View Full Version : technique help for a self taught uke fan!

01-02-2016, 04:19 PM
I taught myself how to play the ukulele a few years ago. I have LOVED every minute! I had no stringed instrument background, so I did the best I could. For making chords I tend to keep my thumb on the back of the neck. I think this makes my fingers more straight than curved. I noticed a lot of guitar players have their thumb on the top of the neck. With a soprano, my fingers were too cramped, and I felt I didn't have control of the ukulele especially when standing up if I curved my fingers and had my thumb on top. I got a tenor ukulele in June. I'm finding I'm having some pain in my left elbow where I didn't used to before. I'm thinking it's to do with my hand position. What's the correct hand position for chords? Does it matter what size uke I'm playing? Hope this makes sense. Any help would be much appreciated!!

01-02-2016, 04:34 PM
I say go with what feels most comfortable and natural to YOU. I've played a variety of stringed instruments for 40+ years, and I prefer to wrap my thumb around the neck (except for barre chords...then its on the back) as it gives ME more control. Many others leave their thumb on the back. Whatever floats your boat. No right or wrong.

01-02-2016, 05:00 PM
I use strap and have no problem with holding ukulele.

Brad Bordessa
01-02-2016, 05:09 PM
From a "proper" technique standpoint, thumb behind the neck is correct, fingers relatively straight. But it sounds like you're doing something wrong and, as others have said, different strokes... Could you post up a video of you playing something? That would be really helpful for us in helping you.

01-03-2016, 03:39 PM
At Roy Sakuma's they taught us to keep our thumb behind the neck. If your fingers are more straight than curved, it might be because you're fretting the strings too far away from your fingertips. However, I can't say for sure.

Yeah, there's no right or wrong way when it comes to thumb placement.

Standing while playing the uke is hard, especially when you're first starting out. I hear straps make things easier, but I've personally never tried one. If you're playing strapless, then you basically have to use your picking arm/hand to keep the uke from falling down...as well as playing whatever your playing.

Size matters; it may change how you fret the chords. Compare a soprano ukulele versus a tenor. On a soprano, my thumb would be above the neck since I find it too small, while my thumb on a tenor would be behind the neck. Back when I was just starting out, on a soprano I'd play 2220 with my middle finger barring the G- and C-strings and my ring on the E-string, while on a tenor I'd play 2220 with a finger for each note (index, middle, and ring) because my fingers were too small. As you get better and better, though, size doesn't matter as much.

01-05-2016, 12:13 AM
Thumb behind is correct, thumb peeping out is considered wrong but can be feasable - in fact, some people even 'thumbfret'. I don't, but I don't mind either.

One thing I do point out to students, is that a thumb pointing straight at the headstock is asking for painful trouble - it makes it a lot harder to spread the other fingers, slows down changes... Still, around 1 or 2 out of 10 seem to start out that way, saying it feels natural. Perhaps, but it will become a pain.

01-05-2016, 01:28 AM
If you live near a uke club, join. There will be some experienced players there to "observe" your technique. You can also get a lot of visuals on youtube. Just search ukulele, how to...............and enter hold, fret, and anything else you want a tutorial on relating to ukes. For starters, if your fingertips also get sore after a little playing, you are pressing on the strings too hard. Shouldn't be any "wonky" angle to your wrist either. Carpal tunnel discomfort/pain can extend to the elbow. I think the visuals will help. Here's an old post on the matter: http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/archive/index.php/t-19048.html

01-05-2016, 05:54 AM
I keep my thumb on the back of the neck, but it is still quite flexible and moveable. I also try to keep my hand/wrist/fingers relaxed and flexible while playing. If you are straining any of your joints, there can be fatigue and stress and pain. If your wrist is bending too far over, or too far back, that can lead to stress on the wrist, and extend up into the elbow.

I agree with Brad, let someone knowledgeable see you playing so they can help you diagnose any strange angles or strenuous shapes.