the properly wide nut ones like a Martin or Kiwaya at some point.

  4. #4
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    I agree, play what you want, a soprano just has less sustain than larger ukes. It isn't my preferred scale, but I did have an electro acoustic soprano with low G strings when I started my uke journey.
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

  5. #5
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    Where is the "can of worms" Emoji when you need one
    Ukuleles.............yes please !!!!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by wherahiko View Post
    <snipped>
    Is it possible to play Jake style on a soprano? Does anyone do it? I ask this in earnest. I've never played a tenor, and like the size and sound of sopranos and concerts. Do I need a tenor in order to attempt the figurations that Jake, James et. al. do on their tenors?
    Generally no, it wouldn't be, because most of Jake's music leverages a lot of the real estate of a tenor fretboard, and a soprano doesn't have the same octave range.

    That's not to say that in the right hands somebody cannot shred on a soprano. If you're not familiar with him, check out George Elmes.
    More an appreciator of the ukulele than a true player. My motto is: "Don't matter how good it ring if it ain't got some bling."

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  7. #7
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    I have a preference for the Soprano size but did find an issue with fingerspace until I respaced the strings (special replacement nut). I don’t finger pick (yet) so am limited to strumming and the first five frets, but some folk manage to finger pick on the higher frets easily enough. Assuming reasonable finger mobility and dexterity the Soprano, with 10 mm spaced Strings, is perfectly playable if less forgiving of poor technique and quieter than its larger brothers.

  8. #8
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    All the best,
    Campbell

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by wherahiko View Post
    Why do people say sopranos are hard to play?
    Everyone is entitled to express an opinion even if it is a wrong one.

  10. #10

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    I don’t know why, my girlfriend is a soprano and she’s not hard to play at all ����

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