View Full Version : Playing more than one string instrument

05-09-2008, 04:40 PM
So... I've been playing guitar for about 9 months now and can play level 2 music (level three with much much practice.) And anyways, I picked up the guitar for the first time in three weeks. You see, ever since I got my first uke, my guitar has been thrown to the wayside.

But today I played some guitar and realized a few things:

1. Uke is much less painful to play. What I mean is when I play my guitar my whole arm hurts- my fingers, wrist, and forearm ache. I've circulation issues that make my hands go numb/achey really easily and I had forgotten in the past few weeks that playing the guitar agrivated those symptoms. The uke, however, doesn't bother me at all.

2. The guitar does sound fuller than the uke. I do love the complexity of the sound. I was actually a bit shocked when I played some of the lower notes on my guitar and could feel the vibrations through my arms.

3. I love playing music no matter the instrument. But switching between instruments in hard on my weary mind. It takes way too much thinking to remember where my fingers are suppose to go on each separt instrument. I overreach on the uke and under reach on the guitar.

So here's the thing... How do you guys split your time between string instruments? Did you stop playing other string instruments once you picked up the uke?

I myself am tempted just to stop playing the guitar and stick to the uke (at least for a while.) My arms (and especially my hands) seem to take better to the uke than the wider neck/ bigger scale of the guitar. And not having to worry about my syndrome flaring up while I play is an excellent and unexpected bonus that makes playing the ukulele that much sweeter (and I can learn to live without those sweet low notes... I hope).

05-09-2008, 06:04 PM
I think you give some very good, valid reasons for putting you guitar down, at least for now. Chief amongst those reasons is, of course, the health issues. It's much better to play the ukulele and be stress free while you're learning, than pick up the guitar and have to worry.

For me, I'll never put the guitar down. Yeah, I've been almost exclusively ukulele for almost two years now, but I do love the guitar and will most likely never give it up.

The way I split my time between instruments is by determining which one the song I'm playing calls for. If it's a guitar tune that just can't be done on the ukulele, I'll pick it up. If I love the way the tune sounds on the uke, that's what I'll play it on.

I've just been mostly uke lately. It's a new world for me, and it's all still so exciting. I love learning new stuff.

05-09-2008, 06:17 PM
seeso's right, of course. health first. don't try to play through pain.

it's true the chord shapes are different, Valerie, but the mind is an amazing thing. you can learn what you really want to learn.

I agree with seeso's take on what gets played when, too. some songs just seem to require guitar, while others are beautiful on uke. there's room for both, for sure.

05-09-2008, 07:29 PM
wow, I'm having the same problem haha

My wrist goes cold from lack of blood circulation and then starts to ache because my guitar is too big for me so I strain much more to get those barred chords right. Though I love playing the guitar so I don't put it down despite the pain. I know that's bad, and I think I'm getting carpal tunnel.. but now that I have an alternative to play I'll be playing the uke a lot more than the guitar.

I overreach on guitar haha I recently tried playing the guitar again and I would always mess up on the C chord.

but anywho, I wouldn't know what to really do.. you could trying playing each of them per day or if you like playing the uke more than just make sure to get in a little practice on guitar after playing the uke. Or maybe play one every other day, or week maybe?

Hope you figure something out and be careful with the whole bad circulation thing, you don't want any long lasting affects from playing an instrument.. not good.

05-09-2008, 07:30 PM
Health comes first! If you have any pain or numbness that is a bad thing. If your injuries are from playing the guitar it might be just your hand or arm positioning. I assume you are playing an acoustic guitar? You can try the lightest gauge strings and lowering your action. Really fast technical players don't press very hard they use the lightest most efficient touch possible to get the note to ring clear. Take care if you really mess up your hand or arm you wont be playing anything.

05-09-2008, 07:53 PM
...of course, you could just sell the guitar and buy a KoAloha D-VI
http://koaloha.com/KoAloha_Products/DVI.html :D

05-09-2008, 08:34 PM
I don't find it too bad, I normally dedicate about an hour or two to my guitar in the week and then spend the rest of the night before I sleep practicing uke (TV in the UK is boring lately). Ofcourse sometimes I spend a little bit more time on guitar when I start to miss it. I dont really find it hard switching between the two.

05-10-2008, 05:02 AM
I play ukulele, cello and bass (upright and electric), and I think that the only way you can get over your pains when you play the guitar is to play it regularly. One mistake that a lot of musicians make is to practice for about 3 hours one day a week, and just forget about it for the rest of the week. You'd honestly be better off playing for just 5 minutes a day - soon you'll find that you feel more acustomed to playing guitar. I know from playing double bass, which has thick strings and a lot more tension than bass guitar, that you need to play regularly or it canes.

05-10-2008, 05:11 AM
...of course, you could just sell the guitar and buy a KoAloha D-VI
http://koaloha.com/KoAloha_Products/DVI.html :D

if only i could afford it... haha

05-10-2008, 05:15 AM
....I know from playing double bass, which has thick strings and a lot more tension than bass guitar, that you need to play regularly or it canes.

