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MdBoy
08-27-2017, 12:59 PM
I'm a new player coming from guitar and banjo. I play with a variety of right hand techniques including a travis picking like fingerstyle, a couple kinds of strumming, and clawhammer (adapted from banjo).

One thing I notice is the uke is hard to hold steady when strumming or playing clawhammer, specifically when your left hand comes off the strings (playing open or transitioning). Examples: playing something clawhammer and you go from open strings to a hammer-on the 3rd fret of the 1st string to do a hammer-on --> c-chord. In the moment before you hammer-on, no left hand fingers are pinning the neck down and it wobbles around. Another example is strumming and moving up or down the neck (say several frets) quickly between strums, transitioning from one chord shape to another. In between strums there are no left hand fingers pressing on the fret board, as your left hand is only contacting the back of the fret board as you slide up or down. The uke then bobs around too much making it hard to transition well.

One workaround is to sit the neck into the pocket of your left hand and that holds it very steady but also makes it difficult to do many chords. Most discourage that kind of grip. I've been trying to squeeze the uke body between my body and my right forearm but that can be confining to the right hand and doesn't steady it that much.

What are some other ways to steady it?

ripock
08-27-2017, 04:10 PM
I use a strap. When I don't, I usually hold the ukulele like a classical guitar--viz., the lower bout between my legs and the neck at about a 45 degree angle. I only have tenors or bigger. I don't know if this is practical with the small ukuleles.

zztush
08-27-2017, 04:16 PM
As far as I know, this is the only way to hold the ukulele steady without straps.

https://s10.postimg.org/flyrugvpl/combine_images.jpg (https://postimages.org/)

Ohta-san and WS64 are superb ukulele players. They use thumb to play and hold ukulele with their right fingers.

MdBoy
08-27-2017, 07:16 PM
I use a strap. When I don't, I usually hold the ukulele like a classical guitar--viz., the lower bout between my legs and the neck at about a 45 degree angle. I only have tenors or bigger. I don't know if this is practical with the small ukuleles.

I was thinking about a strap to add some stability. My Cordoba doesn't seem to have strap hookups like a guitar though (of course could be a "good" reason to buy a new Uke :-)


Ohta-san and WS64 are superb ukulele players. They use thumb to play and hold ukulele with their right fingers.

Thank you for introducing me to WS64, that is some nice sound he produces. One thing I see in his vids is that while he doesn't put the uke full in the pocket of his left hand, his thumb is frequently on top of the fret board and would provide a level of stability. This leads to me to believe I should practice moving the thumb to different positions quickly, from a "press" on the back of the fret board to give a strong fretting to a slight rotation to the top fretboard when hitting the chords in the lowest register and when needing to give the neck some extra stability.


I suspect coming from a Guitar background, like myself and many others, your right hand probably works over the soundhole area.
Typically with Ukulele, I train my right hand to play closer to the Body Fret, rather than the soundhole. This means the positioning is a slight change, but with regular practice and familiarity in playing Uke, it is easily adaptable.
With the position of the right hand as such, I find it's better with playing Uke. As such, it also means the small finger (pinky) is in an ideal position to lightly rest on the edge of the body just underneath the body/neck joint.
So with holding the Uke between the torso and forearm, as you've mentioned, as well as the pinky lightly resting underneath the body, you should find your stability increases reasonably comfortably.
I find this works well particularly with Fingerpicking, though with Strumming you may simply have to depend on the position of the uke being wedged comfortably between torso and forearm.
When positioning the Uke my forearm is almost in line with the neck, in other words it's not hanging over the bout but positioned more centrally and almost horizontally across the body in comparison to playing Guitar, as it's a small instrument it's easily done and is comfortable and effective to play.
Try altering your positioning with the right hand, and forearm, and see what works well and what doesn't, and try resting the pinky on the underneath edge near the body/neck joint.
I think it won't take long until you figure out what works better for you, and once you do it's simply a matter of paying attention to practice as such. As with most things, as you become familiar with it, it will become more intuitive.

Of course, if you're sitting down, you can hold it however it's comfortable, maybe like a classical Guitar style, I find it works ok for me, though it can get uncomfortable with a small Uke like a Soprano. Or you can use a strap to assist in stability. I don't have straps atm, so when I'm standing I depend entirely on my technique.

