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Katz-in-Boots
11-03-2015, 05:21 PM
Another thread got me thinking more about muscle memory. I wrote that itís how I learn best, by getting something Ďunder my fingersí.

Iíve played quite a few instruments in my time, cello was probably my best instrument. With the orchestral strings, there are no frets or markers on your fingerboard. Your fingers learn where to go and how far apart to be. On cello in particular, the higher you go up the fingerboard, the more you rely on muscle memory telling you how far to go for each note.

Back to ukulele. Like just about everyone, the first uke I strummed was a soprano and I knew it was too small for my tastes. Hung out on UU for a while, then bought a tenor. Quickly decided it was too big for my hands and switched to concert. Then got the Ohta-San which again I decided was too big & hurt my hands.

My musings have led me down the road wondering whether my hands hurt because I was learning something new, and that if Iíd persevered, would I find the larger scale comfortable. With the tenor, I was learning my first chords, including barre chords, so of course my hands were tense, so of course it set off pain. With the Ohta-San, I was trying finger picking for the first time, again I wonder if I kept at it I wouldíve been less tense and therefore have less pain.

I know many people here switch between different size instruments a lot, and I donít know how you can do it easily. Muscle memory tells me how far apart the strings and frets are, so another instrument is a problem. I even had trouble switching between my KoAloha & my Kanileía concerts because the Kanileía is just slightly wider across the nut and a longer scale.

So, Iím wondering if I am alone in this? Is everyone able to make the adjustments to play different ukes? Do you need to play that one instrument for a while to Ďmapí its fingerboard?

Iím getting a uke made for me (Ono), and wondering what scale to go with, so the musings are part of that process.

janeray1940
11-03-2015, 05:47 PM
I know many people here switch between different size instruments a lot, and I don’t know how you can do it easily. Muscle memory tells me how far apart the strings and frets are, so another instrument is a problem. I even had trouble switching between my KoAloha & my Kanile’a concerts because the Kanile’a is just slightly wider across the nut and a longer scale.

So, I’m wondering if I am alone in this? Is everyone able to make the adjustments to play different ukes? Do you need to play that one instrument for a while to ‘map’ its fingerboard?


Katz, you're not alone - I'm this way too (and as noted in the other thread, also a muscle-memory learner). While I can switch between my two concert ukes (main players) and my soprano, I feel really awkward on the soprano at first and hit a lot of wrong notes until I've spent a good chunk of time with it. When I had concert scale Kamaka and Koalohas, even switching between the two of the same scale felt a bit... unfamiliar at first. Years ago, before I started playing low G in addition to reentrant, I was a stickler for the one-uke rule, and I really do think I play better when I'm that familiar with a single uke. Having two identical-scale ukes made sense to me to have both low & high G options.

Sort of related - I don't think I look at the fretboard all that much when I play. I'm usually looking at sheet music, at least as far as I know. There have been a few discussions here about side fret markers (or the lack thereof, on Kamakas anyway) which have always left me wondering: people actually use those things?? :)

And a side note - when I'm around other uke players, of course everyone gets to trying out everyone else's ukes. I usually decline, because my playing ability plummets significantly when faced with an unfamiliar uke. And actually the same phenomena goes for driving - I hate driving rental cars or other people's cars because I'm used to the way mine feels.

actadh
11-03-2015, 06:05 PM
I started on a concert, then switched to sopranos. I don't have a problem changing from soprano to concert, except for that initial surprise at how far away from my body my fretting hand seems when playing the concert. I just shift the uke around a bit and play with the lower bout more to the right, and all is good.

Then, I got a tenor - the Outdoor Ukulele one, which I later learned is considered to be a smaller body tenor. Well, I feel like I am playing a guitar in comparison to the sopranos :)

When I first got it, I had difficulty reminding myself to stretch my fingers wider as my muscle memory was set to fret for soprano distance.

I have had it since the summer so by now it is better, especially if I start off playing the tenor as apparently my mind now resets each day.

