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Thread: Hushing the Uke

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
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    Safety Harbor, FL
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    Default Hushing the Uke

    Subtitle: or Postponing UAS

    I've been at this ukulele thing off and on for 9+ years. I'm still very much a beginner, but I've been taking it slightly more seriously this year. I like to practice when I can, and I don't like to bother people while I'm doing it. Fortunately, I own my own home, and the only person I can bother is my wife... but, I'm a night-owl, and she's not. So, I have ample time to practice from like 11pm-3am.

    Soooo... I've gotten into the bad habit of only thumb-strumming. Very lightly. Keeping it quiet. And that's great for learning chords and getting some rythm and learning songs and such. But, now I really want to learn to do a proper index finger strum, make use of my fingernail for more volume, and get better at "chucking" and those kinds of things.

    How do I accomplish this in a manly manner?

    Well, I've been shopping and searching (y'all know the drill) for a quieter ukulele. Unplugged solid body electrics are a popular recommendation, and bodyless travel ukes. And I've even considered trying to build some kind of crappy non-resonant contraption just to practice on. (and I'll probably do that just for kicks at some point)

    But, today... rather than spend money...

    I stuffed a couple of old t-shirts down the sound hole of my uke. Pretty snug fit. And I happened to have some 1/4" thick dense closed-cell foam, so I cut a piece about 3/4" larger than the hole diameter and wedged it in there (so the bulk of the shirts are holding it against the sound hole).

    For my usual thumb-strumming, this reduced the sound level to probably 20-30% of what it was. But, because the strings aren't muted, the body still resonates. There's still a little bit of sustain, and it doesn't sound too terrible. For full-on jamming fingernail strums and chucking, it's probably still about as quiet as thumb-strumming was before. Nowhere near silent, but SIGNIFICANTLY quieter.

    The frequency response is off, of course. It doesn't sound "right", but it should be good for allowing me to experiment with a lot of different styles of strumming that I had deemed "too loud" before.

    The only other downside is that... who would have ever thought that two t-shirts were so heavy? It's made the body of my uke feel heavy and solid rather than light and airy. The balance is off.

    But... mission accomplished. I have successfully put the hush on my ukulele! And it didn't cost me a dime, and it's completely reversible.
    What could possibly go wrong?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
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    New England, USA
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    4,150

    Default

    In your situation, short of earplugs for your spouse, if it's that much of a problem, I'd get a solid body electric uke and plug it into either your computer, with headphones, or plugged into some kind of old-school Rockman/headphones device. Both assume that your uke has a pickup. That way, you can wail, at low volume to others. In my case, I'm in my basement mancave, while my wife sleeps on the second floor, so no problem. But I've heard that basements are not that common in FL?
    Last edited by Ukecaster; 11-25-2020 at 02:42 PM.
    John

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
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    Safety Harbor, FL
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    Default

    Yeah, basements aren't too common here in FL. We build on sand and limestone, and the water table is pretty shallow. Houses on stilts with a carport underneath are more common than basements!

    On the plus side, I don't need a humidifier for my uke.

    Some kind of solid body instrument is likely in my future. Whether I build it or buy it is the question. Maybe both!

    For the moment, I'm digging the hushed uke. Playing my usual thumb strum, or picking around on scales it's nearly silent. Can carry on a conversation over it, could even do it while watching TV without any issue at all. I just might get more practice due to that.

    Presently, I'm finding the limits of my dexterity. When I'm focusing on new strumming patterns, my chord changes get all kinds of awful! I'm sure the strumming patterns will eventually become as automatic as fretting chords, and it will all come together. Or maybe I'll just suck forever.
    What could possibly go wrong?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
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    379

    Default

    Have sympathy for aspiring drummers.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
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    Default

    I am in a similar situation and here's what I do.

    Since I always play standing up with a strap, I walk to the furthest points away from my sleeping wife to play. For my floor plan, that means the kitchen or the bathroom. Or some times, I will take it outside and walk around my demesne and pick some modes.

  6. #6
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    Nov 2015
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    Upper Hale, Surrey/Hants border, UK.
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    Get yourself a solid electric uke for quiet practising.
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
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  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Northern Illinois
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    Default

    I am certainly no expert, here's my 2 cents:

    I find that using thumb strums, with fingers braced on the fretboard below the strings, weakens my fretting hand. Holding the uke in place with the forearm and fingers left no movement for changing chords quickly. I need the instrument to "float" in my hands.

    I fixed this by alternating thumb and index strumming even in quieter moments.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
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    Safety Harbor, FL
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    Quote Originally Posted by ripock View Post
    I am in a similar situation and here's what I do.

    Since I always play standing up with a strap, I walk to the furthest points away from my sleeping wife to play. For my floor plan, that means the kitchen or the bathroom. Or some times, I will take it outside and walk around my demesne and pick some modes.
    I could totally do that. I could play in the kitchen, which is on the opposite end of the house. Or, I could go grunge and play in the garage. Or, I could certainly go for a walk! I should probably start exploring those ideas.

    But, I like to spend my lazy late night hours plopped down in the living room with my feet up. So, in addition to having a lazy quiet thumb strum habit... I also have horrible playing posture!

    Definitely food for thought.
    What could possibly go wrong?

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