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View Full Version : Why am I progressing faster on the uke than the guitar?



Ukettante
06-15-2016, 08:35 PM
Can someone explain this to me?

I've been playing the guitar for about seven years. Mostly fingerpicking blues. Got into ukulele about nine months ago, and after getting a jump start from Uncle Rod's bootcamp and what feels like a turbo charge from Bob Brozman's Ukulele Toolbox, I feel as if I'm a better ukulele player than guitar player. I'm doing things I can't quite do on the guitar. For one thing, on the uke I am freely playing up and the down the neck, exploring and improvising melodies and rythmes, utilizing various chord shapes, etc., feeling musical in general. Lots of experimentation. But on the guitar, I'm still learning set arrangements by muscle memory--though I can improvise solos over a backing track, albeit poorly.

I can't verbalize why. Is it simply because the uke has two fewer strings?

What I'm striving for now is to bring this sense of exploration, experimentation, and improvisation to my guitar playing. Which is a wonderful, unexpected side effect of playing the ukulele.

Added later:
OK, let me try to answer my own question first:
1. Maybe yes, not having to worry about what to do with a fifth and sixth strings frees you up to do other things.
2. With the guitar, the blues, you have a repertoire you feel you have to internalize, techniques of the early masters you have to get under your fingers, Lightnin' Hopkins, John Hurt, Robert Johnson, etc. Perhaps before absorbing this repertoire, I don't feel free to express myself, although I understand improvisation is at the core of this type of music.

Alright, that's my attempt at answering my own question.

kohanmike
06-15-2016, 08:55 PM
After playing guitar for almost 50 years (rhythm mostly), I took up the ukulele over 3 years ago, I haven't touched my guitars since. Then a year and a half later our group leader asked if anyone would take up the bass to fill in our sound, I did and have learned more about music in this time than all the time I played guitar, but have also neglected my ukes. I recently joined another group just to play uke so I don't loose it altogether.

Mivo
06-15-2016, 09:07 PM
I have no first hand experience (I only play ukulele and kalimba), but I imagine four strings instead of six makes it substantially easier. There might also be a psychological factor: less emotional baggage (it's new, no element of self-defeating thoughts like "I have played for x years and still suck.") and lower expectations from others and possibly yourself. Your years of guitar practice also helped you with the ukulele, so there may have been a motivational and confidence boost from doing decently right from the start.

Croaky Keith
06-15-2016, 10:29 PM
The size of the guitar, the weight, two more strings, the tension of the strings, the neck profile, the length of the neck & fretboard - everything is less on a uke.

I tried acoustic guitar a couple of times, many years ago - just couldn't get on with it, too big & cumbersome. :)

padlin
06-15-2016, 11:16 PM
In my case, the guitar is in the back (practice) room, the uke sits next to my chair in the family room. I think the size makes it more available, allowing for much more frequent use. I must pick it up at least a half dozen times a day. The guitar, once.

Mivo
06-15-2016, 11:16 PM
I tried acoustic guitar a couple of times, many years ago - just couldn't get on with it, too big & cumbersome. :)

I'm discovering that I really like the baritone size. It's big enough so that I can rest it on my crossed over leg almost horizontally and play comfortably without having to support the neck (and without a strap), and small enough to be able to cradle it when standing. It does seem rather big after playing on a smaller uke for a bit, but overall I find it to be a surprisingly good fit.

DownUpDave
06-16-2016, 12:20 AM
It sounds like you are already fairly good on a more difficult instrument (guitar) so moving to an easier instrument (uke) lets all your hardwork and talent shine.

Kinda like mastering a unicycle then jumpimg on a mountain bike. Or chopsticks to a knife and fork. The uke is easier with two fewer srtings, shorter scale length and smaller over all size and weight.

SteveZ
06-16-2016, 02:05 AM
Convenience has a lot to do with it. After a half-century of acoustic guitar, went first to mandolin (smaller, lighter, etc.), then to tenor guitar (didn't want to give up the sound), then to tenor banjo (why not?), then to ukulele (smaller, lighter, etc.). These days, the 8-string and 6-string tenor ukes (it's all about the sound) and tenor-scale banjo-uke (lighter, etc.) get the bulwark of the playing time.

The four string structure is easier to master (found that out with mandolin), but a big plus is the nylon strings. Steel strings are fine, but require a fairly large resonating body to get a mellow sound. Nylon doesn't have the "punch" that steel does, but will provide a mellow note with a smaller body. So, we're back to convenience, and convenience inspires more playing time, and that results in better playing.

