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View Full Version : Does switching to a different size ukulele help improve faster?



g'est
10-14-2014, 09:50 AM
Hear me out.

My first ukulele was concert size. I kept practicing and after a while bought a soprano. I played it for a couple of days and then switched back to concert. Somehow those couple of days had lead to a significant improvement! Playing a soprano made it easier to play concert.:confused:

So I recently received my first tenor ukulele. After playing it for a weekend I switched back to concert. And the same thing had happened again! :D

Could it be that changing ukulele sizes helps to get over plateauing?

(If so, then this is a great argument for UAS! :o Because buying all those ukues...helps!)

Nickie
10-14-2014, 09:52 AM
OMG, yes. I switched from a bari to a concert, and it made all the difference in the world. At first, I couldnt play a tenor at all, but now, it's easier. I might even buy one someday.

twentytabby
10-14-2014, 10:11 AM
I've been thinking about getting a concert uke, wondering if it would make the finger stretches easier and you're helping me decide.

DownUpDave
10-14-2014, 10:13 AM
The more ukuleles you own the easier it is to play..............everyone should own more :cheers:

kypfer
10-14-2014, 10:28 AM
The more ukuleles you own the easier it is to play..............everyone should own more Interesting concept :)

Certainly, from my experience, having a multitude of instruments (not necessarily all ukuleles), means I play more, so I read more, so reading becomes easier, so I play more, then I try it on something else, and so the circle goes around ...

YMMV but enjoy the journey :)

Freeda
10-14-2014, 10:33 AM
Yep. I don't even think it is size specific. Rotating instruments often helps me get past a rough patch.

janeray1940
10-14-2014, 11:00 AM
Interesting observation, and one I recently made myself as well, at least in terms of switching from a bigger to a smaller uke.

I have three ukes in three scale lengths - soprano, concert, and Ohta-San (which has a scale length right in between concert and tenor). I got the Ohta-San back in March and have played it, and my concert uke, nearly exclusively since then. A couple days ago I was tackling a chord that spanned 4 frets in first position, and I just couldn't get it on the Ohta-San because I have teeny little hands. So I got out the soprano and - piece of cake! I started feeling guilty about having neglected my little soprano for so long, and played through some of my recent challenging pieces, and - yep, played them all better and more easily than on the bigger uke.

My theory is that it's a matter of less fretboard space to cover and less tension on the strings on a smaller uke - I like high tension, a lot, but it does tend to make things more difficult.

But as for the other way around - playing a smaller uke and then switching to a bigger one - I haven't had the experience of it ever getting easier. I blame my stubby midget hands for that.

Osprey
10-14-2014, 11:18 AM
I have the opposite problem. Big fat fingers. When I make a D chord on my Kala tenor I can't do it with three individual fingers I have to bar it with a bent finger, to miss the A string. My Córdoba tenor has a slightly wider fretboard and I can make a D chord either way. I have picked up and played concerts and sopranos and find them uncomfortable to play, but maybe I have not given them a fair trial. I do find my tenors roomy after squishing my fingers on a concert
Cliff

Pukulele Pete
10-14-2014, 11:23 AM
Anything larger than a soprano is cheating .

twentytabby
10-14-2014, 12:15 PM
This is very interesting.
I got a tenor because I thought it would have more volume (and it probably does) and I thought it would be easier to play with all that room for fingers.
But, if I'm reading correctly, to get to the same pitch, the longer strings have to be a higher tension, which makes them a bit harder to fret with my weak, arthritic hands.
I've had no trouble fretting D chords on my tenor uke, nor have I had any trouble with the E chord because of my narrow fingers. I am having a bit of trouble reaching chords spanning 4 frets.

It sounds like I should be on the lookout for a soprano uke!

actadh
10-14-2014, 12:38 PM
I started with a soprano, and had difficulties with some chords that appeared frequently such as "D" 2220.

Went to a concert within a month, and those difficult chords were a piece of cake. But, now had I trouble with fingering clear sounding barre chords.

Within 7 months, went back to a soprano, and all is easier. I probably don't play much better, but it is easier to get there.

Shwal
10-14-2014, 12:54 PM
Moving from a tenor to a concert helped me but that is probably due to a condition that caused my fretting hand to contract somewhat. The tenor felt fine when I started.

IamNoMan
10-14-2014, 01:50 PM
I am finding this discussion fascinating. I am a beginner, with limited knowledge of ukulele in general. When I make misstatements please correct me.

