Ukulele picks and ukulele straps — do you need ’em?
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All right, Ben, pass it over to me and we’ll get this thing started. Ben Ben.
All right, thank you very much. Thank you very much. Hi, everybody. Welcome to Ukulele Practice Time with Danno. It is Monday, so I hope you’ve had a great weekend. And I had some opportunities to practice your ukulele. And remember, when we say practice your ukulele, what we actually mean is play your ukulele, because every time you play, you are practicing.
How’s that for a deep thought to get us started on the right foot? Every time you practice, you should also be playing. Those two are not mutually exclusive. It’s a question of emphasis and focus, you know what I mean?
So ukulele practice time with Danno. Our simple motto is to amuse and inform. I know some of you folks were able to be here on Friday, so I hope you are amused by my friend Claire, who showed up to offer her ukulele wisdom from the very unique perspective of having absolutely no ukulele wisdom.
I would love to know what you thought of her appearance on Friday, not her appearance, but her appearance with me, you know what I mean, for anyone who might be new.
The whole point of ukulele practice time is to for me to practice my ukulele and share what I’m practicing with you and for you to share what you’re practicing with me so that we can carve out a little island happiness when the world around us seems swirling with madness. Oh, I think I almost wrote the first line of a song just there.
Now that said, I feel like I have to strum the strings at least once. You know what?
I’ll See You In My Dreams
I’ll see you in my dreams. This is not what I had on my list, but Suzanne mentioned it. Do you know that you do know you actually said the Joe Browne version. So have you worked this out a little intro that he does?
Isn’t that nice? Now, I don’t know the whole song by memory, but I, I happen to be working on that one recently and worked out that little introduction piece and he carries it on into the D chord, I think is next. Something like that. Anyway, Suzanne dropped me a note if you’re having trouble working that out and I’ll be happy to help you. There’s a little introductory little introductory pieces and so much to the sound of the song. It’s just a little color and a little movement instead of just banging up the chords.
Straps and Picks
So here’s what I have in mind today. The reason I said I feel like I have to at least touch the strings on the ukulele is because I’m not really planning to be practicing or presenting anything to you today on the ukulele itself. I had a nice question come in via email asking about something that we’ve touched on in the past, but I thought we could focus on today, which is the subject of ukulele accessories. In particular, the idea of a ukulele strap to hold it onto your body and the idea of ukulele. Oh, look at my still life, ladies and gentlemen.
It’s that pretty ukulele picks, thanks, Ben Bring me back.
So, yeah, that’s the subject for today. Straps and picks, picks and straps.
And I have a little bit of insight on the matter based on my years of experience as a ukulele player and a ukulele teacher and mostly as a ukulele group leader and seeing what people tend to prefer.
And the volume of accouterment that I see, which is actually surprisingly little.
Do you need a strap?
So as we go through, as you know, we try to keep this short, but as we go through on this very tiny little subject, feel free to chime in with opinions of your own or questions as we go through. I’m just going to tell you what I think on these subjects. In my beginner class in particular, people tend to ask about a ukulele strap.
Beginner uke kits
I think that the reason so many beginners ask about ukulele straps is because if you go to Amazon and look for “beginner ukulele,” there’s a certain number of kits that come up and they often include an OK ukulele. And then with the ukulele, you’ll very often get a little clip on Tuner, which is a great investment and I think everybody should have one. And then they’re trying to fill out the kit and make it desirable and they’ll throw in a ukulele strap and make it seem like it’s an important thing. So that’s my personal theory. When I do beginner classes, a lot of people have a strap on a standard size ukulele and a lot of people who don’t ask, do I need a strap?
Here’s my simple answer. No, you don’t need a strap.
Now, that’s not to say there’s anything wrong with them. And it’s not to say that if you like having a strap, that I will glare at you disapprovingly. Just the contrary, I think everybody should have exactly what they need to be comfortable and to feel well supported, as it were, Jerry says on the subject of strap only for a bass uke. So Bass uke is going to be bigger and beefier than a typical little soprano like mine. Same is true for a baritone. You got to know if we have any ukulele baritone ukulele players here. Lynn says on the banjo lately, she likes to have a thin EUC leash, so interestingly, I used to have a big gold toned banjo lately with the big circular body and a big heavy resonator on the back. And it really weighed a lot. And that was the only ukulele that I ever have had where I was inclined to use a strap on it. And a friend gave me just a leather like a dog leash, piece of leather that went from the tail, goes up over your neck and then just ties around the head here. Now, some instruments are built with a little peg. You can buy a little peg if you don’t have one where you can attach the strap at the end. And then sometimes I’ve seen people attach at this point.
