Why is the use of straps more contentious in the uke community than with other fretted instruments?

Uke with Smitty

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Sigh...another thread about uke straps? Haha, yep.

I grew up with a lot of instruments in the house. We had a dulcimer on top of the fireplace mantle. I was bought a guitar at a young age and then got into mandolin. I messed around with banjo, bass, and eventually got into the uke a few years ago after a few years of acoustic guitar being my main instrument. Throughout my experiences with all of these instruments, I never experienced a serious conversation about straps. Most people use them (especially when standing) but my main point is it wasn't really a big deal one way or the other. You either used one or you didn't and it wasn't really a topic of conversation.

Then when I started playing uke a few years ago I noticed using a strap/or not can be an intense point of debate and cause people to make categorical statements. People have said installing a strap button ruins the instrument. I've heard many people say learning with a strap can hold beginners back from learning proper technique. Others say that it's not traditional and no one needs one. There especially seems to be an aversion to using a strap with a soprano (which I guess I kind of get because it seems to be easiest size to hold well without one and a strap can stand out the most aesthetically on such a small instrument).

For my first year or so I played a Cordoba concert that didn't have a strap button so I played it without one. I don't think playing without a strap held me back, per se, but once I got a different uke that had a strap button and started playing it with a strap, it felt revelatory and liberating. I could focus 100% of my mental and physical energy into playing the instrument and not have to devote any mental bandwidth whatsoever to actively supporting it. I felt like difficult stretchy chords and fast fingerstyle patterns got easier. Now I pretty much always play with one.

I just don't get why using a strap or not in the uke community evokes such strong opinions when it seems to be assumed and/or not discussed much at all with other fretted instruments.

My pet theory is that (1) straps weren't traditionally used in Hawaiian music and some people see that as the ideal and (2) many ukes don't come with a strap button so it becomes a whole decision and process because you have to go out of your way to add one unless you use those hook/hug straps. This also adds the whole discussion of marring/ruining an instrument as where mandolins, guitars, banjos, bass guitars, etc. almost always come with a strap button(s).

I use a strap but don't care whether someone else does or does not. I don't really see how using one could ruin someone's ability to learn the fundamentals. Mandolinists using a strap doesn't seem to ruin their ability to play with good technique.

So can someone enlighten me here? Why is it more of a big deal in the uke community?

Edit: I just thought that perhaps there's a parallel here with classical guitars. They traditionally are NOT played with a strap and that would probably ruffle some serious feathers to drill a strap button into a nice one.
 
OMG...who could ever need a strap on such a teenie-weenie toy instrument? :oops:

Nobody seems to have a problem on guitars, but some get upset about drilling holes into ukes for strap buttons. Maybe it's a badge of honor to go without? I just do what I like; I'm up for anything that allows me to play better. I have no problem either way, but would consider it carefully on a vintage, all original instrument, especially if I might want to sell it someday.
 
Hopefully, an original Limerick will clarify/ demystify:

For a 5-string banjo picker to be deft
Shoulderin' such cumbersome heft,
A padded strap is a must,
Its presence never cussed.
Thus necessity never triggers a cleft.

Ukes seldom add strain to one's back
Dead weight they unquestionably lack.
Thus uke straps get debated,
Their presence loved or hated.
And adding buttons sometimes leads to cracks.

Setting lack of mass and heft briefly aside,
A strap helps one's hands deftly-er glide.
A strap shifts my focus off the up-holdin'
And straight to the finger-foldin',
For chokes, hammer-ons, pull-offs and slides.

Clark, 2023:)
 
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...once I got a different uke that had a strap button and started playing it with a strap, it felt revelatory and liberating. I could focus 100% of my mental and physical energy into playing the instrument and not have to devote any mental bandwidth whatsoever to actively supporting it. I felt like difficult stretchy chords and fast fingerstyle patterns got easier. Now I pretty much always play with one.
I completely agree.

And yeah, it's such a weird debate. Why are we spending so much time on it instead of on playing those wonderful ukes? :unsure:

I have no problem either way, but would consider it carefully on a vintage, all original instrument, especially if I might want to sell it someday.
I do think this is a valid consideration: who wants to be responsible for mucking up a vintage instrument?
 
For a 5-string banjo picker to be deft
When shoulderin' that cumbersome heft,
A padded strap is a must,
Its presence never cussed.
Thus necessity never triggers a cleft.

Ukes don't add strain to one's back
Of dead weight there's a lack.
Thus uke straps are debated,
Their presence loved or hated.
And adding buttons may sometimes cause a crack.
Touche!

Your point is skillfully and wonderf'lly made
But what about when a mandolin is played?
It lacks the heft and mass of a dreadnought,
But still a strap by many players is bought.
Therefore perchance to your surprise,
Perhaps a strap is not always about size?

Nonetheless, to amend my earlier verse,
If you crack a uke, you condemn it to a hearse.
With a strap button, mandolins do come supplied
Therefore the players do not have to abide
The horrible action of marring their apparatus
Because their instruments usually come with this gratis.
 
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Hi Smitty,
I don't use a strap on my acoustic guitar, I just rest it on my knee like a classical guitarist! I use a bootlace tied around the bout and headstock on my soprano so it don't keep slipping, also to free up my fretting hand. I dont use one on my concert though, because I play it in my armchair where the bout is a snug fit in my lap. There is always going to be traditionalists looking down on the use of straps, guitarists on uke players, classical musicians on harmonica players...........
 
my opinion (and that’s all it is) is that there are 2 camps of strap naysayers.

The 1st is a perfectly respectable group who just think that the ukulele doesn’t need a strap because it’s too small and therefore isn’t suited to the instrument.