What does "canes" mean?

05-10-2008, 05:47 AM
What does "canes" mean?

Haha edmund mate you need to choose your words right :D. Its just a word we use in the UK to basically say it hurts, alot.

05-10-2008, 07:08 AM
wow, i thought it was just me! i never really got very good with the guitar and playing the uke was so much easier so i just stayed with the uke. when i picked up the guitar again, it felt like hugging the refrigerator (... not that i have a lot experience with that... well, ok... my love of food is second only to my love of the uke but i digress). now i just pick up the guitar and play a song or two to justify the money i spent on it.

05-10-2008, 07:27 AM
Yeah, I'm not very good at guitar. But I am better at it currently than the uke. But I think that will be different in a month or two.

My problem switching between the instruments isn't so much a chord thing- I've never had problems with chord shapes (I play with a capo all the time and understand how to know which chord to play)

It's more of a scale thing- where my fingers get use to one scale and when I play the other instrument my fingers just feel lost.

And I never realized how huge a guitar really is till I played the uke for a bit.

The uke just feels so natural to me- whereas the guitar was always a bit of a struggle.

I think I may end up like Seeso- play some things on uke- others on the guitar.

I guess becoming a two instrument person is just going to take a lot more work than just being a one instrument person.

But I will be putting the guitar down for a bit. I have thoracic outlet syndrome (the circulation issue). But I've been doing physio to correct it and I'm hoping that it will be gone soon and not flare up again for a while.

05-10-2008, 07:30 AM
And, wow! My posts tend to ramble...

I need to sleep.

05-10-2008, 12:15 PM
I can play Horse with No Name on guitar.... kind of. Does that count? ;)

I find that all the instruments that I've ever touched have some form of discomfort to them. With the clarinet, the weight of it is on your thumb and that starts to smart after a while. Also with any reed instrument, your lower lip gets a workout... and entire mouth area really. With brass you get the swollen pulsating.. or split.. lips. With guitar and uke, you get the strings digging into your fingers...

But outright pain? No. The guitar is telling you it's not you, it's the guitar. It just doesn't feel right in this relationship. It needs space. The uke is ready to commit though. ;)

With guitar, I couldn't make my hands do what I wanted them to do, and bar chords were impossible. I just never could improve.

With uke, it's not just the four strings thing, it's the smaller neck also that makes this much nicer for my hands. And playing the guitar, for me, is like hugging the fridge.

05-19-2008, 11:04 AM
long time guitar player > uke = won't be that hard
long time uke player < guitar = most likely will have a hard time

05-19-2008, 11:10 AM
long time guitar player > uke = won't be that hard
long time uke player < guitar = most likely will have a hard time

Awww man! Now I have to learn math in addition (get it? addition!) to learning to switch between the uke and guitar!

05-19-2008, 11:21 AM
Well, I play ukulele, violin (Soon switching to viola), and bass. And I love playing all of them. It's good fun, and I get to play with a large range of people (Orchestras, bands, etc.).

One thing I'm getting recently though, is the hard skin on my index finger and middle finger on my right hand is starting to split, which makes it uncomfortable to play bass and ukulele. But I'm assuming it'll just fix itself and all will be well. So for these few days I've just been gently strumming and playing slap-bass :P

Violin doesn't really contribute to my uke or bass playing a whole lot, other than I can read music slightly. But I think ukulele and bass have helped me keep time in my head. Which is always good.

07-24-2008, 10:14 AM
Haha edmund mate you need to choose your words right :D. Its just a word we use in the UK to basically say it hurts, alot.

Sorry lads, guess I had too much earl grey tea and scones this morning...


07-24-2008, 04:15 PM
I don't have a set regimen, but I basically work it like this: I have about 3 binders of guitar music and 2 binders of ukulele music. I try to work through one binder each day of either guitar or uke. I also try to work on something new every day; lately I've been trying to do my own arrangements. On the guitar I also rotate between classical and steel string. The things I play are all fingerstyle and quite varied--classical, rock, sacred, jazz, and blues. I really carried this approach over from my days as a trumpet player when I would alternate trumpet, cornet, and flugelhorn. Works for me.


07-24-2008, 10:53 PM
I play (haha 'play' isnt really the word) Uke and Bass guitar.

I generally settle down with one instrument at a time and when i hit a learning wall I swap over to the other instrument.

Its great playing these two instruments because you dont get confused with chord shapes - there not being many on bass guitar used for most stuff, its usually just plucking single notes......

AND they both have 4 strings! yay! I am working on a Weezer track at the moment and im gonna sing it, play it on uke and do the bass. Its more work and it will be a while but I am attempting it anyway.

07-25-2008, 01:00 AM
I myself am tempted just to stop playing the guitar and stick to the uke (at least for a while.)
I started playing guitar in the mid-1960s. I've owned many styles, shapes and types over the years. I've had affairs with other stringed instruments, but they haven't lasted and I've always returned to my guitars.

Sadly, my discovery of the ukulele this past winter has almost killed that relationship. My guitar gathers dust, forlornly sitting on its stand gathering dust, while my ukes dance and play in my arms every day.

