View Full Version : Moving Between Chords

07-20-2015, 01:31 AM
Hi all

I'm trying to learn how to play 'I Will Wait' by Mumford and Sons, but I'm finding it awkward to get my hand to move between Am and Em. Is this a case of 'just practice until your hand drops off', or does anyone know any tips to improve hand agility?


07-20-2015, 02:32 AM
Whenever I have trouble switching between chords I will isolate that switch and practice it. So yes practice it till your hands drop off. A couple strategies that work. Go really slow at first and look at your fretting hand as it moves from one chord to the next. Pay attention to how it moves and pivots. Keep at it and increase the speed until you can do it with your eyes closed while talking to someone.

Learning to play a stringed instrument is no different than another athletic skill. It requires repetition to create muscle memory.

07-20-2015, 02:35 AM
I feel like it's awkward just because you don't have that muscle memory yet for your fretting fingers. I'm pretty sure your fingers are fast enough to make any and every chord transition (I mean, you can type, right? xD). Therefore, practice would be the best way to get your fingers accustomed to the uke. I do have some tips, though:

Keep your fretting thumb behind the second fret. Most of the songs and chords you'll play when you're first starting out will only make you play notes between the first three frets, with the occasional stretch to the fourth or fifth fret. As you get better and play higher up the neck, this rule obviously gets broken quite a bit, but this is how I learned to play when I first started out and I feel like it's something often overlooked.

Practice playing without looking at your fretting hand. Similar to how typing became natural to the point where you don't have to look at the keyboard 24/7 to type stuff, fretting will also become natural to that point if you can play without looking.

If the problem really is hand agility, though, I'd say relax and warm up your hands. Literally. Like breathe on them or run them over hot water. First you'll tense up from the thought of playing something that you can't comfortably play. Then you'll tense up trying to play it. Then you'll tense up trying perfect it. Of course, you could also do those finger exercises on the fretboard where you play every single note with every single finger (or something like that), but that's pretty boring. They're pretty helpful, but I'd rather spend time on songs than spend time on exercises, and I'd rather master songs than master exercises.

07-20-2015, 02:50 AM
Am to Em is bit hard to hold ukulele, you may need strap. You may also change your finger for Am. I use index finger for Am, in this chord transition.

07-20-2015, 03:46 AM
Am to Em is bit hard to hold ukulele, you may need strap. You may also change your finger for Am. I use index finger for Am, in this chord transition.

Yes, practice will let you do it without a strap. My thumb on the back of the neck also helps. You can also chord the Em by placing your ring finger on the third string first instead of trying to get your forefinger over to the first string first.

07-20-2015, 05:31 AM
I use index finger for Am, in this chord transition.

Using different fingers to form chords is one area I have played around with quite a bit. If I am playing a song and a chord transition feels awkward I experiment with using different fingers to form the chord. Many times I find one that will make the transition easier. But even with that, it will take practice.

07-20-2015, 06:02 AM
Hi Trawler

As the other wise people pointed out, using a strap will make it a lot easier as you do not have to balance your ukulele.

Also for this particular instance Am - Em, how do you finger Am? The usual way is to use your middle finger. However, if you use index finger to fret Am, your index finger does not have to move to go into Em (barre 2 as 4 4 3 2) so it's smoother.


Edit - typo on Em chord corrected

07-20-2015, 07:09 AM
I had problems with the same transition in City Of New Orleans. In the end I found if I fingered Am with my first finger then Em with my middle, ring and little fingers, the transition was much easier. The same fingering is useful if you are going from G to Em as all you have to do is to put your little finger down on the 3rd string, 4th fret.

Using some form of strap is also useful, especially if you haven't been playing long though I tend not to use one with a soprano. A uke thong is useful, though my preference is for a uke leash and some people like to have a strap button fitted and use a full strap. It's a matter of personal preference.

07-20-2015, 09:50 AM
Thanks for all the good advice everyone! I shall try it out and keep practicing.


07-20-2015, 11:01 PM
You might as well like to try different fingerings like e.g. 0402 or 0777 for Em - or something like 2403 for Am (enabling you to use third finger on C string as a kind of anchor in the transition to 0432)
Depends a bit on the other chords around this specific change and how the alternate fingerings fit into the overall sound.

http://ukulelehelper.com/ is a good resource for this.

Craig Chee
07-25-2015, 08:36 AM
Hi Helen!

Another option you could try is experiment on how you hold up the 'ukulele. I've attached a couple quick photos of myself resting the neck of the uke on the side of my index finger and having my thumb on the opposite side (this will also help get rid of the "pinch" between the thumb and other fingers). Resting it on the side will allow your fingers to swivel down to the Em shape rather than trying to magically balance the 'ukulele with no transitional fingers getting from the Am to Em (without a strap). Hope this helps! Happy Uke-ing!