SoloRule
06-16-2016, 04:01 AM
The size of the guitar, the weight, two more strings, the tension of the strings, the neck profile, the length of the neck & fretboard - everything is less on a uke.

I tried acoustic guitar a couple of times, many years ago - just couldn't get on with it, too big & cumbersome. :)

I totally agreed. I can achieve more on a uke than guitar for this very reasons. However, after playing the uke for little under 2 years I am still searching that rich guitar voice so I have started playing the Baritone. It sounds very sweet especially on classical or Low G finger picking arrangements.

This also prompt me to ask : WHY SO MANY GUITAR PLAYERS LOOK DOWN ON UKE EVEN WHEN THEY ARE STRUGGLING WITH THE SIZE OF A GUITAR?

kypfer
06-16-2016, 04:27 AM
Can someone explain this to me?

With the guitar, the blues, you have a repertoire you feel you have to internalize, techniques of the early masters you have to get under your fingers, Lightnin' Hopkins, John Hurt, Robert Johnson, etc. Perhaps before absorbing this repertoire, I don't feel free to express myself, although I understand improvisation is at the core of this type of music.

Alright, that's my attempt at answering my own question.

It strikes me you're setting two different standards, one for each instrument. On the guitar you hoping to emulate some the the "greats" in their field, on the ukulele you are :

freely playing up and the down the neck, exploring and improvising melodies and rythmes, utilizing various chord shapes, etc., feeling musical in general. Lots of experimentation

Why not play the same stuff on the guitar as you do on the ukulele ... then you'll be at a similar standard on both ? ;)

Soundbored
06-16-2016, 01:25 PM
The size of the guitar, the weight, two more strings, the tension of the strings, the neck profile, the length of the neck & fretboard - everything is less on a uke.

+1

I love both, but only the ukulele makes me smile when I open the case.

lfoo6952
06-16-2016, 01:41 PM
In addition to all of the above answers, I think another factor may be the type of music we play on the ukelele vs. guitar music. Ukulele players tend to play nice, easy-going, fun-loving, island music that puts a smile on your face, whereas guitar players tend to play more serious stuff and they play with a frown. I play guitar as well, so I am not putting down guitar players. Ukulele players have more fun!

Ukettante
06-16-2016, 06:26 PM
Guys,

Thanks for explaining what I'm experiencing. I felt foolish for being unable to articulate why I'm progressing faster on the uke when it is happening to my person.

Another positive side effect of this is I'm pushing my guitar-self to catch up to my ukulele-self. For example, on the uke, I'm not intimidated by jazz chords. But on the guitar, it's a big hurdle, at least for me.

But yeah, all the reasons you guys gave, they are the charms of the mighty ukulele! I love it to pieces!

Soundbored
06-17-2016, 12:36 AM
There is no need to affect a fashionable trendy hipster ukulele inferiority complex...

I don't think the OP was 'affecting' any kind of 'complex' or attitude, and certainly doesn't deserve your snarky response.

TheCraftedCow
06-17-2016, 07:12 AM
Because of your years with guitar, you have acquired knowledge of chord shapes. Had you not already known that, your progress would be much slower, even on a ukulele. You also come to the ukulele with a knowledge of strumming and picking techniques. What you learned with Task A carries over and adds to Task B. There is something else I did not see mentioned, although it might have been and I missed......the ukulele is a part of the fretboard of a guitar. For those who capo at the fifth fret, they are playing AD GCEA, and the chord shape G becomes a C chord. Many of the 7ths-9ths-11ths and 13th are done in "uke country" and only on the first four strings. Now going from uke to guitar is a whole nother story. Task A now interferes with learning Task B

cpmusic
06-17-2016, 07:18 AM
In addition to all of the above answers, I think another factor may be the type of music we play on the ukelele vs. guitar music. Ukulele players tend to play nice, easy-going, fun-loving, island music that puts a smile on your face, whereas guitar players tend to play more serious stuff and they play with a frown. I play guitar as well, so I am not putting down guitar players. Ukulele players have more fun!

I like this thought. I've almost always played guitar for fun, but the uke is just more fun by itself.

Rllink
06-17-2016, 08:18 AM
I have yet run into any guitar players that looked down on me as somehow inferior because I play the ukulele. I have some guitar player friends. They don't invite me to jam with them, but then again, I don't ask them if I can either. But I don't think it is because they think that the ukulele is inferior, or that I'm not good enough, I just think that it doesn't fit into what they are doing. They are into their guitars, not ukuleles. I understand that. I agree with Bill1 as far as that is concerned.