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.
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.
Installing Strap Buttons
Once you’ve got your strap buttons, follow these steps to install them:
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- Levy’s Leathers 2 inch leather and suede straps – classy and comfortable
- Levy’s Hootenany Style strap – fun and colorful
- Fender Standard Vintage strap – thin and classic style
- Henry Heller colorful Hawaiian straps in red and blue
If you prefer watching video, this one has everything you need to know.