I've added a photo for visual reference , this is pretty much how I commonly position my Ukes when playing
.. Is that photo upside down ? I don't usually play upside down like that, then again I am in Australia, maybe that's what happens when you play Uke in the land down under ;)
102604

Happy Ukeing :)

Thank you for that! Similar to my comment above, I can see your thumb at the top of the fretboard which would give the stability I need. I think I need to practice moving the thumb to different positions. Per your suggest on anchoring the right pinky, on fingerstyle techniques I do that currently, I actually hook it in the inner curve which creates a supremely stable hold on the uke and my fingerstyle is really nice as a result (play with thumb and first two fingers). I'm not sure that's possible on strumming to anchor the pinky. It's an interesting suggest to play lower than the sound hole, going to try that, thanks!

Booli
08-27-2017, 07:40 PM
I use a strap. When I don't, I usually hold the ukulele like a classical guitar--viz., the lower bout between my legs and the neck at about a 45 degree angle. I only have tenors or bigger. I don't know if this is practical with the small ukuleles.

+1 to the above.

Anyone that condescends upon YOU using a strap on YOUR uke, should be completely and forever ignored thereafter....and maybe slapped around a bit with a rubber chicken....

A strap would solve lots of issues for the OP, and those that would benefit from using a strap, should be 'allowed' by the magisterium to use a strap and play the instrument in a way that suits their own needs, and not the dogma of a committee of self-proclaimed 'purists'.

Later on, one may not need the strap all the time, and should have the option that makes life easier.

There are straps such as The Hug Strap, the Mobius Strap and The Uke Leash, all of which DO NOT require you to drill ANY holes to fit a strap button, and there are many fans & users of each of these here on UU.

http://thehugstrap.com/

http://www.mobiusstrap.com/

http://www.ukeleash.com/

RafterGirl
08-28-2017, 02:58 AM
I use a strap. Two of my ukes have one strap button at the tail block, and I tie the other end of the strap at the head stock. One of my ukes has two buttons, one at the tail block and one at the heel of the neck. I kind of like the two strap button method the best, as nothing interferes with my left/fretting hand at all. having the strap attached up at the head stock is a little more supportive on my tenor though.

I tried the kind of strap that hooks into the sound hole and didn't like it at all. It scratched my uke, and while if offered support, you can't let go of the uke to use your hands to do anything or the uke falls. I used a Hug strap on a plastic Kala Waterman uke that I had for awhile and it worked ok. Never saw the Uke Leash before, that looks good.

I had no idea that using a strap was frowned upon. Most of the folks in my community ed beginner uke class used them, including the instructor. I'd say about 1/2 - 2/3 of the people at my local uke club jam sessions use them.

Rllink
08-28-2017, 03:32 AM
It is easy to install a strap button. I wouldn't go out looking for a new ukulele just for that, because most don't just come with one already installed anyway. I use a strap sometimes, most of the time I don't. But you don't have to commit yourself to one or the other. You can use the strap when you think that you need it, and not use it if that suits you at the moment. So getting a strap button installed is a good investment either way, I think.

actadh
08-28-2017, 03:54 AM
Along with all of the above, I also keep a piece of rubbery material in my gig bags/cases. Rug underlay, rubber jar opener, or shelf lining does the trick. I have never had it interact with the finish on any uke, but please be careful.
https://www.amazon.com/Easy-Grip-Natural-Rubber-Jar-Opener/dp/B008W052RQ

https://www.amazon.com/Home-Collection-Nonslip-Underlay-Pack/dp/B06XSMR4J8/ref=sr_1_6?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1503928494&sr=1-6&keywords=rug+underlay

https://www.amazon.com/Con-Tact-Premium-Non-Adhesive-Non-Slip-12-Inches/dp/B001AH8PLI/ref=sr_1_11?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1503928552&sr=1-11&keywords=shelf+liner

Not only does it help anchor the uke when placed between you and the backside of the uke, it is also handy to keep buttons or zippers on clothing from scratching the ukulele.

Booli
08-28-2017, 04:14 AM
...I had no idea that using a strap was frowned upon...

No worries, and please do not let the 'mandates' of other folks direct your preferences.

While I too love suggestions and recommendations, I've otherwise observed a certain level of snobbery towards folks that want to try, or already are using a strap, and it really bugs me because it is usually expressed with disgust and disapproval and reprimand for 'doing it wrong'.

This condescension I've seen feels to me like making fun of a disabled person to their face, and 'penalizing' them for their ailments. I try not to judge folks, but to me this attitude is so wrong and cruel.

Folks need to have compassion and tolerance and understand that not everyone has the same abilities, nor preferences.

Using a strap is 'OK'. Not using a strap is also 'OK'. Both are fine.

