use a ukulele strap or not

Should I use a Ukulele strap – or not?

Ever since uke straps entered the “stage”, a debate broke out – should players use them, or stick with the traditional, old-school ways? Well, there are no easy answers on this one, as both sides have “arguments” to back their claims – some are logical, some are quite subjective, but we’re not here to judge.

In order to gain a better understand of whether or not you should use a ukulele strap, we should discuss the matter in detail – are there any real benefits of using a strap, or any potential “dangers” to your playstyle? Will using a strap make you look “untraditional” or “hip”? These are just some of the questions beginner uke players ask before they make the decision.

There are several factors that you should consider while pondering over these questions – the type of ukulele you are playing, the types of uke straps that are at your disposal, and, maybe most importantly, see “both sides of the medal” before making a definitive decision. Using the best ukulele straps certainly has its benefits, and here are just some of them.

What type of ukulele/ukuleles are you playing?

Generally, some uke types are supposed to be played without a strap – these ukulele types are often the smallest, thus the lightest, such as soprano ukuleles, or concert (concerto) ukuleles. These ones are known for their lightweight qualities, and traditional Hawaiian uke players always played them without a strap.

Small Soprano Ukulele

Soprano – the smallest instrument in the ukulele family

Tenor ukulele type, for example, weighs more and requires additional support, but it’s still “playable” without a strap – it would be much easier if you used one, though, as you’d have more hand freedom and a piece of mind, for that matter.

Tenor Ukulele

Tenor – just a bit larger than Soprano ukulele, but still fairly petite in size

Baritone ukulele type, in particular, is very large, and it’s the heaviest of all ukulele types. Frankly, there’s little chance that anyone could feel comfortable playing this ukulele without a strap when it comes down to live performance or stand-up play.  

Baritone ukulele

Baritone ukulele – most people would confuse this ukulele for an acoustic guitar

In all fairness, the size is one of the crucial elements that would determine the “change” in feel of your playing style if you used a ukulele strap. It’s tightly correlated to uke’s weight, but that topic is just too broad – materials, design, and all kind of whatnots shouldn’t bother you too much if you’re a newbie.

Are you familiar with uke strap function and types?

Some people think that uke straps are taboo because they’re not sufficiently informed with the matter – knowing what they are, what they are for, and what types can be used is just one of the steps you should take before making a statement as bold as “they’re bad for you”. That being said, let’s slow it down a bit and break the topic into several smaller fragments:

What are uke straps?

Generally, uke straps are pieces of cloth that help players support their instrument a bit better, which provides a considerable boost to their “playability”. There are numerous uke straps, and some people even take up making their own, but they all serve a “supportive” function.

What are uke straps good for?

One of the most important reasons why people use ukulele straps is to relieve the pressure from the picking/plucking hand (the one that strums the strings). As playing a stringed instrument is already hard as it is, it’s good that people have invented a way to keep your mind occupied on two things alone – pressing the frets and plucking the strings.

Playing with ukulele strap

Playing uke with a strap leaves your hands with more mobility

Otherwise, you’d have to worry about the proper angle of the ukulele’s neck (ideally, it should be parallel to floor), support the ukulele with your picking hand and press it against your chest, lest it slips out from your hands.

Types of uke straps:

There are plenty of uke strap types, and it’s up to you to choose which one will suit you best – if you decide you really should use one, though.

  • Regular/Commercial uke straps –commercial straps that need to be equipped with strap buttons
  • Single strap-button uke straps – there’s only one connecting point
  • Hug-strap – hands-free option that rests on your shoulders, no strap-buttons required whatsoever
  • Hook-strap – hook-styled attachments that doesn’t require any strap-buttons
  • Uke leash – similar to guitar straps, only one end goes above the player’s shoulder, other end goes underneath the second shoulder

Arguments of those who “refrain” from using a ukulele strap

There’s a plethora of reasons why you should use ukulele straps, but there are certain people who claim that using them isn’t “traditional” or beneficial in any way. Even though these arguments are completely subjective in nature, it wouldn’t hurt to hear them out.

First of all, people who advise against using ukulele straps are accustomed to playing without one, so it’s only logical that they would advocate the statement “you don’t need it”.

Secondly, there are those who favour the old-school uke ways who state that “playing ukulele with a strap isn’t in accord with the ukulele tradition”. This is an edgy statement, to say the least, and it does not, in any way, provide a legitimate reason why you shouldn’t at least try using one.

Lastly, which is perhaps the most “logical” argument – some people say that using a strap could be a hindrance to your playing style by a long-shot. Once accustomed to playing with a strap, you’d have difficulties going back to playing without one.

Objectively speaking, do you, actually need a ukulele strap – Final Words

From an objective point of view, there are no reasons why you shouldn’t use a ukulele strap – it can only benefit you, even though you might need some time to get accustomed to playing with it. On the other hand, if your ukulele is small and light, then you don’t actually need a strap per se. The bottom line is – you should try playing ukulele with a strap, see how it goes, then decide.