I can't bring myself to commit the full act of divorce, so we're in what you might call a 'trial separation' while I resolve my relationship with the uke. My lawyer doesn't see much future in it, though...

07-25-2008, 02:36 AM
I'll play just about anything with strings and frets. Switching between different scale lengths (guitar to ukulele, etc.) is really just a matter of time. After awhile, you're hands will just know what to do. For my gig tonight, I'm playing my tenor ukulele, 6 string bass, and 8 string guitar (my looper pedal will be in the mix too). I don't really have to think about switching between them (even though they are 3 different tunings); my hands have just spent enough time on each to know where to go.

I'd would like to reinforce what a lot of folks have been saying too: don't play through the pain. Ever. If something hurts, don't do it. Stop, take a break, come back later. Playing through the pain only leads to serious injury.

Whatever instrument you are playing, just make sure you are having fun!

07-25-2008, 07:30 AM
It depends on the kind of pain I have and on which instrument as to whether or not I'll play through, but I agree it's supposed to be fun, and pain isn't. It seems every instrument has some form of discomfort to it though.

The only string instrument I can play is uke, (and one day I'd like a bass), but with other instruments it's not a problem switching. It doesn't make you forget.

07-25-2008, 08:17 AM
My uke was in the shop getting a pickup installed recently, I had it up to DaveTalsma's house, so I was without it for a few weeks. I spent the whole time working out some new stuff on my Taylor, and when I got the uke back, it just feels so darn easy to play by comparison! You only have to press lightly on those soft flourocarbon strings (ans I play hard worths), and the chords are just so much easier to play. The music theory end of it is just faster, with only 4 strings, too...so many more open chords and easy ways to get what you want. This was the first vacation I had from a uke in about a year, so it really suprised me how must stronger an ukulele player my guitars made me. I mean, I know they are different instruments and have their own qualities and complexities, but from a practical and theory perspective, ukulele and guitar are VERY close cousins. I like learning a song on guitar and then just playing it on teh uke...its like having capo on the fifth fret of my guitar, it jut knocks it up 5 semitones and gives it that sweet ukulele flavor.

My advic? Ifyou want to learn more than the uke, and you want to retain music theory, tackle the guitar and you will see your ukulele proficiency (at least from the technical perspective) go up fast!

07-26-2008, 12:21 PM
In June I got an Ashbory Bass for Rich as an anniversary present. I was drawn it because it's small, and has only 4 strings.
(Also, I figured if I got it for him, I could play it some, too.:D)

Anyway, we've been too busy with charters for him to spend any time learning to play it until this week.
Today we did some jamming together to the 12-bar blues! Woo hoo!

07-26-2008, 12:27 PM
Today we did some jamming together to the 12-bar blues! Woo hoo!
Please tell me you got vid of this.

07-26-2008, 12:47 PM
Please tell me you got vid of this.

Not yet! But soon (probably, maybe, hopefully)... :D

07-26-2008, 01:21 PM
As well as the uke, I play violin/viola and I dabble in bass, guitar and piano (It's a percussion instrument technically, but it's got strings). The violin used to be my thing but now people would associate me with the ukulele.

I'm at grade 4 at violin, and a fairly basic level at bass. I love them all, though.

07-26-2008, 09:30 PM
My parents still think clarinet is my thing, and that stopped being my thing some 16 years ago. Yeah, I had some professional gigs since then, but it's not my thing anymore. I can play it, and I can play some other wind instruments, that's about it. I was a grade.. I dunno, I didn't do the solo play-off thing much, never went for all-state, only enough to keep my chair. I had some grade 7 and 8 stuff in my rep, but in that band you had to if you wanted to keep your chair.

But the point is that voice is really my instrument, but if you ask my family, they say clarinet. I love playing uke so much more, and it's really my thing, but they don't comprehend that. :)

07-26-2008, 10:40 PM
I love playing both the guitar and the ukulele, even though I consider myself an ukulele player. I have found that when I split my time between the two instruments, practicing one helps improve skills on the other.

I first started out on the guitar then set it aside for a long time when I picked up the ukulele. When I played guitar again I found that I made vast improvements by applying what I learned on my ukulele!

07-27-2008, 04:01 AM
But the point is that voice is really my instrument, but if you ask my family, they say clarinet. I love playing uke so much more, and it's really my thing, but they don't comprehend that. :)

Post some video! I'd love to hear some of your stuff! (Ukulele and vocals, anyway. Clarinet, not so much...) :D

07-27-2008, 08:52 AM
There's this clarinet choir piece that we always did that was very cool...

Oh, no, I don't really look forward to putting myself on Youtube. My voice is ripped to shreds right now anyway because of this asthma-like infection I've had. Hell, it could be asthma, still some tests to be done, but under this treatment I feel like a normal person again.

So right now, I'm a classically trained soprano.... channeling Stevie Nicks. That means I shouldn't be singing at all, but I can't resist, it's not often I get to channel Stevie Nicks. :D

And I can't sing and play at the same time. Too much like walking and chewing gum I guess.