But, I still have to aim for conscious competence if I am playing a soprano and then switch to the tenor.

I do think I play the sopranos with more precision by switching things around.

Katz-in-Boots
11-03-2015, 06:29 PM
Katz, you're not alone - I'm this way too (and as noted in the other thread, also a muscle-memory learner)...

Sort of related - I don't think I look at the fretboard all that much when I play. I'm usually looking at sheet music, at least as far as I know. There have been a few discussions here about side fret markers (or the lack thereof, on Kamakas anyway) which have always left me wondering: people actually use those things?? :)

Aha! I am not alone. Actually, we seem to have a bit in common.

I couldn't even tell you if my Ohta-San has side markers. I do look at the markers on the fretboard when starting a picking bit, then muscle memory takes over for most of the rest of it.

Nickie
11-04-2015, 04:42 PM
I definitely use my side markers. IMHO front fret markers are useless unless I am showing someone in front of me something. A custom uke I had made had no front markers, only side markers.
I always play concert ukes. Neck size does matter. I posted a thread a while back about having my Kala's fat neck thinned, it used to hurt my hand, Now it's perfect.
Thin necks that are wide at the nut bother my hand too.
I'm trying a tenor uke now, the neck is too thick, I could tell after 20 minutes. The frets are too far apart for me to stretch to make the long chords, but I still think I want a tenor one day.

rappsy
11-04-2015, 04:57 PM
Another thread got me thinking more about muscle memory. I wrote that it’s how I learn best, by getting something ‘under my fingers’.

I’ve played quite a few instruments in my time, cello was probably my best instrument. With the orchestral strings, there are no frets or markers on your fingerboard. Your fingers learn where to go and how far apart to be. On cello in particular, the higher you go up the fingerboard, the more you rely on muscle memory telling you how far to go for each note.

Back to ukulele. Like just about everyone, the first uke I strummed was a soprano and I knew it was too small for my tastes. Hung out on UU for a while, then bought a tenor. Quickly decided it was too big for my hands and switched to concert. Then got the Ohta-San which again I decided was too big & hurt my hands.

My musings have led me down the road wondering whether my hands hurt because I was learning something new, and that if I’d persevered, would I find the larger scale comfortable. With the tenor, I was learning my first chords, including barre chords, so of course my hands were tense, so of course it set off pain. With the Ohta-San, I was trying finger picking for the first time, again I wonder if I kept at it I would’ve been less tense and therefore have less pain.

I know many people here switch between different size instruments a lot, and I don’t know how you can do it easily. Muscle memory tells me how far apart the strings and frets are, so another instrument is a problem. I even had trouble switching between my KoAloha & my Kanile’a concerts because the Kanile’a is just slightly wider across the nut and a longer scale.

So, I’m wondering if I am alone in this? Is everyone able to make the adjustments to play different ukes? Do you need to play that one instrument for a while to ‘map’ its fingerboard?

I’m getting a uke made for me (Ono), and wondering what scale to go with, so the musings are part of that process.

I find that as I learn more finger styles, I actually slow down when I look at picking hand. I keep better time when I look away or close my eyes. The fingers will eventually start to do what you want them to do, but as it said about looking down, don't look down.

As far as size, I just received my Ono and decided to get a size that doesn't fit a standard. I like concert size bodies, but need tenor sized necks. I decided to try a 16 inch scale neck. I just received it so I don't have much to say about it yet and I hope I an get used to it, but if you don't try, you'll never know. David is terrific to work with and will make it the way you want. I had mine made with a very thin neck, based on my Kamaka, at 5/8 inch thick, in the D shape. It is also 1.4 inch nut size.

If you want some pictures, I will include a link.

WCBarnes
11-04-2015, 08:41 PM
If you want some pictures, I will include a link.

