Strapless Fingerpickers, Help

Swiftsailor98

New member
Joined
Jan 28, 2019
Messages
139
Points
0
So, I recently purchased a 'unicorn' ukulele for me. It didn't come with any strap buttons and I can't bear to add any. I'm using this as an opportunity to improve my mechanics of playing without a strap, but I'd like any tips, tricks and/or techniques you might offer.

I'm a taller player with long arms and big hands, and my new uke is a long-neck soprano (soprano body, concert neck).

After some practice, standing and holding the uke while strumming feels pretty comfortable. The adjusted posture also caused me to up my game and improve my left-hand technique to make chord changes smoother while supporting the neck.

Here's my challenge: Using the same positioning causes me to try fingerpicking over the end of the fretboard (between the 14th and 18th frets). But putting the back edge of the uke lower on my forearm to reposition my fingers closer to the sound hole feels uncomfortable--like my wrist is bending more than it should to fingerpick.

What's your experience? Any tips?

I know I need more practice, but I'd prefer to have a sense that I'm doing it right while I practice more.

Thanks.
 

man0a

Member
Joined
Sep 22, 2019
Messages
476
Points
18
This video is on the YouTube channel. Works great for me.
Craig Chee and James Hill also have "how to hold your ukulele" videos which are similar, but not as detailed.

On the other hand, I recently heard Jake Shimabukuro say that he played without a strap for many years, but started using a strap because he was getting back pain from holding the ukulele head up. Of course, Jake plays 100+ concerts every year that are 2 hours each, which is something I never plan on doing.
 

clear

Member
Joined
May 4, 2020
Messages
836
Points
18
When I play without a strap, my fretting hand helps support the ukulele (the ukulele is supported by my left hand, right arm, and chest). When I'm not playing it (and just holding it), I usually support it with my right hand, right arm, and chest.

I find finger style easier than strumming because it allows me to move my fingers onto the chords singularly when necessary (for example, changing from C chord and to G, and if I'm sounding string 3 first in the G chord, I can move to the G chord by first only moving my finger 1 to the 2nd frat of the 3rd string first, then move the rest of the fingers as needed at a later time). This allows my to keep constant support of the ukulele. I.e. maintain a contact /hold point on the ukulele with my fretting hand at all times.

It is definitely best to have just a single position (at least in the beginning) so that only 1 set of muscle memory for chords is needed. I think, in your case, if you find that finger style requires you to change for holding position, then you have to evaluate whether to completely switch to the new position or maintain 2 positions (finger style vs strumming).
 

kohanmike

UU VIP
Joined
Sep 15, 2013
Messages
5,577
Points
48
My best answer to you is PUT ON STRAP BUTTONS. They don't harm the uke or lower its value, in fact, they enhance the value. I've added buttons to many ukes, including my custom made ones. They make playing not only infinitely easier, a strap is great protection from inadvertently dropping the uke, which I have done.


This is Michael Kohan in Los Angeles, Beverly Grove near the Beverly Center
9 tenor cutaway ukes, 4 acoustic bass ukes, 12 solid body bass ukes, 14 mini electric bass guitars (Total: 39)

• Donate to The Ukulele Kids Club, they provide ukuleles to children in hospital music therapy programs. www.theukc.org
• Member The CC Strummers: YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/CCStrummers/video, Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheCCStrummers
 

snowdenn

Member
Joined
Aug 16, 2019
Messages
428
Points
18
My best answer to you is PUT ON STRAP BUTTONS. They don't harm the uke or lower its value, in fact, they enhance the value. I've added buttons to many ukes, including my custom made ones. They make playing not only infinitely easier, a strap is great protection from inadvertently dropping the uke, which I have done.


This is Michael Kohan in Los Angeles, Beverly Grove near the Beverly Center
9 tenor cutaway ukes, 4 acoustic bass ukes, 12 solid body bass ukes, 14 mini electric bass guitars (Total: 39)

• Donate to The Ukulele Kids Club, they provide ukuleles to children in hospital music therapy programs. www.theukc.org
• Member The CC Strummers: YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/CCStrummers/video, Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheCCStrummers

By all means, put on strap buttons if you like. And if we're talking about personal value, then sure, for some people strap buttons enhance value. But assuming we're talking about resale value, I think strap buttons are more likely to lower rather than add value. I've passed on ukes because they had strap buttons installed. I've heard of others doing the same. I've yet to hear about anyone buying because strap buttons were installed or not buying because they weren't. I realize some people (maybe most?) don't mind strap buttons or want them. And it's an easy addition. But you can't as easily go the other way.

