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Piecomics
11-18-2015, 12:17 PM
So, I just got a soprano after working with a tenor for a while. I really like it, but I got it partially because I somehow envisioned it would be easier to hold. I really struggle with freedom in my left hand, because I can't figure out how to stabilize the ukulele with my right arm.

Any advice on how to hold a ukulele without using a strap? I keep looking at John King, because he is my inspiration and I can't quite figure out how he is doing it.

PhilUSAFRet
11-18-2015, 01:13 PM
You will get several replies. May as well start here. You actually use both hands to one degree or another with the strumming arm pressing the uke against the body. Some feel a strap is necessary, most don't based on the feedback I've read and personal observation at large uke meetups.

https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=ukulelehow+to+hold+a+soprano+ukulele

caspet
11-18-2015, 01:47 PM
John King often used a non-slip sheet against his body, most clearly seen in this


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYmvqkQ16Oo

For technical classical pieces and more advanced campanella playing you need a free left hand for smoothness. Sam Muir tried adapting various guitar thigh rests and the like before settling on a strap. For pretty much any other playing what PhilUSAFRet said.

A bare-skinned right forearm helps. Some people glue velcro or equivalent to the back of their ukes so it grips their clothing.

Going strapless frees you up to spin and twirl the uke.

kdmccullum
11-18-2015, 02:53 PM
There is a sweet spot on the back of there neck where you put your thumb. I learned on a tenor but when I got a long neck soprano, I started tweaking the way I held it. Best I can describe it is to put your thumb in the middle of the neck between the first and second frets. Of course you will slide this up and down a bit as you play but you will find the thumb supports the neck and your fingers are freed up. Takes some time and I had to re-learn my technique but well worth it.

Kurt

spongeuke
11-18-2015, 07:07 PM
This technique is from a decades old Uncle Charlie VHS.
With the ukulele laying face up grab the ukulele just above the neck joint. Your thumb and fore finger just meeting at the back.
Rotate the ukulele till the back faces you the bottom will slide into the crook of your arm as you bring the head toward your other shoulder.
Fretting hand goes to playing position. Strumming hand will curl up with the fingers just above the frets above the neck joint.
Strum action is in the wrist and fingers elbow is stationary and next to your body. Very efficient and versatile.
I've never even felt the need for a strap.

UkerDanno
11-19-2015, 03:38 AM
I sit up straight and rest the uke on my right leg, lifting my heel up puts it in the perfect position...for me anyway.

Lori
11-19-2015, 07:44 AM
Body type and playing style are the biggest issues. Some people will need a strap, and there are a lot of professional players that use a strap. The main focus should be good clean playing without causing any awkward positions for your shoulder/ arm/ wrist/ hand/ fingers. Now is the time to make sure you don't fall into any habits that will cause injury down the line. Uke playing is supposed to be fun. Don't make it harder than it needs to be.

–Lori

DownUpDave
11-19-2015, 09:03 AM
You will notice three things in the video of Mr. King. He is sitting down, he has a sticky pad between myself and the back of the uke. The third element that helps him is.........well how can I say this delicately......he has an abodominal "shelf" to support the uke on.

If you don't think that makes a big difference just google Manitoba Hal. His uke is almost parallel to the ground and he can shred the blues like nobodies business.

actadh
11-19-2015, 09:31 AM
My "abdominal shelf" gets in the way. I am a big proponent of straps, but some of my ukes are strapless.

So, my John King style approach was a rug gripper from Dollar Tree cut down for uke size and held between the uke and me.

BTW, my tenor is too big, and my sopranos are too small to hold comfortably, but my concert is great to hold sitting down and with left leg upraised. No need for a strap at all. It does have a fairly big lower bout.

MARKbOC
11-19-2015, 09:44 AM
You will notice three things in the video of Mr. King. He is sitting down, he has a sticky pad between myself and the back of the uke. The third element that helps him is.........well how can I say this delicately......he has an abodominal "shelf" to support the uke on.