It is my impression that the soprano and concert ukes have the same scale length, ie distance from nut to bridge is the same. And that the concert uke just has more frets and a longer fretboard length. If this is the case there shouldn't be a qualitative difference in playing a soprano or concert uke. The fret spacing and neck width should be approximately the same from instrument to instrument.

I have a Melody Jr Banjolele, 17 frets - 13 inch scale length. I don't know if this would be classified as a soprano or concert sized instrument. My Tenor uke has ~17" scale length - 20 frets. My newb, arthritic, spatulate fingers are more easily accommodated on the Tenor fretboard. I sound better on the tenor, but I play different tunes on each instrument so perhaps this is a case of apples and oranges. I expect as I equalize my playing time on these instruments I will improve both my chording intonation and speed on both ukes.

Now for the monkey-wrench! I try different ways of holding my uke, to improve my posture and intonation. Rotating the uke anti-clockwise makes it easier to chord with my mangled old hand. Pitching the uke along its long axis to a vertical position, (good posture) sounds better than pitching the uke up, (poor posture but I can see my fingers while chording). when I change the pitch of the uke my chord intonation is lousy. I am over or under estimating the proper finger positioning. I hope and expect that my muscle memory improves where this isn't such a problem. The fingers will gradually make minor modifications to sound better unconsciously. It may be this very process that improves ones playing when different sized ukes are used.

I recently saw posted somewhere that one should always look at one's chording fingers. I of course do this when something sounds wrong; but normally I do not look at my fretting hand at all on any instrument, (better for posture and better performance technique). I am in a tizzy about this one.

I of course concur with the consensus expressed here; that more, different ukes in one's stable will improve one's playing. Donations will gladly be accepted in this regard at ...

arpie
10-14-2014, 02:00 PM
.....the soprano and concert ukes have the same scale length, ie distance from nut to bridge is the same. And that the concert uke just has more frets and a longer fretboard length......

Yep - I used to think that the Concert was 'easier' to play as it had 'more space' on it - but if you measure the distances between the frets on your Soprano and Concert, as Iamnoman says - they are basically the same! Some MAY have a wider neck tho, which could give more 'space' .....

A few in my group have purchased Tenors - which definitely has more space between the frets for those who have difficulty forming some chords! :D

I think a more important thing is to make sure that the uke you play has been 'set up' as best as it can - if the action is too high - it will always be more difficult to form some chords, particularly on the first & 2nd fret, where the strings are a tad 'higher' and tighter, making them harder to press down for clear notes!

cheers

RP

pritch
10-14-2014, 02:18 PM
May I express my gratitude to the OP? I had been considering a soprano as a more "traditional" instrument but didn't feel I could justify a third uke. His post might swing it.

janeray1940
10-14-2014, 02:33 PM
It is my impression that the soprano and concert ukes have the same scale length, ie distance from nut to bridge is the same. And that the concert uke just has more frets and a longer fretboard length. If this is the case there shouldn't be a qualitative difference in playing a soprano or concert uke. The fret spacing and neck width should be approximately the same from instrument to instrument.



.....the soprano and concert ukes have the same scale length, ie distance from nut to bridge is the same. And that the concert uke just has more frets and a longer fretboard length......

Yep - I used to think that the Concert was 'easier' to play as it had 'more space' on it - but if you measure the distances between the frets on your Soprano and Concert, as Iamnoman says - they are basically the same!

I suppose it may depend on the manufacturer. I play Kamakas, and the soprano is definitely smaller and tighter than the concert. From Kamaka's site (http://www.kamakahawaii.com/instruments.html):

Soprano scale length: 13-9/16"
Concert scale length: 15"
Ohta-San ("concert deluxe") scale length: 15-15/16"

The soprano and the concert both have the same number of frets (16). The Ohta-San (and the tenor) has 18 frets.

So the difference in scale length is roughly an inch from size to size. For me, the difference is really noticeable.

Ukejenny
10-14-2014, 02:40 PM
My Ohana soprano is a little closer feeling than my Ohana concert. My KPK tenor is definitely a little wider feeling.

I think shaking things up can definitely help you get through a snag in technique. I play different sizes quite a bit, but my soprano is my "grab it" uke. My concert, though, is so fun to play when I take the time to get the case and get it out.

I started on tenor and wanted to have a concert scale to work on technical things. Got a concert and loved it and made a lot of progress. Then decided I wanted a cute, little mahogany soprano, so I got one. Made a ton of progress on it as well. Now I'm working on finger picking, mainly with the soprano and the concert, but several arrangements I have call for low G, so I use my tenor as well.