Edit: I don't really have any tips for getting better at playing without straps other than to keep practicing.
 
Last edited:

clear

Member
Joined
May 4, 2020
Messages
836
Points
18
My best answer to you is PUT ON STRAP BUTTONS. They don't harm the uke or lower its value, in fact, they enhance the value. I've added buttons to many ukes, including my custom made ones. They make playing not only infinitely easier, a strap is great protection from inadvertently dropping the uke, which I have done.


This is Michael Kohan in Los Angeles, Beverly Grove near the Beverly Center
9 tenor cutaway ukes, 4 acoustic bass ukes, 12 solid body bass ukes, 14 mini electric bass guitars (Total: 39)

• Donate to The Ukulele Kids Club, they provide ukuleles to children in hospital music therapy programs. www.theukc.org
• Member The CC Strummers: YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/CCStrummers/video, Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheCCStrummers

Maybe strap buttons don't lower the value , but I can't imagine them increasing the value. I can always add buttons easily, but if I want to remove a button, it'll leave a hole. Actually, they might just lower the value if the buttons are installed in a location that's different than where the buyer likes to have it (for example, some might prefer it on the heel or somewhere different, then there's going to be 3 buttons on a tiny ukulele? or a filled hole? or something. And some might like a strap that's too wide for a pre-installed button location. So, in many ways, I don't think having a button will increase the value.)

It is easier to play with a strap, but not by much, at least to a beginner like me. A strap does allow me to swing the ukulele to my back to carry it though, so in this regard, it is convenient.
 

kypfer

Active member
Joined
Sep 27, 2013
Messages
1,295
Points
38
In my experience the easiest way to play any fretted stringed instrument without a strap is to either tune all the strings to the same note then simply barre or bottleneck up and down the neck, else remove the strings completely and use it as a percussion instrument ;)

Masochism isn't one of my hobbies!

YMMV :music:
 

Croaky Keith

Active member
Joined
Nov 13, 2015
Messages
6,808
Points
38
Sit down & put the (lower bout of the) uke in your lap..... :)

P.S. Watch the UOGB & how they play.

(Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain)
 
Last edited:

ukantor

UU VIP
Joined
Jan 28, 2009
Messages
2,594
Points
38
That sounds like a cuss - you strapless fingerpicker!

John Colter
 

Swiftsailor98

New member
Joined
Jan 28, 2019
Messages
139
Points
0
In my experience the easiest way to play any fretted stringed instrument without a strap is to either tune all the strings to the same note then simply barre or bottleneck up and down the neck, else remove the strings completely and use it as a percussion instrument ;)

Masochism isn't one of my hobbies!

YMMV :music:

Hilarious! Thanks for the laugh.
 

Swiftsailor98

New member
Joined
Jan 28, 2019
Messages
139
Points
0
Thanks man0a, Aaron's video was very helpful. However, he was still using a tenor uke so there's plenty of room between the forearm anchor and the fingers.

On my long-neck soprano, if I place my middle fingertip at the top of the body where the neck joins, the bottom of the uke body is only about an inch and a half past my wrist. So, when I fingerpick at over the sound hole, the anchor point is barely 2-3 inches up my forearm.

Does anyone practice fingerpicking over the fretboard?

As for strap vs. no strap and buttons vs. no buttons I'm sticking with no buttons, but I've ordered a neck strap with a sound hole hook that has the lowest profile I can find (except for Jake's, but he apparently has his sound hole plate custom made). That's my back-up as I get better a being strapless, and when I absolutely don't want to mess it up by dropping it.

Thanks for the conversation so far. Any other thoughts out there?
 

Ms Bean

Member
Joined
Jan 10, 2020
Messages
857
Points
18
I wonder if members can tell us all about the uke leash or the hug strap. Neither requires buttons IIRC.
 

Jim Hanks

Active member
Joined
Mar 13, 2013
Messages
5,406
Points
38
I was gonna suggest the Uke Leash half strap. I prefer to have an end pin, but I always keep a half strap around for ukes that don't yet have a pin. I also find the half strap useful when recording to eliminate strap noise coming from around that end pin.
 

Jarmo_S

New member
Joined
Aug 23, 2017
Messages
682
Points
0
A soundhole strap like Willie Nelson or the ukulele Jake uses, does not need any strap buttons. I find it provides a very good support when i fingerpick.

I agree that without a strap fingerpicking and standing is difficult.
 

ripock

Active member
Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Messages
1,724
Points
38
Being a card-carrying strapper, I am of course severely biased. However I have noticed that some unfortunate strapless people use their pinky. They hook the pinky over the side of the sound board and then pick with their other fingers.
 

snowdenn

Member
Joined
Aug 16, 2019
Messages
428
Points
18
I have noticed that some unfortunate strapless people use their pinky. They hook the pinky over the side of the sound board and then pick with their other fingers.

