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View Full Version : The thumb- is it, do as I say or is it do as I do?



kokopellime
01-25-2015, 03:35 PM
As a newbie, I seek the sage advice of experienced players and I've found a quandary regarding the placement of the thumb.

Most tutorials advise that you should place the thumb of your fretting hand on the back of the neck (a page from classical guitar as I understand it). That in doing so, you give support and increase the extension of your fingers over the strings. In having hands on the average to smaller size coupled with finger stretching challenges, Im making an effort to follow that advice. Despite so, I find from time to time that my thumb migrates and I wind up cupping the neck a no, no.

This brings me to my query and subject of this thread. Like in my own case, despite this advice, I often see players, including those who've suggested the thumb on the back position, seemingly violating it, as their thumb peaks out from behind the neck.

So whats the dealio? I realize that some might respond do what works for you and I accept that, but I want to develop good habits as I learn and would appreciate hearing from the community on this.

Recstar24
01-25-2015, 03:43 PM
One of the things I love about the uke is that while there is a technique and pedagogy to playing, it seems as if the instrument is versatile enough to not be so strict with certain conventions in classical guitar and other instruments. Some chords absolutely need the finger arch required with the thumb behind the neck, whereas other chords and transitions it makes total sense to kind of cup around the neck.

I say if it feels comfortable to you (no pain or tension), and you are able to ring the chord cleanly, that is all that counts.

His Sinfulness
01-25-2015, 03:55 PM
I shift my thumb around a bit when playing, but I do find that keeping it on the back makes things like barre chords much easier. It is a good habit to get into.

VegasGeorge
01-25-2015, 04:40 PM
I really wasn't sure about this. I had to pick up a Uke and see where my thumb was. And, yes, it's always behind the neck, not cupping the neck. I tried cupping the neck, and it seemed to make fingering the chords more difficult. Of course, that may just be because of my usual habit of placing the thumb behind the neck.

Rllink
01-25-2015, 04:55 PM
When I first started, I read a lot about thumb placement and I worked at keeping that thumb on the back of the neck, and without a lot of success I might add. But then I got out to a couple of ukulele festivals and went to some live performances, and realized that while that rule is voiced by many, it is followed by few. Do the best you can, but don't let it handicap you in the process.

CeeJay
01-25-2015, 05:58 PM
Where it works ...where it is best for you ...honestly ..

there is NO right way ...it is just perfessers trying to make a living that insist in making musicians life a f...........g misery by inflicting physical misery....I actually rate Music Teachers* alongside PE teachers*.....you make music...anyway you can and if it is joyful and pleasant on the lugoil...sorry..ear..then 'tis music...even if it's shoved up your nose as you do it...the instrument ......that is....



* Please feel free to discuss this among yourselves and if it helps you may compare me to that gunky black stuff that you get off the underside of your tap......oh bloody hell..sorry Faucet..:)

DownUpDave
01-26-2015, 06:13 AM
One of the things I love about the uke is that while there is a technique and pedagogy to playing, it seems as if the instrument is versatile enough to not be so strict with certain conventions in classical guitar and other instruments. Some chords absolutely need the finger arch required with the thumb behind the neck, whereas other chords and transitions it makes total sense to kind of cup around the neck.

I say if it feels comfortable to you (no pain or tension), and you are able to ring the chord cleanly, that is all that counts.


I absolutely agree with this. Your thumb and hand position will vertically move up and down the neck depending on what chords you are playing.

HEY CeeJay that loud popping noise I hear is the sound of you pulling both feet out of your mouth. The person I just quoted is a music teacher in the US school system who uses 30 Mainland ukuleles to teach music to his students with. :biglaugh::biglaugh::biglaugh:

CeeJay
01-26-2015, 07:21 AM
I absolutely agree with this. Your thumb and hand position will vertically move up and down the neck depending on what chords you are playing.

HEY CeeJay that loud popping noise I hear is the sound of you pulling both feet out of your mouth. The person I just quoted is a music teacher in the US school system who uses 30 Mainland ukuleles to teach music to his students with. :biglaugh::biglaugh::biglaugh:

Yeah ?

Well you don't hear a popping noise of any sort....I stand by what I say ...in my experience of them ,teachers teach and players play ....I been playing uke and other stuff 40 years, auto-didactic ...Theory and practical all picked up along with the hard knocks of real Life.

I maybe don't have a degree or a piece of paper that says that I am allowed an opinion..but I do have one....and mine is that teachers teach what they are taught and it very often ends up being a very linear and academic excercise . In My Opinion , We end up with very clever and accurate playings of certain types of music so strictly tempoed and regarded that you may as well put a roll of punched paper in the students head and turn their arm like a barrel organ .


I would not go near a music teacher for a lesson ,for a drink maybe, but not a lesson on an instrument .

Maybe I am lucky that I have been able to get myself to a certain level of ability by my own endeavours and wood - shedding ....

Recstar 24 shows a refreshingly liberal approach and an open mindedness which I applaud in his approach to the Ukelele........however is he one still small voice of reasonability among a maelstrom of cant and ...pedagogy (I hate that word) ? Judging by oft expressed sentiments on this forum I think so.

katysax
01-26-2015, 07:49 AM
It is very useful to learn the "proper" hand position for the left hand. But you will move your hand over the neck quite a bit. It's really how the wrist should be which is bent at a right angle and not bent back. If you cup the neck with your hand, you significantly reduce your ability to reach over the neck and limit your ability to play. Most of the commonly used chords can be played with the wrist in the wrong position. However, if you want to have any reach or play melodies you will need to learn to hold the neck correctly.