It's whatever makes your experience better for YOU, and the uke easier to play for YOU. :)

Booli
08-28-2017, 04:55 AM
Laura, I think that's an interesting and innovative idea, because I consider that's where the slipping begins a lot of the time. I like the idea of the Jar Opener Rubber Mat.
I'm probably not going to use one myself, I don't really have a need for it, but nonetheless I think it's a good idea for anyone who might like to try it.

I agree.

The late, great John King used to do something similar which you can see in many of his YouTube videos, that he has some square of cloth or pad about 12" dia. that he keeps betw his Nalu soprano uke and his body...

Booli
08-28-2017, 05:26 AM
...The late, great John King used to do something similar which you can see in many of his YouTube videos, that he has some square of cloth or pad about 12" dia. that he keeps betw his Nalu soprano uke and his body...

Yes, I know, quoting myself, but you can see in the video below with John King and James Hill, how John's uke is placed:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3j-b35zkGw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3j-b35zkGw

UkingViking
08-28-2017, 06:09 AM
A small question:
I saw a video with James Hill about how to hold the ukulele and strum, and he suggests that the size of ukulele one should play depends on the length of ones forearms: the bottom of the uke should rest in the crook of you elbow when your strumming hand strums between the sound hole and the fretboard.

I don't obey that rule. I have long arms, but prefer my ukuleles to be a bit compact.
I never bothered to learn the pure strapless way, and either rest my uke on my lap or use a strap.
I might try out that pinky grip, but when using my straps - I encounter a problem deriving from not obeying the arm size rule: when transitioning, the uke tends to slip as the strap pivots around my neck, pulling the fretboard out of my hand and in front of my body.
For now, my straps are attached to the headstock in one end. Will adding a second strap button help with my problem?

Booli
08-28-2017, 06:18 AM
Thanks Booli :) His Uke sure does look well stuck in position there.

Actually, thinking about it a bit more, I've seen a kind of rubbery mesh type material which is often used as a temporary non-slip surface, and I reckon that would also do a very good job of holding in place and it's also easily obtainable, I reckon there would be a choice of a few types of materials that would serve well for the purpose, maybe even a chamois cloth might work too.

Yes, some folks have a natural 'uke shelf' when sitting (I am trying to shrink my own :)), and ladies have a different anatomical issue with holding the uke...which I will respectfully decline to specify....but nonetheless can benefit from assistance with keeping the uke in a comfortable position...

The rubbery mesh you speak of I've seen for lining tool drawers and putting on shelves, and I believe is the same kind of stuff that Laura was describing in her recent post above.

When I saw it in the store, it was packaged in a roll, of different widths, like 12", 14", 16" discreetly, and maybe 6' long, with the idea that you would select the width you needed, and then cut to size for your application.

I bough one for my tool box a long time ago, and dont think it cost more than maybe $5-6 USD.

Debussychopin
08-28-2017, 09:52 PM
I only play soprano so I don't have any of these issues. I place the uke against my chest and my right pinky slightly holds it towards my chest for grip and my remaining four fingers and my entire left hand is as free as a bird.

Rllink
08-29-2017, 03:26 AM
I only play soprano so I don't have any of these issues. I place the uke against my chest and my right pinky slightly holds it towards my chest for grip and my remaining four fingers and my entire left hand is as free as a bird.

Do you strum with your pinky planted like that?

igorthebarbarian
08-29-2017, 05:16 PM
Thank you for this visual of two of the most magical players out there on YouTube! I never thought of this as an option but it works! I need to play around with this more.


As far as I know, this is the only way to hold the ukulele steady without straps.

https://s10.postimg.org/flyrugvpl/combine_images.jpg (https://postimages.org/)

Ohta-san and WS64 are superb ukulele players. They use thumb to play and hold ukulele with their right fingers.

Debussychopin
08-29-2017, 05:43 PM
Do you strum with your pinky planted like that?

If I have to strum I grab the chord my left hand slightly more gripped, lean back slightly and strumming is fine for me. However I rarely strum as I practice mostly classical pieces

Estudiante
08-30-2017, 03:28 AM
Hi, mdboy. Your question seems pretty thoroughly covered. In case this wasn't mentioned (I didn't read every answer in detail), I'll add that a strap that attaches at the headstock will give your more stability against "neck-dive" than a strap that attaches down where the neck and body join.

I had the same issue as you when I moved on from thumb-picking. You can't use your right hand fingers to support the uke and use them to pick at the same time! I settled on playing seated as someone else shared in the comments.

Good luck.