But generally speaking, I think you get better leverage if you come all the way around to the headstock and you can just tuck it under the strings and tie it on. So the advantage then, of course, for those of you who have not tried, is that the ukulele is suspended from the strap. So as Maureen points out, if you don’t have a strap, there’s a very strong inclination for the ukulele to slip down your body as you’re playing and it can be very awkward and you have to hoist it back up and it slips down, it’s just like your glasses. You have to fix them all the time and or your pants.
You got to pull them up if you’re not wearing a belt and suspenders. Neal, I like that. Just putting a string on your cigar box ukulele because that fits in perfectly with that that rustic Look just to tie an old shoelace or something on to your old cigar box and string it over your neck.
But the whole point is, if you need it and you want it, you should have one. You can buy one. They’re not very expensive. I’ve seen people cut down a guitar strap. A guitar strap tends to be wider, maybe three to four fingers. But think about it, especially with the electric guitar. You’re supporting a great big, heavy thing. So you need some padding as it comes over your shoulder and around your neck with the ukulele. Even with the heaviest one, we just don’t have that much weight. So a ukulele strap can be much, much thinner and less obtrusive. Now, a couple of people here have mentioned unleash. Maybe you can provide us a picture, because I can’t quite describe that there’s one that I’ve seen that’s like a detective gun holster in the old movies, it kind of slips up over your arm and wraps around your body and comes around this way and straps on. And it does hold the ukulele. To me, that feels like who a lot of work. What I love about the ukulele is grab it, pick it up, play it, put it down when you’re done. I don’t — you can tell that this came in at the last minute or I’d be much better prepared. I don’t have any examples to actually show you, but I can tell you about these things.
Classical guitar style strap
The one that I have used that I like the best is modeled, modeled on what I believe is a classic classical guitar player strap. The one time I’ve seen it in use in the real world was at a Mexican food restaurant I went to for Mexican food and I was delighted that there was a mariachi band playing — and the guitars in a mariachi —
I’m saying mariachi very slowly to make sure I don’t say Maharishi by mistake, which is one of those word problems I have. So I’m very careful to make sure I get it right. But the mariachi guitar is a huge, huge, thick, big long.
So he had a strap around his neck and it comes down to a single point and then it goes under the ukulele and supports it just at that point. And it slips into the sound hole with a little clip and it supports it right there. So all it does is it takes the weight off the ukulele. You see what I mean? I mean, it takes the puts the weight on the string, takes the weight off your hands, having to hold it the whole time.
So if you let go, there’s the potential that it could flip over on its little clip and fall to the ground. But just to have it as an extra point of support is kind of nice. And I’ve always imagined that if you had one like that, you could rig it up to do the ZZ Top spin. I’ve never quite put the effort into working that out, but one of these days when I’m back on the stage, I plan to work that out.
Do the work yourself?
Yeah, Sharon, regarding making a hole for your strap, the hole goes right there on one of my ukuleles, I didn’t mind drilling into it. I drilled a hole for a little strap and I drilled a hole for a microphone — a pickup that was put inside the instrument and drilled myself into it to install the jack. But that was not a real nice ukulele.
If I had a nice one like you’re describing, I’d be very inclined to take it to a guitar shop. Just tell them I want the button for a strap and they can probably do it while you wait. It’s one of those things that’s super easy, but it rightfully would make you nervous to do it yourself on a nice instrument.
Oh, Tony mentioned that mandolin straps. Yeah, because a mandolin is about the same size as a ukulele, depending on the size of ukulele. And I don’t know if there are different mandolin sizes or not, but yeah. Real nice then you can just buy one off the shelf. But they make, they make ones now called ukulele straps. So go to a guitar shop, music shop or search online.
And Claudia mentions the HUG strap. So I’d like to know more about that. I noticed on the Facebook group we actually were joined recently by Hug Strap. So I’m guessing that’s the maker of the hug strap. But I haven’t investigated yet to see what it is. Thanks for all the input, everybody.