DownUpDave
01-26-2015, 08:06 AM
Yeah ?

Well you don't hear a popping noise of any sort....I stand by what I say ...in my experience of them ,teachers teach and players play ....I been playing uke and other stuff 40 years, auto-didactic ...Theory and practical all picked up along with the hard knocks of real Life.

I maybe don't have a degree or a piece of paper that says that I am allowed an opinion..but I do have one....and mine is that teachers teach what they are taught and it very often ends up being a very linear and academic excercise . In My Opinion , We end up with very clever and accurate playings of certain types of music so strictly tempoed and regarded that you may as well put a roll of punched paper in the students head and turn their arm like a barrel organ .


I would not go near a music teacher for a lesson ,for a drink maybe, but not a lesson on an instrument .

Maybe I am lucky that I have been able to get myself to a certain level of ability by my own endeavours and wood - shedding ....

Recstar 24 shows a refreshingly liberal approach and an open mindedness which I applaud in his approach to the Ukelele........however is he one still small voice of reasonability among a maelstrom of cant and ...pedagogy (I hate that word) ? Judging by oft expressed sentiments on this forum I think so.

My mistake I thought you had a sense of humour, you always did about my strap comments. I guess that popping sound I heard was your head exploding. I didn't realize that you have met every music teacher in the world and were that qualified to make such a blanket statement. ;) That is a smiley face he means I am trying to have some fun with you........as you do with others. Oh well one does have a hard time communicating intent, of which mine was to make jest of the fact that a music teacher had indeed agreed with and endorsed your methods.:o

CeeJay
01-26-2015, 08:38 AM
My mistake I thought you had a sense of humour, you always did about my strap comments. I guess that popping sound I heard was your head exploding. I didn't realize that you have met every music teacher in the world and were that qualified to make such a blanket statement. ;) That is a smiley face he means I am trying to have some fun with you........as you do with others. Oh well one does have a hard time communicating intent, of which mine was to make jest of the fact that a music teacher had indeed agreed with and endorsed your methods.:o

It WAS / IS meant in good humour...and I did put "in my experience":D


I also think that I endorsed Recstars POV as well.....oh I will continue this a bit later Dud as the missus is hovering ...she wants the PC for the TV..later.

Down Up Dick
01-26-2015, 08:56 AM
Every music teacher or good player that I've talked to or read has said about the same thing to me. "Learn to do things correctly, and, when you can play well, do whatever the heck feels better to you."

Learning from a book or a teacher gives one a base on which to build. :old:

CeeJay
01-26-2015, 11:03 AM
Every music teacher or good player that I've talked to or read has said about the same thing to me. "Learn to do things correctly, and, when you can play well, do whatever the heck feels better to you."

Learning from a book or a teacher gives one a base on which to build. :old:

I learned from a book ...one book ...Lew Stern....and yes it says that the thumb should be placed blah blah....I still have that book.....

I still say that planting the thumb in the middle of the neck is counter productive if it feels awkward and stops you from moving freely...but then you lot probably think I'm a rubbish player.......so fair enough......:rofl:

Down Up Dick
01-26-2015, 11:24 AM
I'm a big believer in doing whatever one wants to do (within reason), and I like the way you play especially your strumming. However, when one is just beginning, he/she doesn't know what's the best way for him, so doing it the way someone knowledgable teaches gets him started on the right foot. Then, when he's a strumin' fool, he can fret with his nose if he so desires.

Some teachers are really here to help--lighten up. :cheers: :old:

IamNoMan
01-26-2015, 12:44 PM
Some chords absolutely need the finger arch required with the thumb behind the neck, whereas other chords and transitions it makes total sense to kind of cup around the neck.

I say if it feels comfortable to you (no pain or tension), and you are able to ring the chord cleanly, that is all that counts.This is in the main most sensible up to the pain and tension part when everything falls apart. If you have no physical limitations learn to do things correctly and then play as you will.

Otherwise adaptation is the name of the game. DUD And CeeJay are girding their loins and crossing wits over teachers. I have multiple physical limitations and must continually make adaptations to progress at ukulele. A good teacher will tell you what to do and allow you to do it. At which point he/she will suggest ways you can adapt to improve your way of playing to conform to his/her ideas. All to often a teacher will jump in to show you; what you are not doing to conform to their notions. This doesn't work if they haven't walked a mile in your shoes!

The difference between a good teacher and a poor teacher is simply this: The good teacher tells and observes the poor teacher shows.

My limitations regarding thumb placement are pretty heavy duty. I have adapted by placing my thumb in a supporting position along the top edge of the fret board by the g string. In order to deal with the arched effort required ob cit. I rotate the neck of the uke up higher towards my ear. It doesn't give me the clearest intonation but it will have to do until somebody can tell me a better way.

CeeJay
01-26-2015, 12:45 PM
Right ...I concede that sometimes I forget that some posters are often just staring out and I go off on one ...........

So maybe you do need to put your thumb at the back of the neck to begin with so I must have......it's so long ago I can't remember.......oh dear.....

stevepetergal
01-26-2015, 12:59 PM
Rules of thumb. Get it?

I think new players should always strive follow the accepted practice. When you find your thumb inching its way around the neck, adjust. Don't worry, just adjust. It's easy to correct your playing now. Not too far down the road, you'll find yourself playing with better technique and better able to adapt to the next technique you need. It's also kind of cool to (again, down the road) find you've learned when to break the rules you've learned.

Do yourself a favor and start out on the right foot. Makes playing so much more fulfilling.

kokopellime
01-26-2015, 07:00 PM
Thank you all for the advice and discourse. I'll be flexible about my flexibility.