BY HEIDI SWEDBERG | FROM THE WINTER 2018 ISSUE OF UKULELE

For years, I didn’t use a strap on my ukulele. Why on earth would I need one on such a tiny thing? The uke wants to be clutched close to the heart, not strung on a noose. I sang and strummed without a care.

Everything changed the day I went to take Daniel Ward’s first flamenco ukulele workshop at McCabe’s, the legendary guitar store in Santa Monica, California. Apparently, the world was not ready; nobody else came—which made me the luckiest girl on earth: I got a private lesson in sevillanas, fingerstyle melodies, and sharp rhythmic patterns from the traditional Spanish guitar repertoire. Within the hour, I realized, “Oh my GCEA, I need a strap!”

Some see this as a divisive u’ke/uke moment, but don’t let high (or low G) anxiety get to you. If you’re wondering whether it’s time for you to button up and strap on, here are some honest answers and easy guidelines.

Paul Hemmings, photo by Bill Waldman

PAUL HEMMINGS
New York, NY
“Most ukulele straps I find are too thin, and if you try to use a guitar strap, it’s usually too bulky. I’ve got the Goldilocks ukulele strap because it’s just right. I set the strap so that the instrument is in the same position, regardless of whether I’m sitting or standing—I usually practice sitting down—and I recommend Goldilocks straps to students for the same reason.”

 

Cathy Fink, left, with Marcy Marxer

CATHY FINK
Silver Spring, MD

“Using a strap means that neither of your hands are responsible for holding your uke in the perfect position. Many players, especially beginners, use the left hand to hold up the neck and the right hand to squeeze the uke in place. The strap takes care of that so both hands can be focused on playing.”

Daniel Ward, photo by Ron Grouper

DANIEL WARD
Los Angeles, CA

“Liz Olney designed and made all my straps. They’re pretty swanky, but the core design is what makes it for me. The 3/4-inch width seems perfect for ukulele—balance is uniform, and the soft backing means no slipping at the shoulder.”

“A strap allows both hands to move freely with no forced support of the instrument. Try and play a single-note melody on the open strings without a strap while standing, and feel where you end up compromising to hold up the instrument. For concert and tenor sizes, it really helps.”

“I do pick up ukes without a strap all the time. When material is not difficult or I’m just strumming on a little soprano at a jam, it’s great fun.”


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ANDY ANDREWS
Puna, HI

“Never have and I hope I never will. I play nothing but a standard size, which makes them manageable to hold. (I do play tenor sax, and I use a strap then!) I like my hands to be dancing across the top of the uke. Holding down a chord with my left hand, palm against the neck, keeps it place, and the gravity of up and down strums keeps it floating in mid-air in front of me.

“Without a strap, the instrument is moveable. I find that when I’m playing a Bb chord, I hold the instrument with the headstock pointing straight away from me, whereas on ‘double bar’ chords [i.e.: m7b5] I have to pull the instrument flat against my body. With different strums, I hold it differently, too—higher for fingerpicking, lower for a Pete Townshend rock strum, and I like to change it up during a song.”

“Like a violin, a lot of sound comes off the back of the instrument, and if you are using a strap, the instrument nestles down into your gut, and you lose it all. And, if you’re wearing a strap, you can’t spin it around like Roy Smeck.”


BARRY PRUDHOMME
Ontario, Canada

“I have always played with a strap, as I need all my fingers to pick (I can’t sing at all). This ukulele is a Mya-Moe tenor with Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name” character (featured in director Sergio Leone “Dollars” trilogy) inlayed on the fretboard; the corresponding strap was made by Terry Misner, owner of Action Custom Straps. He has made all my straps that match my other ukuleles.”

Marsha “Grits” Gresso and Tammy St. Pierre

MARSHA GRESSO
Interlochen, MI

“When I first bought my ukulele in Hawaii, I didn’t get a strap because I wasn’t sure I wanted to have someone drill a hole into my koa uke. But I found it difficult to hold, and I got tired easily. I purchased an adjustable strap that had a J-hook clip-on, but it felt clumsy and my uke didn’t feel secure and safe as I moved around. When I returned to Hawaii and the shop where I bought my ukulele, I had the owner install a strap button. I also think it sounds better when I’m not clutching it tightly.”

 

TAMMY ST. PIERRE
Traverse City, MI

“It is nice to be able to let go of the uke and walk around to talk to people at uke group. I bought a white Kala archtop ukulele so I could change color of my straps to match an outfit, special occasion, or holiday.”

WHAT A STRAP CAN DO FOR YOU

Help keep your instrument in an optimum position

Allow your right and left hands to play more freely

Give you confidence and independence of movement

Present opportunities for fun accessorizing and gifting

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