Playing card as pick
Now, the next subject is picks, thanks, Ben, for switching us over there. So. Do you remember when we met — Just last week, I was showing you fun things you could do with a playing card while you’re playing your ukulele, can strum it through, weave it through the strings to get different sounds.
And then I showed you just using it as a pick.
So you can sort of rake it across the strings and get a slightly different sound as you play.
The raking sound, the rhythmic sound that tick, tick, tick, tick, tick sound, but on a day to day basis, I would not play with a playing card. That’s for novelty fun.
Let me ask the same question that I asked about Straps. Do you play with the pick? If you do, tell me why. Tell us why.
Mostly, no pick used
Most of the time, friends, 99 percent of the time you’ll find me playing with my fingers, with my fingers. Why? I like the fact that I have so much variety available to me. If I’m playing with fingers alone now, I’m going to show you all these different picks and why you might want one in a minute. But just thinking about fingers for a second. When I play with fingers, I have the choice.
I can play with thumb and if I’m playing with my thumb, that means I can easily reach in with my thumb and grab a single note.
And after every single note, I’m right back to strumming. You know, the thumb is just a small version of your whole hand, so you do what you do downstairs and obstruct, you can do with your thumb down, strung up, down, up. And then.
So I also use my index finger a lot.
That gets into fingerpicking territory, but I do it with the strum, too.
Jerry says she can’t leave home without ’em, referring to your fingers.
So I like the flexibility of being able to jump in with my fingers to a pinch, to pluck to upstream, to downstream to a role. Do.
So I just feel like you have most of the time you have the most flexibility by having your fingers, fingers, fingers. Now, there’s a guitar technique that I’ve worked on a little bit without ever getting good at it where you hold a pick. I’m going to show you more about a pick in detail in a second between two fingers, finger and thumb.
Of course, pick goes down and then fingers come up.
I don’t think that works very well on the ukulele because we have such a limited space here to work on guitar. You’ve got the whole big body where you can kind of rest your hand off the strings and let your fingers and pick do things. You’ve got more body down here so you can strum past the strings without being off the instrument. So I fooled around with that technique on guitar and ukulele, I’ve had zero luck, zero luck.
banjo pick, banjo style
Linda says That she uses a triangular pic on the banjo or a banjolele. That’s interesting. Again, on the banjolele, I think I tend to go for that George Formby sound.
That’s pretty sloppy.
Something like that, and you could do that with a pick, but it would sure take a different bit of doing now for certain sound. I could see the pick on the banjo, uke sounding great, because when you use a pick, you get a sharper attack on the strings.
You’re going to get more volume, you’re going to get more as you go across the street.
So combine that with the already very percussive sound of the banjo. You and I could see it being really nice, especially for the right song.
So I’m trying to keep track on the comments. Folks are chiming in a lot here. OK, I’m going to respond to Linda’s next comment as my next comment and lots of comments about fingernails getting shredded, that happens to me all the time. If I play for an hour, like at a youth club meeting, I wear a groove right into my fingernail. So, you know, serious guitar players don’t hesitate to put fake fingernails on, you know, like fashioned fingernails, but they cement them on and they get these little replaceable nails they can use.
Banjo players use banjo picks and I haven’t got an example of a banjo pick, but it goes on your finger, it wraps around and gives you a little metal fingertip and it’s on the opposite side from your nail so your fingertip itself becomes metal. So as you pluck the string up your fleshy bit now as metal or plastic from the wrap around pick. So banjo players bluegrass style will often play with a thumb pick, a fingerpicking and a fingerpicking, and that gives them that real sharp Ticketek attack, attack, attack, attack, attack, attack. Now more typical Ben can we cut over?
Typical uke picks
More typical are these kind of picks. These are all plastic. Linda, I think mentioned felt picks and those are made specifically as ukulele picks. So one of the problems that you’re going to run into with a belt pick, I mean, with a plastic pick, let me pick a pick.
I’m going to pick this colorful one as the most typical pick.
One of the problems that we face is what I was saying, because Ukulelezaza are not built like guitars, if you play with the pick, you’ve got to get your hand into a different position to play. You’re either going to have to curl around, sorry the light’s not so great or pull your hand way back here if you need a rest, which is if I play guitar, which I don’t do very often, I like to kind of rest on my palm sometimes.
