Making a Strap for Your Ukulele
July 25, 2020
Whenever you want to carry something but still have your hands free, you use straps, right? That’s how it works for backpacks, purses, messenger bags, and many musical instruments as well. But when it comes to the ukulele, for some reason, that crucial - at least to me - part of the design is often left out. Most have no strap buttons, some might have one, but very few have the double button design common to other stringed instruments, especially electric guitars and basses. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use a strap on most ukuleles - in fact, it actually means you have the opportunity to have a strap that (in my opinion) is better suited for use on an ukulele.
First let’s go over the options. One is a method often used on acoustic guitars, which also often only have one strap button. A strip of fabric is put around the nut, which is then used as one anchor for the strap, with the other being the button on the body. This method also works with some ukuleles that have a pickup installed as the pickup jack can often be used as a strap button.
While this method is the simplest, it doesn’t work for every ukulele as you still need at least one strap button. Another common method is to use a hook that attaches to the sound hole, which holds the ukulele very securely while playing and works well on ukes with a traditional hourglass body shape. If the hook is too wide or too thick, it can get in the way of strumming. But a well-designed hook and pickguard combination can not only securely hold your uke but also protect it from getting scratched up by aggressive strumming.
My strap is one my grandfather made for me, and works as both a strap and a pickguard (strumguard?). It was a fairly simple build - all that was required was a small sheet of metal (copper, brass, or aluminum) from the local home center, a strip of nylon ripcord from a local fabric store, and a piece of velcro. To get it to perfectly fit the curves of your ukulele, fold a piece of paper around the edge of your ukulele and trace the fold, then cut it out and to get a nice template. Use a permanent marker to trace the template onto the sheet of metal, then use a hacksaw to cut to the marker line. Just make sure to leave a tab sticking out to form into a hook on one side and a shorter tab to run the nylon strap through on the other. The two ends of my strap are simply held together by the velcro, but of course other solutions are possible.
At the end of the day, you don’t 100% need a strap, especially if you’re just doing a bit of light strumming while singing. Hawaiians have played without straps for years!!! But if you want some extra stability when you’re playing, this solution can definitely help!