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Thread: Ease of Reaching Hard to Reach Chords

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
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    Default Ease of Reaching Hard to Reach Chords

    While playing my baritone ukulele I was wondering. Because I can hardly use my left thumb would it be a little easier to play a chord that I have difficulty with on a tenor or would it not make enough difference to matter. I am thinking the slightly smaller reach might do the trick on some songs.

    Also how much difference would it make playing on an electric?

    My thumb to my neck will not get well without surgery which only has a 50% chance of success. So surgery is out. Avoidance is recommended and from trying to use the thumb, the pain tells me that is correct.

    I can play most things on the baritone with out pain or very little which goes away by the next day.

  2. #2
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    It depends. Might be a little easier but I would think things like action height and string tension would have more of an effect that fret spacing. Also the shape and depth of the neck. All of these are very personal so no way to know for sure without trying.
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  3. #3

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    I'm not sure what you're doing with the left thumb when holding chords.
    I don't use my left thumb to press any strings, and it's conventional to use the other 4 fingers instead.
    The left thumb just rests on top of the neck.

    What kind of chords are you specifically struggling with?
    Perhaps that might give some clues.

    Generally speaking, chords are "easier" to play for most people on a baritone ukulele, since you have a bit more space between the frets, instead of having to cram your fingers closer together, especially on chords like D and E.

    As for whether it's any different on an "electric ukulele", the short answer is no.
    Because electric ukuleles are basically setup the same as acoustic ukuleles, just lacking a hollow body.
    Unless you mean steel-string electric ukuleles, which still don't make a big difference in ease of play - on the one hand, you can have lower actions due to steel strings, but the steel strings themselves can be higher tension, making them harder to press down.

  4. #4
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    I cannot use my thumb to press on the back neck of the guitar or ukulele in any way because it causes too much pain. As you say, the thumb just rest at the back of the neck of the guitar/ukulele most of the time, however, to play F chords or any barre chords one must use the thumb to some extent and for me that is not possible. That is exactly why I am searching for a way to overcome the problem.

    So what chords: all barre chords and all F chords on ukulele. I gave up guitar because of my thumb and will not play guitar again unless someday I can play a tenor guitar. I am at present learning to play ukulele and lap steel.

    I like chord melody arrangements by Mike Lynch and would like to add fingerpicking. I am working on "A Time For Us" first song in book 2. In measure 8 barre 5th fret 5557,top to bottom. Measure 14 calls for a 3/4 barre on 2nd fret 5320, top to bottom, which calls for a stretch to reach the 5th fret and to do so requires some use of the thumb on the back of the neck of the ukulele.

    So all barres and many stretches covering more than three frets I need to use my thumb and can't. I also have short fat fingers

    Hopefully you can give me some advice on how to overcome the problem. Note, more practice and it will come is not an answer. I played guitar for a few years and could play all F chords and most barres. At that time I only strummed chords.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnnysmash View Post
    I cannot use my thumb to press on the back neck of the guitar or ukulele in any way because it causes too much pain. As you say, the thumb just rest at the back of the neck of the guitar/ukulele most of the time, however, to play F chords or any barre chords one must use the thumb to some extent and for me that is not possible. That is exactly why I am searching for a way to overcome the problem.

    So what chords: all barre chords and all F chords on ukulele. I gave up guitar because of my thumb and will not play guitar again unless someday I can play a tenor guitar. I am at present learning to play ukulele and lap steel.

    I like chord melody arrangements by Mike Lynch and would like to add fingerpicking. I am working on "A Time For Us" first song in book 2. In measure 8 barre 5th fret 5557,top to bottom. Measure 14 calls for a 3/4 barre on 2nd fret 5320, top to bottom, which calls for a stretch to reach the 5th fret and to do so requires some use of the thumb on the back of the neck of the ukulele.

    So all barres and many stretches covering more than three frets I need to use my thumb and can't. I also have short fat fingers

    Hopefully you can give me some advice on how to overcome the problem. Note, more practice and it will come is not an answer. I played guitar for a few years and could play all F chords and most barres. At that time I only strummed chords.
    Hi Johnny, you could try using alternative fingerings, here's an excerpt from Mike's arrangement (measures 8 - 17) I've made some minor changes to the fingerings which might just help

    Tab https://app.box.com/s/ieqo98knjyr1d9ymmtud8rxastlk1w7d

    Midi https://app.box.com/s/79x9htey0b4wxixmbfg7oumyxcvvuwfn
    Last edited by Camsuke; 04-14-2018 at 01:18 PM. Reason: typoo
    All the best,
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  6. #6
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    I understand thumb pain playing a lot of barre chords on a guitar. I don't have as much of a problem with the ukulele except for a few songs.

    There is a guy in the San Diego area that makes 3 string ukuleles (no G string). It is almost like playing a standard linear tuned ukulele without the added depth, so the sound is not as full. But there are no barre chords, per se, and the typical E chord shape is not a problem. His name is Fred Shields.

    It may be worth looking into, if the lap steel doesn't work out.

    John

  7. #7
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    Sep 2013
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    Pensacola, Florida
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    You can make Barr Chords without using your left thumb. Use your right arm to push the body of the ukulele towards you and force the headstock out as a lever. Use the fingers of your left hand as a counter balance as you make your Barr.

  8. #8

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    Could you use a capo and transpose everything you play into modes that avoid barred chords altogether?

  9. #9
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    Port Hope, Ontario, Canada
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    I have noticed that some folks play an F chord, 3211, on baritone as a full barre chord. I find it much easier to play it as a partial barre, with the index only barring the first two strings. I don't see the point of barring all four strings when the 3rd and 4th strings are fretted above the barre.
    There are alternate fingerings for some chords that use a full barre. F#7 can be made with a full barre, 2322, but to avoid any barre, you could play it with 4320 fingering. Going for the two finger A7, 2020,instead of the 2223 version avoids another barre.

    Do you have trouble with non-barre chords that are closed like a 4535 D7?

  10. #10
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    Aug 2017
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    With re-entrant ukulele and normal tuning, C6, you can many times play chords with just 3 notes, muting the 4th string. From reading you, I think barres are sort of out because of a damaged thumb. Keys F, C, G should work well in it. Even Bb chord is playable (your f chord) with a partial barre without thumb behind the neck, though thumb behind the neck helps.

    Shorter scale might help too.

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