Haha, I've been teaching a 5 year old who does that sometimes. She also likes to strum and pluck behind the soundhole near the bridge. I should tell her to keep her day job.
 

ripock

Active member
Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Messages
1,724
Points
38
Haha, I've been teaching a 5 year old who does that sometimes. She also likes to strum and pluck behind the soundhole near the bridge. I should tell her to keep her day job.

playing ponticello is a legitimate alternative as long as it is done with a purpose.
 

merlin666

Active member
Joined
Jul 7, 2015
Messages
1,708
Points
38
I have a concert uke in my hand as I am reading this so think I understand what you are talking about. I tend to hold the uke fairly high close to the chin so I can keep my left hand as straight as possible. So if I want to pick over the soundhole I simply increase the claw figure on my right hand so that the fingers move away from the fret. Whereas for strumming the fingers are more straight to play slightly above the fretboard. The adjustment is just very slight but picking with slightly curved fingers also has other advantages.

Using a strap may cause you to play the uke lower and then you will have to curve your left wrist more which can cause injury. Not everyone is a Slash.
 
Last edited:

Tonya

UU VIP
Joined
Mar 25, 2008
Messages
318
Points
0
I have a trio of unicorn ukes (2 MBUs and 1 Dominator); I had strap buttons put on the MBUs. I was so certain that Iʻd "need/want/prefer" the strap option for all my playing (quite a bit of single note picking up the neck as well as strumming) that I spent *hours* at a fabric store in Hawaiʻi--TWICE!! When I could have been sitting on the lanai strumming instead!--selecting the "perfect" fabric for custom-made straps. I got the straps, I used ʻem because I thought I should--I mean, donʻt all "real players" use straps?

I realized, after lots of stand-up playing (I was in an ensemble at the time), that I much prefer to hug the instrument close to me (and Iʻm a female player, so thereʻs that extra challenge in body parts impairing easy instrument hugging). I somehow sense Iʻm more "connected" to my instrument when I hold it sans strap and I truly think that comes through in playing that feels more "organic" in some way (point of clarification: I am not saying my playing is great, I just think itʻs better when I donʻt use a strap). My go-to tips for standing and fingerpicking without a strap are to wear 3/4-length or short-sleeves, *not* wear a belt buckle (the instrument, when held without a strap, is closer to the body), use the right forearm as your "fulcrum" with the left hand pulling the instrumentʻs neck back toward your body. When working up the neck (most of my stuff doesnʻt go higher typically than 10th fret), my left palm "cups" the neck a bit. Good luck!
 

Jarmo_S

New member
Joined
Aug 23, 2017
Messages
682
Points
0
I am of a different opinion about straps of all types than some and they being so safe to hold the ukulele instead dropping it without.

I used my electric guitar, a solid body somewhat a copy of Fender jazzmaster or Jaguar when I was about 17 old. All i had was the strap buttons and then the leather strap with holes. And somehow i think I forgot to put it right, and then went ”hands free”.

And it then it did go bang to the floor. Thanks it was some Fender copy instead a Gibson type more delicate one. It has 4 plated screws for holding the neck to the body. But the body was cracked to the bottom top screw. It did not affect any how it holds the neck or intonation action. But I learned a lesson.

With any strap, make sure there are strap locks or at least how you put the strap on to pegs! Otherwise your precious uke can bang too to your maybe concrete etc. hard floor.

…………………

Added regarding electric guitars and just my opinions about faults in my one.

I’d now buy a different type than then. The volume and tone controls should be behind bridge and low profile. It is not a big thing with soloing. It upsets strumming if they are not.

The vibrato bar can be a bother and make the instrument out of tune. I took mine out because of that reason. We did not have any electronic tuners those days that are fast to use today. Just a tuning fork. Anyways vibrato bar makes the instrument less stable in tuning.

The weight of a solid body guitar is that the less the better.

As an ukulele player I might these days prefer the shorter Gibson scale than Fender scale. Both of course shorter than the classical guitar scale.

Electrics regarding mics my fave guitar players, most but not all, are single coil mic players. I don’t know how it is these days. If to buy some guitar, how well they work is another thing. My old guitar lost the front and bridge microl control and now it is both on same time. Not good.

I don’t like a lacquered maple neck.

If I were to buy a new electric, those things above are what I would consider and perhaps few other ones I did not mention, but with limited amount to spend, some compromises had to be made.

Tuners have to be good too, but they usually are fine enough.