This is a great point. I was going to skip dessert tonight but because I am dedicated to improving as a uke player, i'll go ahead and load up on cake. soon, i'll have a mighty shelf upon which to shred like Mr King!

kypfer
11-19-2015, 12:51 PM
This is a great point. I was going to skip dessert tonight but because I am dedicated to improving as a uke player, i'll go ahead and load up on cake. soon, i'll have a mighty shelf upon which to shred like Mr King!

From Wikipedia
King died of a heart attack at his home at the age of 55. ... RIP ... maybe that shelf wasn't such a good idea ... me, I'm working on losing mine, I already have the straps fitted !!

Django
11-21-2015, 11:13 AM
I can vouch for the Uke Leash, (very good quality, reasonable price, nice person to deal with and in my case, it does the job very well). I like to play with the neck at between 30 and 45 degrees to the floor, (for me it makes it easier to play across the strings). I keep my right foot on a small stool to elevate the ukulele to a comfortable position. I think that it depends a lot on your body type, playing style and personal preference. I have played guitar and banjo for many years and the Uke Leash helps me to get the same control that I enjoyed with larger instruments that tended to stay still while I played.

pritch
11-21-2015, 01:32 PM
Racing motorcyclists, and others, use this stuff. It is fairly ummm aggressive(?) in the amount of grip it provides. I use a competing less aggressive product on my bike but the Stompgrip appears thinner. It shouldn't interfere with the sound of the uke but I can't predict what effect it would have on a woollen garment.

http://www.stompgrip.com/all-purpose-traction

Tim Mullins
11-21-2015, 02:00 PM
John King played largely fingerstyle, with his right hand held stable in one position. Switching between fingerpicking and strumming requires moving the right hand from closer to the bridge to over the fingerboard for best tone. While I can play (and did for many years) without a strap, using one certainly makes both changing chords and right-hand positions easier. Those who play well without a strap do so in spite of the added challenge.

bookoo
11-21-2015, 03:09 PM
On my tenor and my concert, I use straps. It just makes it much easier. I don't on my soprano just because I'm too lazy to put one on, and I can get by without it for the most part. The wonderful thing about ukuleles (as opposed to guitars) is that they are so light, you can be very creative about straps without worrying too much about 'security'. In this thread I see the Mobius Strap and the Ukulele Leash. Although I've never tried either, they both look pretty reasonable to me. So far, I have just installed buttons on the end and use standard guitar straps. They are simple, comfortable, cheap, and effective.

Rodney.
11-21-2015, 08:59 PM
To try out if a strap is something you'd like you could try the cheap approach:
Take a large shoelace, and tie it around the waist of the uke (under the strings of course). Tie the other end around the headstock with an easy knot so you can try out what length works out the best for you.

Django
11-22-2015, 03:25 AM
Using a minimal strap to support the neck and your forearm to stabilize the body works for me. I mostly play fingerstyle and chord melody with a bit of strumming thrown in. I do find that when play chord melody there is no need to use a strap and the body can be supported by my little finger.

Before using the Uke Leash I tried using various supports on my lap. The one that worked the best for me was to take a wrap around neck pillow and put over my thigh and the waist of the ukulele sat on it. The best thing by far was to cross my right leg over the left and rest the waist of the Ukulele on my thigh and against my torso, (reversed from classical guitar). Unfortunately, a life changing motorcycle accident does not allow me to stay in this position for very long and I like to play for anywhere from 1/2 to 1 hour at a time, so to make a long story over, the Uke Leash makes my playing much smoother by keeping the neck where is belongs and it does not alter the instrument, (no drilling required, just strap it to the head and you are done). It made a huge difference for me and is very convenient for a multi-uke player.

Piecomics
11-22-2015, 12:01 PM
Thanks everyone! I'm going to try the Bill1 approach, if it doesn't work out I will try the uke leash or something. I tried a classical strap in the past and did not like it. I just lost 30 lbs so trying to get away from the uke self shelf!

Now I just need to actually learn to play like King!

Django
11-22-2015, 12:18 PM
30 pounds! Good job and good luck.