I find that it is harder to play ‘ukulele standing up than sitting down. With practice it gets easier, but some things are still close to impossible to play well without a strap. By removing the need to support your ‘ukulele with your hands it is much easier to focus on playing with proper technique and efficiency.
Haters will say “that’s not traditional.” Say what you will, if it helps you play better, go for it.
Here are your main options when it comes to ‘ukulele straps:
A standard guitar strap is one of the most common options. It requires the installation of two strap buttons – one on the base of the neck, one on the “butt” end of the ‘ukulele. These are little metal or wood buttons held onto the ‘ukulele with a screw. A pickup jack can also act as the button on the end of the ‘ukulele. A guitar strap can then be slipped over each button. James Hill rocks this kind of strap on his G-String ‘ukuleles.
Standard straps are very comfortable and spread the weight of the instrument across your whole back and shoulder. The only downside is that many ‘ukuleles don’t balance as well as an electric guitar so you’ve got to be careful when you take your hands away from your instrument or it might fall forward. Any guitar strap should work. Pick one that looks cool and give it a spin. Just by chance I ended up with a couple of the basic Ernie Ball ones. They are super plain, but come in cool colors and adjust just fine to ‘ukulele lengths. I even “bling”ed mine out with some retro buttons:
Semi-Guitar Style Strap:
This type of strap only uses one button on the end of the ‘ukulele so this is a good option for those who already have a pickup installed and don’t want to mess around with another button. One end of the strap is like a guitar strap with the slit in leather that slides over the button. The other has two strings that tie around the headstock/neck right behind the nut under and in between the strings and tuning pegs. Daniel Ho uses one of these occasionally. The only problem I foresee with one of these straps is that it puts strain on the ‘ukulele’s neck which could be a problem in the long run. I have seen thrifty artists (Byron Yasui) make straps like these out of twine. You can also tie a shoelace to one end of a normal guitar strap to adapt it for ‘ukulele.
The two above styles need strap buttons of some sort to hold to the strap. If you have some handy skills and are willing to take a drill to your ‘ukulele you should be able to install them yourself. A quick Google search should pull up plenty of instructions. Just be sure to drill a pilot hole so you don’t crack the wood when you put the screw in.
Classical-guitar style strap:
This type of strap goes around your neck in a loop and wraps under the ‘ukulele to hook into the sound hole. I tried one of these made by Flea Market music and liked the idea, but it kept twisting. The cool thing about this style is that it doesn’t require a button or cause stress on the neck. Jake Shimabukuro has been using one of these recently.
This is an ‘ukulele-specific creation and is described as a “half strap”. One end of the strap fastens to the ‘ukulele’s headstock, the other, to various “anchor points” (your arm, waist, leg). The headstock gets supported by the strap, but the body is held up like normal with your strumming arm. Like the classical strap, it doesn’t require the installation of any buttons.
This is a brilliant and simple strap concept that doesn’t require adding buttons or altering your ‘ukulele in any way. The Mobius Strap loops around the whole body of the ‘ukulele and then goes over your shoulder like a normal strap. The clever twist in the loop holds the ‘ukulele up and snug against your body.