SteveZ
10-14-2014, 03:05 PM
Just going from one size instrument to another adds some concentration and agility. I have an entire arsenal of stringed instruments similarly tuned. As a result, my play on all of them improves regardless of which I play, since they all reinforce the other. By keeping the tuning uniform, going from one size to another is smoother.

(all in fifths - Two Mandolins tuned GDAE; All Ukes (two tenors, a concert, a sopranino and a banjolele), Tenor Guitar, Tenor Banjo, one Mandolin tuned CGDA)

DownUpDave
10-14-2014, 03:08 PM
IamNoMan...........you had asked for corrections so here are the dimensions for soprano vs concert. Soprano scale length is usually 13-1/2" and Concert scale length is 15" . The average neck length from nut to body for a Soprano is approx. 6-7/8", where a concert is approx. 8".The distance between frets for the first three frets is approx 3/32" wider on a concert. In summary a concert has a longer scale length, longer neck and more space between each fret. Average neck length on a tenor is 9-1/2" and scale length of 17". As you can see as you go up in size you go............up in size, more length, more room and longer spacing. For some it is an advantage and some a hinderence.

IamNoMan
10-14-2014, 05:39 PM
Thanks for your clarifications. I think I'll adjust the scale length to 13.5" on my soprano banjolele and check it's intonation. Should improve my intonation anyway. I'm uncertain as to the significance of the nut to body length. I don't expect I'll be playing that high on the neck anytime soon. what's the skinny on the nut to body length?

DownUpDave
10-15-2014, 01:59 AM
Thanks for your clarifications. I think I'll adjust the scale length to 13.5" on my soprano banjolele and check it's intonation. Should improve my intonation anyway. I'm uncertain as to the significance of the nut to body length. I don't expect I'll be playing that high on the neck anytime soon. what's the skinny on the nut to body length?

The longer neck (nut to body length reference) allows for greater distance between frets. Here are some samples I have measured from the nut to the first fret. Tenor=15/16", Concert=7/8" and Soprano=3/4". Different manufactures may vary a bit but smaller size instruments have smaller sized fret spacing compared to bigger sized instrument. I like the longer neck of a tenor when I am playing barr chords down around the 7th fret or higher because I don't feel as cramped up as I do on a soprano. Others could experience the exact opposite and like the shorter neck length better. Some like chocolate some like vanilla.

To the OP's question I have found the same improvements switching from one instrument to another. It is very much like cross training, using muscles in slighty different ways. The lower tension strings on a soprano helps to develop a softer lower tension touch. Tenor is like training wheels with all that space between frets.

g'est
10-15-2014, 03:29 AM
May I express my gratitude to the OP? I had been considering a soprano as a more "traditional" instrument but didn't feel I could justify a third uke. His post might swing it.

Awesome! Get one!

I personally am glad I bought a soprano even though I also mainly play bigger ukes. It makes concert neck seem spacious. And it's also good for traveling!

Jim Yates
10-15-2014, 07:35 AM
IamNoMan
While a banjolele has a movable bridge, there is only one position to place the bridge for proper intonation. To find the place, first put the bridge twice the distance from the nut to the 12th fret. Then play a fretted note at the 12th fret and a harmonic at the 12th fret and compare the pitch. If the fretted note is sharper than the harmonic, move the bridge a little towards the tailpiece. If it's flat, move it towards the nut. Do this on the 1st and 4th strings and then mark the position of the bridge with a pencil on the head.
No fretted instrument has perfect intonation, but this should get you pretty close.

caukulele
10-15-2014, 07:46 AM
Interesting thread.... I used to feel that switching ukuleles slowed down my learning, but now I actually thinks it helps me to be more flexible and keeps my attention better. Although, I have noticed that when I'm trying to learn an especially difficult song passage, it does seem to help if I stick to one ukulele, until I become more competent with it.

Redeyejedi
10-15-2014, 09:50 AM
Great post!
I agree, with having a different size to play can improve playing and as well as the fun factor. i began with a soprano and felt crowded. ordered a tenor and was able to get a few fingerings down, but now can play those on the soprano. ordered a concert, well, because, and love the compromise in size. not to mention they sound different. but i dofind rotating among the quiver helps m improvement.

g'est
10-15-2014, 10:01 AM
To the OP's question I have found the same improvements switching from one instrument to another. It is very much like cross training, using muscles in slighty different ways. The lower tension strings on a soprano helps to develop a softer lower tension touch. Tenor is like training wheels with all that space between frets.

