Ukulele straps are a bit of a vexed issue. Traditionalists dismiss ukulele straps as being unnecessary. While plenty of people find them essential – with problems varying from boob-interference to the need to play lightening fast licks.
For my own playing, I’m mostly in the traditional camp. I don’t use a strap myself. But I’ve lightened up on straps in general. Particularly since the popularity of tenor ukuleles has exploded.
The big problem is that most ukuleles – even tenors – don’t come with buttons allowing for a strap. And there aren’t many ukulele specific straps so people make do with comically outsized guitar straps.
But people have started tackling these problems in ingenious ways. The latest being the – manga sex pun named – Uke Leash. Lori was kind enough to send me a couple of leashes to check them out. I’m not going to enter the whole strap debate, so this review is mostly going to be covering how well it works and comparing it to standard straps.
How It Works
The Uke Leash only attaches to the headstock of the uke. The other end has a loop that goes on your shoulder (or on your belt if you’ve got plenty of time or on your leg if you want to look a total spanner). That means you still hold it in your strumming arm the way you usually would but your fretting hand is free to twiddle wildly/send an email/slap a small child.
You can also drop the uke entirely and it won’t crash to the floor (although it will smash into any wall or kneecap that gets in its way as it’s penduluming).
There’s two main pieces to it: a long strap with the arm loop and a mini strap that goes round the headstock. The two click together so you can buy a headstock bit for each of your ukes and just attach the main one to whichever uke you want to use.
You can get various adaptors from the website that let you use it with a banjo ukulele and as a normal, guitar-style strap. I didn’t try those out though.
Overall, it works as advertised and does a good job of reducing the fretting hand’s workload. It attached to all my non-ridiculous ukes without any problem.
So this or a normal strap?
Advantages Against a Standard Strap
The big advantage is that it’s much easier to attach to a standard ukulele than a normal strap. You can put it on and remove it easily and have your uke in exactly the same state it was before.
I also much prefer the way this one attaches to the uke thong – which attaches to the body and therefore dampens the sound. (I also worry about it scratching the body but that’s based on my neuroticism rather than any actual facts or evidence.)
More in-keeping with the ukulele
Having a full-on guitar strap on a ukulele does feel like complete overkill. Using a Uke Leash feels much more natural.
Disadvantages Against a Standard Strap
A bit uncomfortable and restrictive
It’s not a pain to use but I was adjusting it and myself often. And I found it to be more of a faff to put on than a normal strap.
I like to point the uke away from me when I play – much more than most people do. And I couldn’t do that with a tenor while I had the strap. But I was near the top end of the strap size I chose. It would have been less restrictive if I’d skipped up to the next size.
I just didn’t feel right using it. It felt like I was wearing socks with sandals. And, of course, it stops you spinning the ukulele over your shoulder and looking like a rockstar badass as I often like to do.
Still requires body-holding
It is a lot less secure than a full-on strap. Your strumming arm is still going to have to do plenty of holding work. I was quite happy with that but people who rely heavily on a strap and aren’t used to it are going to struggle.
And the holding does mean the soundboard is more muffled. In his review, Ian Chadwick found he was holding it less with his strumming arm and therefore getting a better tone than playing without a strap. I didn’t find myself holding it loosely enough to get any noticeable tone improvement, though.
Am I Going to Keep Using It?
I can see some people enjoying the Uke Leash but it’s not for me. Now that I’m doing reviewing it they’ll packed away and never used again. It doesn’t offer enough stability in exchange for the loss of movement and general feeling of being a socks-and-sandals-wearing twazzock.