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View Full Version : Finally, A Soprano I Can Play



JoeJazz2000
04-25-2015, 11:29 AM
I just received my my translucent blue Makala Waterman soprano uke. I really like it. It has the pros and cons of plastic ukuleles which you can read about all over this forum and elsewhere on the web, so I don't want to review it here. What I want to comment on is how it's affected my uke playing, in particular, my struggle with the soprano.

After owning tenor, concert, and soprano sized ukes, all of which I enjoy, I'm pretty sure the concert size is the one for me. I picked up a soprano pineapple a couple of years back when Lanakai was blowing them out of the supply chain to make room for the Tuna Ukes, then about to debut. I never expected it to supplant my concerts as my favorites, but I never expected to suck so badly on the thing. My first uke was a concert, and now I have two of those. After playing guitar seriously for 50 years, I took to the uke quickly. I knew the chords and how to fret notes and chords; I primarily needed to alter left-hand positions and learn the wonderful rhythm tricks that uke players employ (still working on that). These were not small tasks, and for me took a lot of work.

But my soprano playing was so abysmal I found myself practicing the soprano more than the others, more of a challenge. I missed notes (usually sharp) on chord changes, got my fingers tangled up on otherwise playable first-position chords, and messed up my strums by catching my right hand index finger in the strings on both up (more often) and down strokes. I don't have small hands or fingers, but I see others online with what seem to be normal to large size hands executing well on soprano. I've practiced lighter strums and watching my chord changes more carefully and it's helped. In particular, a careful positioning of the uke against my body, slightly high with a strap, has really helped the strumming issue.

But over the course of two days the Waterman has come to feel very comfortable in my hands and many of the cramped-finger chord changes seem much more accessible. An online demonstrator said the neck profile was a take on another Makala model. I don't expect access to the whole fingerboard of a soprano, but I'd like to play first-position chords cleanly and smoothly, with some ventures up to the fifth fret or so, and I'm doing it much better on the Waterman. Maybe I should have been accumulating Makalas instead of Lanakais all this time.

I like the bright, chirpy tone of the soprano, as a change from the other sizes, and I wanted to play it tolerably well. Maybe with this Waterman, I will improve. If anyone else has struggled but continued with soprano for its own sake, I like to hear your thoughts on it.

Ukejenny
04-25-2015, 03:09 PM
I am similar to you, JoeJazz, I gravitate to the concert size and I started on a tenor. I have a sweet little Ohana vintage SK 28 and I love it. Played a gig with it today and it just sang out the whole time. There is something about the soprano jangle that I find myself needing from time to time.

I'm so glad you found a bright, chirpy soprano of your own and I hope you have great luck with it. I find that I have to really relax my fretting fingers when playing barred chords or more complex chord shapes, relax and be diligent with placement, backing off of the pressure, so the next change can be fluid and smooth.

I got mine from Mim and the setup is fabulous, which I think makes an especially big difference in this little beauty. If it is set up well, it will be easier to play, more enjoyable, and more musical. Happy Strumming!

JoeJazz2000
04-27-2015, 06:17 AM
I am similar to you, JoeJazz, I gravitate to the concert size and I started on a tenor. I have a sweet little Ohana vintage SK 28 and I love it. Played a gig with it today and it just sang out the whole time. There is something about the soprano jangle that I find myself needing from time to time.

I'm so glad you found a bright, chirpy soprano of your own and I hope you have great luck with it. I find that I have to really relax my fretting fingers when playing barred chords or more complex chord shapes, relax and be diligent with placement, backing off of the pressure, so the next change can be fluid and smooth.

I got mine from Mim and the setup is fabulous, which I think makes an especially big difference in this little beauty. If it is set up well, it will be easier to play, more enjoyable, and more musical. Happy Strumming!

UkeJenny,

Thanks for your helpful and generous comment. After playing the Waterman over the weekend, I returned to one of my wooden sopranos, one I complained about playing poorly, and found myself much more at home with the soprano. The plastic Waterman, won't be my bright, "chirpy" soprano; its tone is actually very smooth and round, but as you would expect, not very complex. The real breakthrough it offers me is its playability. The combination of its neck profile and headstock shape provided an excellent playing experience. It's probably my imagination, but my wooden sopranos felt more accessible after the time spent with it. If this neck / headstock combination is typical of Makala, then they certainly have my attention.

Joe

Tootler
04-27-2015, 01:01 PM
If you want bright & chirpy, try tuning a soprano to ADF#B. It really brings out that crisp, bright tone

4stringsinner
04-27-2015, 02:47 PM
A soprano uke was what I was originally going for when I first got interested in playing a ukulele. I went after work one night and I just could not handle the tiny scale after playing guitars for so long. Plus my hands are a mess and by the end of the work day I can barely make a fist, much less make chords on a soprano. Concert was a better fit I thought. Now I'm trying out a tenor that will arrive in a few days to see if I like it better. But I already know a long neck soprano is in my future. I just like their tone too much.

Ukejenny
04-27-2015, 05:27 PM
UkeJenny,

Thanks for your helpful and generous comment. After playing the Waterman over the weekend, I returned to one of my wooden sopranos, one I complained about playing poorly, and found myself much more at home with the soprano. The plastic Waterman, won't be my bright, "chirpy" soprano; its tone is actually very smooth and round, but as you would expect, not very complex. The real breakthrough it offers me is its playability. The combination of its neck profile and headstock shape provided an excellent playing experience. It's probably my imagination, but my wooden sopranos felt more accessible after the time spent with it. If this neck / headstock combination is typical of Makala, then they certainly have my attention.

Joe

Being able to move freely up and down the neck is a definite plus. I am very big on playability, perhaps even more so than tone (have I just broken a cardinal ukulele rule by saying that?). Playability is paramount - I want to do what I want to do with the instrument. And then I want a great tone. Took my soprano to uke jam tonight and though of this thread. There were 11 of us there and I felt like my little Jango was riding on top of it all, giving it 110 percent.

I hope your wooden sopranos continue to open up and feel more accessible to you as time with the Waterman goes on.