Actually, I feel that the extra space between frets (and the added tension) makes playing a tenor a bit harder for me. But I'm sure it's because I have had a tenor for just a short time...and I do have quite short fingers. :o Still, it's great practice! Not to mention that the tenor sound has a lot more depth.

arpie
10-15-2014, 12:26 PM
......In summary a concert has a longer scale length, longer neck and more space between each fret. .....

Interesting!! I was always under the impression that Concerts 'had more space between each fret' than Sopranos - and so would recommend my 'beginners' to make sure they tried all 3 (Tenor as well) when making the decision to buy one - so that they were 'comfortable' with the one they purchased, particularly if they thought they had short and (what they considered) fat fingers.

On a Facebook Uke Site when I mentioned this, I was shouted down by a well known (and up til now .... respected) ukulele builder who was sick of people saying that Concerts 'had more space' than Sopranos - he said emphatically that their Fret spaces were identical and the only difference was the additional number of frets on a Concert, compared to a standard Soprano (12). He conceded that there WAS more 'space' on Tenors tho!

My own Concert vs Soprano - the neck was a tad wider on my Concert (so in my opinion, more space) and the frets WERE essentially the same (a TINY bit longer between the first 2 of about 1/16th on the concert) so my own opinion now, is that it totally depends on who builds the Soprano/Concert as to what you get. What CAN make a difference to 'comfort of playing' can be the thickness of the neck - a more rounded, thicker neck may make it harder to do some chords, whilst a flatter, thinner neck allows better placement of your hand/fingers for doing Barred chords in particular.

What I DO like about my concert is that with the longer body length, I find it MUCH more comfortable to hold both standing and sitting - it sits on your lap so much easier (IMHO) than a Soprano. :D

So it really is SO important to try as many ukes as you can to find the one that suits you most .... plus the sound - that is SO important too!

cheers

RP

kypfer
10-15-2014, 09:27 PM
arpie wrote:
... when I mentioned this, I was shouted down by a well known (and up til now .... respected) ukulele builder who was sick of people saying that Concerts 'had more space' than Sopranos - he said emphatically that their Fret spaces were identical and the only difference was the additional number of frets on a Concert, compared to a standard Soprano (12).
The possible problem here is, as a builder, his "concert" ukuleles may well have been as he described, effectively what might be termed a soprano with a bigger body and a few extra (slightly cramped) frets ... it doesn't make him wrong, just different ;)

FWIW, in some circles an 8-string soprano with a bigger body and a few extra (slightly cramped) frets is called a mandolin :rolleyes:

bnolsen
10-16-2014, 04:19 AM
May as well toss a sopranino in there as well. Helps with making barre chords, esp DIM chords a lot easier to deal with on a soprano, and helps with getting into chords faster as well. For someone like me there's not much slop in a soprano and way less so in a sopranino. And the sopranino easily fits in carryon luggage.

JoeJazz2000
10-16-2014, 06:27 AM
I started on a concert. I tried a tenor thinking it'd fit my hands better. That wasn't necessarily so. An online vendor had a blowout on Lanakai Soprano Pineapples, and I got one. I first thought it was a mistake, too small. Now however, I find something to enjoy in each of the sizes. I think concert is my favorite size, but I put Low G on the tenor and now use it for Glen Rose's Jazzy Uke and Ukulele Mike's instrumental stuff arranged for Low G. The soprano is still an enjoyable challenge. I try to play it without a leash and use simpler chord shapes. It requires careful attention to chord fingering, particularly the important 2213 Dm7 and the dims. The effort I put into those chords on the soprano benefits my playing on the other sizes as well.

I recommend a test drive on each size, and don't make up your mind too quickly.

Manalishi
10-16-2014, 07:05 AM
I started on a Soprano to see if I could handle it and if I liked it;
of course I did,and soon moved on to Concert scale. Then on to
Tenor size which I played almost exclusively for two years.
Then I found myself alternating between Tenor and Soprano, and
Concert just didn't seem to do it for me,so I passed the Concert
models on. Then the Tenor seemed to lose it's special magic for me
and I reverted to Soprano. Now,aside from my hand made Concert
scale Reso uke,and my Concert scale Banjo-Uke, I play Soprano for
ukulele all the time,and have five or six knocking around!
Did swapping about improve my playing? I don't know, as I found it
a pleasure to play whatever size I was using at the time. But for me,
Soprano is now my preferred size and I reckon,always will be!