View Full Version : Interesting Experience re: Scale Length

01-21-2011, 02:06 AM
I recently received my copy of the Ukulele Fretboard Roadmap. I have a Concert size Uke, and I love it. My issue is, as I move through the unit about Moveable Chords, I realize that I am unable to fret the strings properly from the 13th fret onward towards the top of the fretboard. As my Uke is a Concert, and has 18 frets, this means that the top 5 or 6 frets are virtually useless to me. I am not positive if this is because my Uke is not a cutaway, or if it is because my fingers are too large for Concert scale Ukes. As I do not have the opportunity to play either a cutaway or a tenor sized uke on a regular basis, I am not able to work out what the issue is. I can play very comfortably up to the 12th fret. That is plenty of room to play more than I am capable of playing at this point, but I am making a real effort to learn the instrument, as opposed to only learning how to play a few songs. Ultimately, I would like to be able to pick up the instrument and play by ear. I understand this takes years, but for me, this is a lifetime commitment. Any advice is appreciated.

BTW- Has anyone else had this issue? If so, how can anyone older than 5 play a Soprano or a Sopranino? Let alone a guy the size of Bruddah Iz!?!?!?!?


01-21-2011, 02:14 AM
I agree it would be difficult to play chords up there. You could bring your thumb from behind the neck so that your hand is over the top of the fretboard and soundboard. You could possibly play chords that way or pick out melody lines.

01-21-2011, 02:18 AM
I find that even with my thumb moved to an easier to work in position, the frets are too close together. Perhaps it is my lack of dexterity that is inhibiting me, or maybe I am just in a pickle because the frets are so close together way up there.... Not really sure. I guess that figuring it out and finding a way to make this happen will be part of my Uke Journey. I really love everything about the Concert size... I can't imagine playing anything else regularly. Maybe I will one day pick up a tenor just for kicks, but Concert size is my fave...

mm stan
01-21-2011, 02:31 AM
Aloha Mendel,
It could be the you just gotta get used to it and your finger learn to loosen up...some people can and others cannot...I guess it depends of your dexterity level is...I've seen Iz playing a soprano...
Even other big members here I hear playing sopranos but I'm not sure if they are play far up the neck.....Have fun and enjoy!! Happy Strummings..MM Stan

01-21-2011, 02:50 AM
Congratulations. As you surmised, you have discovered one of the reasons that cutaways, tenors, and super sopranos, concerts, etc exist. I like my soprano's sound on many old songs, but my tenor is a lot easier to play. As for the question can anyone over 5 play a soprano up the neck take a look at any of Hefner's YT videos:



01-21-2011, 05:51 AM
It is difficult, especially on a concert to play a full chord that high on the neck. As others have said, a tenor gives you more room and a cut-away even more.

But there is something else to think about...

The notes at the 12th fret are the same notes as the nut (G-C-E-A). If you can't fret an entire chord above the 12th fret, you can play some of the notes just like open 1st position chords. As an example just pressing down on the 15th fret on the A string is a C chord and is the same as when you play it on the 3rd fret, with the G-C-E strings open. I think it is called a semi-open chord. Sometimes the wide range (octave) sound of the chord sonds good with what you are playing and somtimes the wider range doesn't fit the style of song.

A lot of players use these partial or semi-open chords... Jake Shimabukuro, Dominator, Jon Prown, etc. to get an effect they want to incorporate into a song.


01-21-2011, 06:18 AM
John King did pretty well with sopranos. I don't think I have seen any arrangements from him that would require a barre chord above the 12th fret. But, you do have four fingers for four strings, so perhaps a non-barred version would still be possible, but it does get pretty tight up there. I agree with 70sSanO, some open strings might be helpful to simplify the fingering. Sometimes it is more challenging to get those really high notes to ring true and clear, so often times the arrangement jumps down to a lower octave.


01-21-2011, 08:01 AM
Chet Atkins used to say there is no money above the 5th fret.
I think most soprano and concert ukes get difficult way up the neck. The frets are so small it is difficult to get a clean tone.
It is almost like having a uke fret out because of bad setup. The fret wire is what does the work.
When the space between to wires is so small the string just can't sit on the wire.
As others have said once you get to 12 you are repeating.
I am an advocate of playing chords up the neck and not all 1st position chords. I rarely play any notes above 12.
I have a few songs where my pinky is on 12 and barring at 9 ("A" chord on GCEA)

01-21-2011, 08:18 AM
Chet Atkins used to say there is no money above the 5th fret.

I like that.

01-21-2011, 08:33 AM
So, essentially, you are saying that while I am relatively comfortable with frets 1-5, I should set a goal of mastering frets 6-12. If I am able to do that, then I should be doing very well for myself. As far as the Fretboard Roadmap, I should basically ignore chords and such above fret 12 beyond the purposes of developing better understanding of music theory?

01-21-2011, 08:53 AM
As far as the Fretboard Roadmap, I should basically ignore chords and such above fret 12 beyond the purposes of developing better understanding of music theory?

Not all ukes go beyond 12 frets, so really, getting a solid understanding of those first 12 frets will take you far. As long as you understand the concepts, you should be fine.

If it's any consolation - I've got little tiny fingers and I have trouble playing high up the neck too. The more you do it, though, the easier it will get. I'm pretty comfortable up to 14 frets but those little tiny ones after that? Pretty difficult.

01-21-2011, 12:22 PM
On most ukes the sound is getting pretty thin for chording above the twelfth fret anyway. If you learn two "boxes" of movable chords - one rooted on the F shape, the other on the C shape, you can play almost anything in any key on the first six or seven frets.


01-21-2011, 01:24 PM
So far, the book has me working on G shaped chords and D Chords. Also the circle of fifths. I can play it, but I don't really understand the principle of it yet. I'll work on the ones you suggested. I am enjoying learning about the theoretical base of music. Its very interesting.