Yes please!!! :drool:

LDS714
11-05-2015, 01:39 AM
IMHO, if you get comfortable with different scale lengths, as in switching between them often and regularly, it's not that big of a deal. Personally I try and practice the same pieces/exercises/scales on both a concert and tenor daily, with a soprano thrown in a few times per week.

I think that the more often you switch between instruments of varying scale lengths, the easier it gets. But kind of like you mention with the cello vs uke, it's the shorter scale lengths that present the most challenge. I spent a marathon session Sunday doing bass tracks for a variety of styles ranging from heavy, sludgy drop-tuned alternative rock to lighter acoustic music. No real problem going from long-scaled electric to 'short' scale electric, but switching back and forth between the Gold Tone at 23" and Kala at 20" scale resulted in the most mistakes.

Mivo
02-23-2016, 04:46 AM
I've been thinking about this at various times, too, usually as part of my search for "my size".

I suspect that both approaches (sticking to one size as opposed to hopping between sizes frequently) have up- and downsides. The hopping probably leads to more versatility and adaptability, at the possible expense of progressing more slowly. I believe (or consider), though, that scale length is only part of it, and that a big chunk of benefit in terms of gaining proficiency is obtained by sticking to one specific instrument. Aspects such as action, individual response, nuances of tone (in the sense of receiving feedback to one's physical actions), weight, shape of the body, physical measurements of the instrument (and how it is held as a result) in relation to the player, and so on. A lot of subtle stuff that may matter to the brain.

What I'm not sure about is how relevant that is to us more average players or even novices. Partly I believe that expert players are more affected by those differences, likely they are also consciously more aware of them, and there may be other aspects that affect "less skilled" (than those expert players) more, e.g. posture and technique, but even so, wouldn't that still mean that even novice players reap the benefits? Maybe just a watered down version, but still a benefit.

The counter argument is probably, "Perhaps it matters if you want to become a performing expert player." It's a fair point, and no, most of us probably have no such ambitions. Most of us aren't 10 or 15 to have a real chance at that anyway. :) Being mediocre is fine with me, but I don't make mediocrity my goal. It's just how things typically turn out! So if sticking to the same scale, or even the same instrument, makes me a 10% better, even though still mediocre or sub-standard, player, then that seems worthwhile to me.

It's probably all subjective and different for each person. There are professional musicians who religiously stick to one specific instrument, and those who go through dozens. (Actually, I think the later may be more common with entertainers, and the former with very technical instrumentalists and soloists.)

It's only loosely related, though perhaps not, but when thinking about this subject I recalled an article on the Tyranny of Choice, and Satisfiers and Maximizers. Some of this probably plays into this topic, too. (link to article (http://www.swarthmore.edu/SocSci/bschwar1/Sci.Amer.pdf))

jollyboy
02-23-2016, 05:25 AM
I spent about a month trying to figure out my ideal size of uke. During that time I owned one tenor and one concert and would constantly switch between the two, repeatedly playing the same snippets of songs and chord progressions, like some obsessive-compulsive ukulele Goldilocks :p Honestly, I preferred the fuller tone of the tenor but my stubby fingers were much happier moving about the fretboard on the concert. I would stumble over chord shapes that required me to stretch on the larger instrument (even finding, for example, Gm to be tricky) and came to feel that I would be best suited sticking to concert scale.

At the moment I am plotting the purchase of a concert pineapple, hoping that it might provide an extra bit of tonal oomph whilst still being a good match for my hand shape/size.

Another issue I feel is the relatively higher string tension on a tenor, which for me made learning barre chords extra challenging.

Also, re side markers - I'm a leftie so side markers end up facing the floor and thus do not get a lot of use :)

Croaky Keith
02-23-2016, 05:29 AM
I can switch between concert & soprano without too much bother at the moment, but I think it is slowing my learning process down, so I am going to mainly concentrate on concert scale. I think that I will be able to progress quicker in my learning if I stick to the one scale.

Regarding side markers, I think they will be useful once I can find the right frets without angling the uke to see where my fingers are. :)