Monthly Archives: January 2015

Ukulele Straps with No Drilling

My last post about how to install strap buttons on your ukulele assumes you’re using a traditional guitar-style strap with metal buttons at the bottom of the neck and on the tail of the instrument. I believe strap buttons are the most supportive and best option for a strap, but installation can be daunting. Luckily, there are alternatives. If the thought of drilling into your ukulele is too much, these ukulele straps offer no-drill installation while still providing varying levels of support.

Soundhole Hook Style Straps

Hook style straps need no installation at all. They loop around your neck and/or chest, underneath the instrument and up to the soundhole where the strap hooks onto the edge. The benefit of this strap is that there’s no installation and you can remove it without any effort. The drawback is that you still need to hold the instrument. These straps carry the weight of the instrument, which is definitely helpful, but you still need to hold the instrument or it could fall to the floor.

neotech-simple-sling

The strap pictured above is the Neotech Simple Sling. Levy’s Leathers also sells a number of colorful hook style straps, and Amazon sells many different models for ukulele players.

The Uke Loop

Instead of strap buttons, The Uke Loop strap uses one or two metal brackets that attach to the instrument via an adhesive pad. You can install the strap to balance the instrument from a single point as shown below or from two points for more stability. This offers as sturdy and stable a strap as strap buttons will, but has the drawback of one or two unattractive metal pieces permanently affixed to your instrument. You wouldn’t want to use this on a high-end uke as it would surely devalue the instrument.

uke-loop-strap

The Uke Loop sells for $15 on Amazon.

The Uke Leash

The Uke Leash is the least supportive of the options listed thus far, but some players swear by it. The traditional way to support a ukulele is between your right arm and torso, and the Uke Leash still relies on that to hold up the tail end of the instrument. What it adds is support for the neck by looping around the headstock. This is where many ukulele players struggle – it can be hard to hold up the neck with the left hand while changing between complex fingerings.

Here’s an image from the Uke Leash website that shows how the strap works:

Uke Leash instructions

You can buy the Uke Leash direct from the creator at shop.ukeleash.com.

Ukulele Grip Strips

This last option isn’t a strap at all and provides the least amount of stability. Made by The Magic Fluke Company, these are two rubber adhesive strips that you put on the back of your instrument. The rubber grabs your clothing and helps to support the ukulele. If you don’t mind holding your ukulele but find it sliding around too much, these might just do the trick. And at $5, you can’t beat the price.

ukulele grip strips

Have I missed any? If so, please leave a comment to let me know!

How to install strap buttons on a ukulele

The first thing I do with every ukulele I’ve purchased is install strap buttons. Strap buttons are the metal bits that you can hook a guitar strap on. Unfortunately, most ukuleles do not come with strap buttons. The traditional way to hold a ukulele has it squished between your right arm at the bend of your elbow and chest. If you find this awkward and uncomfortable, as I do, you’ll want to use a strap.

Before we begin, its worth mentioning the many ukulele strap options that don’t need installation. See the post at that link for details.

black strap buttonsChoosing Strap Buttons

Strap buttons typically come in chrome, gold and black. You’ll want these to match the existing hardware on your ukulele. You can match them to the tuner hardware or tuning pegs.

Be sure to select buttons that come with 1) the screw needed to install and 2) felt washers to give padding between the metal hardware and the instrument. The felt is optional but adds some protection to your instrument. By the way, pretty much all strap buttons will say they’re for guitar. That’s OK.

Amazon has good deals on strap buttons that come with felt and screws in chrome, gold and black.

Installing Strap Buttons

Once you’ve got your strap buttons, follow these steps to install them:

  1. Drill, baby, drill. The screws that come with your strap buttons go directly into your ukulele’s wood. Don’t worry, though – this isn’t nearly as scary as it sounds.
    • Use the correct size drill bit based on the screws provided with your strap buttons. The drill bit should be as big or slightly bigger than the core of the screw, but smaller than the threads. Using too large a bit may leave the screw too loose, while too small of a bit could crack the wood! If you’re not sure, start small and go one size bigger if the screw feels too tight.
    • Measure how deep you need to go by putting tape on the bit marking the length based on the screws provided. The tailpin screw will probably go all the way through, but the hole in the neck shouldn’t go any deeper than necessary.
    • The button on the bottom of your uke should go on the very center of the bottom of the instrument. This placement is important as (almost all) ukuleles have a thicker piece of wood there. Depending on your uke, you may be able to see this by peering into the sound hole. If there’s no extra wood there, you’ll want to use one of the alternative straps mentioned above.
    • The button on the neck of your uke should go at the base of the neck, where the neck is thickest. It should go on the bottom side of the neck when you’re holding it. So if you’re a right-handed (standard) player, that would be on the right side of the instrument when facing the sound hole.
  2. Once you’ve drilled your holes, insert the screws with a screwdriver. Use a simple handheld screw driver instead of a power tool so you have a sense of whether the screw is too tight. The screw should first go through the strap button, then through the felt washer and finally into your ukulele.

hootenany strapSelecting a Strap

For the most part, guitar straps will work on a ukulele. After all, you installed guitar strap buttons! When selecting a strap for your ukulele, the only catch might be length. Some guitar straps are pretty long and may not go short enough for use with your uke, especially if you’re a small person. Here are some classy straps that I recommend:

Video

If you prefer watching video, this one has everything you need to know.