So on a ukulele, that’s very, very awkward.
The other danger that you run into and the reason they make felt pics is that as you go across the strings Look review, you go across the body of the ukulele itself now, which means you can scuff it up pretty seriously. Guitar’s almost always have a plastic pick guard and its name to pick guard for the obvious reason. You need to be able to protect your valuable guitar from the damage that the plastic pick will do as it scrapes across every single time you go down. Scrape, scrape, scrape, scrape, scrape. You can take the pick guard off and replace it. If you don’t have a pick guard, that mean you’re going to have to replace the whole surface of your instrument as it wears away.
The felt picks are thick. I haven’t got one here and they’re soft, so as they go across the strings, instead of scuffing up your neck, they just rub.
I mean, the body, they rub and they deteriorate as you play. So I assume that’s built-in on purpose. So instead of wearing away your strings and the body of your instrument, the pic itself disintegrates over time. So I don’t like playing with those either. A lot of the old books well on page to say buy yourself a nice felt picked player ukulele. But to me it’s a soft sound that I don’t like. They’re so thick that they’re unwieldy and the sound is kind of muffled.
A variety of picks
So let me show you what these other picks are. Ben, these are all basically the same with the exception of that and that. But what you might be curious about if you are going pick shopping, is that picks can be made of different material. These are all plastic. But I’ve seen bone. I’ve seen leather, which seems weird. And they are different thicknesses. Anybody recognize that? Dude, they’re also these are about the same shape and size, but slightly different points here, that once more a rounded triangle. This one’s more of a oblongated circle. This one’s more triangular and smaller. This one’s more like a teardrop and smallest of all.
So it’s not that you’re going to get radically different sounds, certainly, but you might find that you like holding one, that the way it sits in your hand feels better. I used to really like a real small one like that.
I used to play guitar more than I do now, but they’re all about the same nowadays. If I was going to pick one up, I’d probably pick this. One is kind of silly because it’s got Paul McCartney on the face.
This was a gift, so it’s a whole set of Beatles picks and each Beatle from the Revolver album cover gets his own pick. There’s a John, Paul, George and Ringo.
But that’s about the right size. That’s probably very typical sized. And then the other one I wanted to show you up close Ben. Thank you.
This one’s kind of neat. Somebody gave me these. I don’t know if you can quite see it, but there’s a indentation. This one is very rubbery and less plasticky.
So whereas these would have a click if you clicked them. This one’s too rubbery and it’s thicker, so it doesn’t bend as much.
But what I like about it is it’s got a little stick out, a little bit of texture for your thumb to feel as you’re holding it.
This is one that I would be inclined to use on a ukulele because it’s soft and it’s not going to scrape things up as much.
It does add a lot of volume.
Lou’s clip on thumb pick
But it’s going to take a lot to get me to use a ukulele pick. So the last one I’ll share with you is this peculiar thing. This was given to me by my friend Lou, who many of you probably know.
And this is like a banjo players thumb pick. So it’s kind of neat. It clips onto your thumb and the pick itself rotates. Can you see there’s a little pivot point there up some sort of frame? So the pick itself can spin, which lets you create your own angle of attack, so when you have it on your thumb, you probably want it facing back towards your body, although some people may play a little differently. I think the inclination when you first get something like this is to point the way that your thumb naturally points. But think about it. If you’re looking down with your thumb, you’re really kind of using the side of your thumb. So make the point tip back to yourself.
Now, this is the one that I probably the most inclined to try to learn to use better, because here you can get a.
We all definitely saw that attack. Your fingers are still free.
So I think it’s a very interesting choice.
I give it the thumbs up, and that said, I don’t use it, I fool around with it, but I don’t use it.
So that’s what I wanted to talk about. Even on a short subject like this, somehow we managed to go half an hour again today. So I appreciate your patience, everybody. And I hope that was helpful and interesting. By the way, keep those cards and letters coming.
I’m always happy, most happy to answer your questions rather than just tell you what I think is important. So, as always, I hope everybody’s doing just fine, taking care of yourselves and the music is making you happy. And we’ll be back again tomorrow at 12:01 for another daily ukulele practice session. In the meantime, practice with your picks, practice with your fingers. But don’t forget to practice. Take care of yourselves, everybody, and thanks again for tuning in.
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