Ukulele posture is not something that a player can master instantly. Most players will have to slowly work on their posture over many months and years to ensure that they can play the most effectively and healthily, and each player will have their own ways of doing things. Below, guest blogger Matthew Quilliam explains how he approaches holding each size of ukulele, taking into account what he uses each scale length for.
Soprano and Smaller
The original ukulele, the soprano, lends itself very well to a cradling method of holding the instrument. Its small size means we can hold it like a baby in our arms which arguably makes the soprano the most intimate of all the scale lengths. Your mileage will vary but being able to hold the instrument somewhere up high against your chest is the important first step. You will need to support the instrument from underneath using your strumming arm, whilst your other bends round to hold the ukulele where the fretboard meets the headstock. Any weight it does carry should be minimal. The soprano ukulele and smaller scales like sopranino and nano lend themselves best to strumming, especially those fast syncopated rhythms of traditional Hawaiian music, where the instrument first made its mark. Since I typically use my soprano ukes for strumming, this posture helps to put the strumming hand in a prime position for strumming.
Concert, Tenor and Anything in Between
As you progress through the sizes, you may find that the middle scale lengths of concert and tenor require a different posture due to their different size and their different functions relative to a soprano. There are always exceptions, but I typically find that fingerpicking is much easier on these larger instruments as there is more space on the longer fretboards. There is not much of a difference in posture therefore, however, the larger sizes naturally mean the instrument will sit lower on your chest than a soprano. This gives pickers the advantage that their picking hand can come from above rather than underneath so that each finger can pluck upwards from the string. Again, most of the weight should be supported by the right hand, as the left needs to be totally free to move in any and all directions.
Baritone and Bigger
The baritone ukulele exists in its own league, in a way. The only scale to be tuned DGBE, instead of the standard GCEA, I find I use my baritone for both strumming and picking. Its larger size means it sits lower on my body than anything else, which for me makes picking easier than strumming. To help with my strumming I often use a strap. Speaking of which…
Strap or No Strap
For some reason, there is an ongoing controversy around whether ukulele players should use straps. Some say they’re redundant, others swear by them. I personally use straps on instruments that I fingerpick whereas, when I’m strumming, I tend to find that I don’t need one. I said earlier that the larger sizes, which I use to pick, require total flexibility in the fretting hand. This is because melodies often demand the use of a larger range of frets than chords do, so here I find that having a strap allows the weight to be lifted altogether from my arms so I can achieve this flexibility with my left hand. I set my straps quite low, which means I find strumming more challenging, so I will typically remove the strap or play without for my strumming performance. Every player has their own uses for them, so make your own mind up about straps and don’t let anybody tell you what you should or shouldn’t do.
This is just how I approach holding my ukuleles. I have made some generalisations and some simplifications, but I hope I have managed to represent a wide range of approaches and given you some inspiration to look at your own posture to see where you could make some changes. Do you agree with my approaches, or do you have anything to say that I’ve not mentioned here today? Do let me know in the comments.
» Buyer’s Guide – Ukuleles
» How to Hold Each Size of Ukulele
» 5 tips to improve your tone on the ukulele
» Ukulele Strings that Are Right for You
» Ukulele Rhythms: Learn Them Here!
» How to Tune Up & Play a Guitarlele
» Help! What Size Ukulele Should I Buy?
» Learn to Play Ukulele in 3 Easy Steps!
» How to Tune Your Ukulele
» Ukulele for guitarists: the 4 most-important chords
» The Difference Between the Ukulele, Mandolin, and Banjo
Performer, teacher, composer and author, Matthew Quilliam is a fresh new talent on the ukulele, already making a huge impression.
Matthew’s primary instrument has always been the ukulele which has allowed him to grow a life-long connection and expertise with the instrument. Over his short musical career so far, he has already achieved so much; he has contributed to many ukulele publications and performed at some leading festivals in the UK, plus more.