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Tenor Uke Basics

Mark Vories — Feb 12, 2015 09:21AM HST

I'm new to the ukulele and I'm struggling with what must be the most basic of basic ukulele issues: how to hold the damn thing. If I position it like a guitar, the weight of my arm draped over the top side of the ukulele tends to force it out from under my arm. I'm constantly tucking it back into position - sometimes in the middle of a song. I've tried pinning it between my forearm and side, but I barely have any control over it. While strumming, the ukulele body is moving with each strum and I find myself "chasing" the neck when making chord changes. I've watched a few You Tube videos, but I'm still having trouble keeping the uke secure and stable while strumming. Any advice?

6 Community Answers

Link - Feb 24, 2015 at 03:56PM HST

Hey Mark,
I'm really new to uke (tenor) as well, so I can't go into specifics, but my advice would be patience. I have really struggled with the same issue as you, but it is getting better, just with lots of practice. For the first few weeks I constantly felt like the uke was trying to squirm out of my arms, but just by playing more and more it is getting easier and easier. I think a big part of it is holding everything too tight at the start. With practice I've found you can relax more. It's like holding a fish - squeeze it too hard and you will force it out of your hand. I still have trouble when standing, but at least when I am sitting down I am mostly in control. Keep at it and good luck.

rated : 1 Up Down

Zachary Shimizu - Feb 24, 2015 at 04:00PM HST

The Ukulele Site Agent

If you don't have strong feelings against installing strap buttons I would highly recommend doing that.
Then you would be able to use any guitar style strap out there =)
We also sell the straps like this which no buttons are needed

rated : 2 Up Down

Mark Vories - Feb 26, 2015 at 07:24AM HST

After trying several methods (while sitting), I've settled on holding the uku to my side with the uke almost perpendicular (maybe 75 degrees) to my body and using my forearm to press it to my side. I'm having more success with this, although sometimes I still find myself chasing the neck - mostly while strumming rapidly. It feels so odd to have the fret board pointing away from my body after many years of playing guitar. Standing up? I think I'll make it easy on myself and use a strap.

rated : 0 Up Down

Brian Miller - Feb 26, 2015 at 07:24AM HST

Securely holding the uke while standing, without using a strap, seems a near impossibility for me, too. Using a strap works, but is rather confining. What I don't like about tucking it under my arm is that the last thing you want to do with an acoustic instrument is to dampen the vibration of the sound box and especially its top. Many of us agonize over the process of selecting an instrument that sounds "just right". Then we go and stuff it in our arm pit which pretty much squashes most of its tonal subtlety. After 100+ years, you would think someone would invent a uke that is easier to hold!

rated : 0 Up Down

Jo - Feb 28, 2015 at 03:34PM HST

I recommend the Uke Leash. It's a tether that stabilizes the neck of your uke, with no need to install a strap button. Having the neck supported with the uke leash allows your fretting hand to move freely.

rated : 0 Up Down

Gary - Feb 28, 2015 at 03:34PM HST

I usually play seated, but when I am standing, I've noted that the others I play with really struggle with this issue as well. They tend to hold the uke like a guitar, and I think that's the problem. I agree with Mark about the angle and although that takes a little practice, it works well and becomes very natural after a bit. Brian is very right about squashing the sound of these little instruments - you really have to hold them away from your body so they can resonate. I play a fairly cheap uke, about half the price of some of the others in my uke group, but I get a very full sound out of it compared to the more expensive instruments because of how I hold it. The key I have found for holding it comfortably and securely is to learn to strum with your wrist, not your forearm. Teachers are always harping on that, but until I learned that technique, I struggled like most beginners, but learning to use my wrist improved my playing dramatically. Plus that means your forearm is fairly stationary so it is holding the instrument while your wrist is doing all the moving around.

rated : 1 Up Down

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