The 2nd is a less respectable group that just like to tell people they’re doing things wrong.

Thanks for the thread.

Edit: Far above this strap debate is an actual world whose general population is of the overwhelming opinion that our ukuleles are toys and not even actual instruments. The whole strap debate is generally silly to me. But you are right there is always very lively debate. Some people just don’t like to see another person with a strap attached to an ukulele. Idk.
 
I like straps. When I play with a group I always use one, even while sitting, because it frees my hands up in between songs without the worry of dropping my instrument. I find it very easy to believe that others would be less prone to dropping their uke during those times, but I know myself, and it’sa real and present danger.

At home over carpet, I’m about 50/50 when it comes to using the strap or not. The floor is softer and there is less to distract me.

The one uke I have without a strap is my vintage baritone. It is the largest but I never take it out of the house. It’s beat up enough that adding a strap button probably wouldn’t matter re: value, but I just haven’t felt the need to add one yet.
 
Touche!

Your point is skillfully and wonderf'lly made
But what about when a mandolin is played?
It lacks the heft and mass of a dreadnought,
But still a strap by many players is bought.
Therefore perchance to your surprise,
Perhaps a strap is not always about size?

Nonetheless, to amend my earlier verse,
If you crack a uke, you condemn it to a hearse.
With a strap button, mandolins do come supplied
Therefore the players do not have to abide
The horrible action of marring their apparatus
Because their instruments usually come with this gratis.
Touche!
 
once I got a different uke that had a strap button and started playing it with a strap, it felt revelatory and liberating.

Like you, the question seems bizarre to me. Don't want one? Don't use one. But my experience is exactly like yours: I struggled to learn, and once I added a strap, stopped struggling. It was like turning on a light switch, or crossing the Rubicon or something.

There's still plenty to learn, but I can't think of anything that I've attempted in the years since I started strapping that was even a fraction as difficult as almost everything I tried without a strap.

Somebody going strapless doesn't offend me, so I certainly don't get why me using one should offend anyone either. There are as many ways to "do" ukulele as there are ukuleles, and I'm of the "we need MORE ukuleles" persuasion, rather than thinking that we somehow need fewer...which also means, even more ways to "do" ukulele as time goes by, not fewer.
 
Like you, the question seems bizarre to me. Don't want one? Don't use one. But my experience is exactly like yours: I struggled to learn, and once I added a strap, stopped struggling. It was like turning on a light switch, or crossing the Rubicon or something.

There's still plenty to learn, but I can't think of anything that I've attempted in the years since I started strapping that was even a fraction as difficult as almost everything I tried without a strap.

Somebody going strapless doesn't offend me, so I certainly don't get why me using one should offend anyone either. There are as many ways to "do" ukulele as there are ukuleles, and I'm of the "we need MORE ukuleles" persuasion, rather than thinking that we somehow need fewer...which also means, even more ways to "do" ukulele as time goes by, not fewer.
I think some of it has to do with people who suck at ukulele. They are mad people are better than they are and if that person is wearing a strap they just start fuming about training wheels. Sad.
 
Many folk style acoustic guitars have necks that are attached and set with a bolt or two. Often this requires a long wrench tool that is inserted through a hole in the butt of the body. (Can you say, "colonoscopy?" :oops:) The hole is usually plugged with a removable endpin. Which, of course, is a natural place to attach a strap to help hold that freakin' BIG instrument when you are standing and playing.

I thought I had broken my Hive Hornet tenor when I put a strap on the endpin and it came out! I emailed Jake Maclay, and thought he would find it to be an amusing story. And asked him what was the purpose of the endpin. He explained about the neck bolt, and then apologized for mine coming loose. He told me to put a drop of super glue on it to hold it in, but still be removable for repairs.

I absolutely cannot play my tenors resting the neck in the valley between my thumb and index finger and fingering chords and notes. I have short fingers and they are not very flexible and it's just too darn awkward for me. Plus all of the other reasons Uke wIth Smitty enumerated so well.

I can do it on a soprano, but it isn't comfortable, and why struggle with it when you can use a strap and not put pressure on the back and soundboard while holding it between your arm and chest, and partly muffle the sound the uke produces? You can easily prove that it does. Rest your soprano on your leg away from your chest. And strum and pluck some notes. Then hold it with your arm pulling it into your torso and play the same strums and plucks. Quite a difference.

Besides, with a strap, I can drape my uke on my side to free my hands to hold my beers...
 
Holy crap, people actually get their knickers in a twist about ukulele straps??

FFS, it's really simple. I use a strap because I'm not risking dropping my ukulele on to concrete, or into deep water if I'm playing outdoors.

You don't need to drill anything. Literally just loop a piece of string around the uke if you don't want to fart about drilling strap buttons.
 
I can do it on a soprano, but it isn't comfortable, and why struggle with it when you can use a strap and not put pressure on the back and soundboard while holding it between your arm and chest, and partly muffle the sound the uke produces? You can easily prove that it does. Rest your soprano on your leg away from your chest. And strum and pluck some notes. Then hold it with your arm pulling it into your torso and play the same strums and plucks. Quite a difference.
Exactly! Also, have you seen me, Nautiloid, Jim Persky, or pretty much anyone with a pulse actually play a ukulele? Strumming can get vigorous when you're playing an emotive song. I'd rather not get carried away and have the uke fly out of my hands.
 
I think some of it has to do with people who suck at ukulele. They are mad people are better than they are and if that person is wearing a strap they just start fuming about training wheels. Sad.
If anyone ever says this to me I will just turn around and fart loudly.
 
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