Songwriting on Ukulele vs Songwriting on Guitar

ElvishParsley

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Does anyone else find writing songs with a uke to be a very different experience to writing with a guitar? One thing I've noticed is that I can be more harmonically adventurous on uke, as there's a bigger choice of easy low-position chords. On the downside, if the tune ends up too high or low for your voice, you don't really have the option of capoing a soprano uke up a 4th to make it singable. (Well, you can, but it wouldn't sound too good!)
 
I find songwriting on uke to be quite liberating vs. songwriting on guitar, mostly because the fewer # of strings allows me to focus more on the melody structure, whereas on guitar I found more time was spent on trying to figure out the proper harmonic structure of seemingly more complex chords with 2 added strings.

I always felt that this was a better spend of my mental and creative energy, especially if needing to transpose (only if the song had vocals) because it would force me to learn new chords on the uke. I do not like using a capo.

Also, by writing on uke, for me it seems like there is more musical "space" to write second enharmonic parts, or even bass parts. Of course this requires the ability and equipment to record yourself with multi-track DAW software.

I used to use Garageband, but switched to Reaper a few years ago, and find Reaper better suited to my needs. Reaper has a free version, and the paid version is only $60 USD.

The only issues I have with songs that have multiple parts, is that if I even perform them live, I need either other players to perform with me, or need to provide a complimentary backing track, which I feel is hokey and kind of cheating, kind of like karaoke-uke. However, since the pandemic, I have limited my presence in public settings, so that is not really a concern right now.

I know lots of concerns about masking and distancing are being reduced over the past few months, but I prefer to keep myself safe (I have other health concerns) and limit my public exposure.

I have not written new songs on guitar in over a decade, mostly because since I took up uke, I sold my guitar and sort of never looked back. So I have not been back to writing on guitar in that long, so keep all the above in perspective.

I have an acoustic uke-bass on semi-permanent loan from a friend, so that helps me with any songwriting that needs bass parts, which is much more fulfilling that using a mouse to click on a grid to input MIDI notes into a software program.
 
Love writing on the uke, it's much easier because of the less structured, very minimalistic style I play.

I can still growl along to death metal guitar but the riffs are so much more structured and I have to make things fit exactly...
 
Case in point - I just finished writing a ukulele song in C major, with a ton of quick jazzy chord changes I wouldn't venture on guitar. Only to find that it's too high for my voice. So I'm now trying to work it out in Bb instead....
 
Case in point - I just finished writing a ukulele song in C major, with a ton of quick jazzy chord changes I wouldn't venture on guitar. Only to find that it's too high for my voice. So I'm now trying to work it out in Bb instead....
Or play it on a Baritone uke!
 
After nearly 30 years of writing songs on guitar, (and rarely on piano) when I first stared playing the ukulele I found that no matter what key I played in, it was too high for my voice . . . but now that I have discovered different inversions to certain chords, I am much more comfortable with singing, playing and writing.
 
I am not a prolific song-writer, but I have written a few tunes that are worth keeping. I have written these by finding a set of changes that I like, recording them on a guitar, and then trying out melodies over top of the chords. I have used mandolin for some tunes and guitar for others.
As far as songs, which are much harder for me, I have sung the melody while driving the car. The melody and lyrics came together. I find the lyrics the hardest part of song writing, which is why I'm mostly a tune writer, but even then, I don't have enough original stuff to put on a show without covers.
This fiddle tune, Robbie Burns' Day, started with a chord progression and I added the melody.
Robbie Burns' Day
 
Not much of a songwriter, but the few songs I have come up with were lyrics first.
So no difference what the instrument is 😆.
I just sing the part I know how I want to sound, look for common chord progressions that will fit/sound good, and adapt the rest of the melody to that. Without ever playing the melody on the uke.

But I see that if you start out noodling with notes on the instrument, its a different story.

If I were to go melody first, I would probably be better off on guitar or baritone. My vocal range barely makes it onto the first string of gCEA, and if I were to play an octave higher, I would be on the really high frets a lot. Assuming that I will sound better near the top of my range. A baritone or guitar would let me use the lower half of the first string to play the high end of what I want to sing - that would be easier.
 
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Not much of a songwriter, but the few songs I have come up with were lyrics first.
So no difference what the instrument is 😆.
I just sing the part I know how I want to sound, look for common chord progressions that will fit/sound good, and adapt the rest of the melody to that. Without ever playing the melody on the uke.

But I see that if you start out noodling with notes on the instrument, its a different story.

If I were to go melody first, I would probably be better off on guitar or baritone. My vocal range barely makes it onto the first string of gCEA, and if I were to play an octave higher, I would be on the really high frets a lot. Assuming that I will sound better near the top of my range. A baritone or guitar would let me use the lower half of the first string to play the high end of what I want to sing - that would be easier.
I also usually get lyrics first in songwriting. I often get a melodic idea in my head around the same time.

I find the Uke easier to play around with for figuring out chord progressions, and also easier to sit with by a table or desk.

As far as my vocal range goes, I will use a capo, tune the Uke down, or use an alternate tuning to get a key that fits my voice.
 
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