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View Full Version : Proper Left Hand Position



idxxoutoftheblue
11-04-2016, 05:03 PM
This is probably a really stupid question... but I think I've been using an incorrect left hand position. First off I've been holding my hands more like you would a violin (though obviously not as upright). So rather than my fingers being parallel to the frets they've been at more of an angle. A friend that plays guitar said I need to make my hand more parallel. I've also noticed that when I play a D chord, I end up muting the A string because of how I've been holding it.

So I guess my question is am I supposed to play with my thumb on the back of the neck and my fingers on the frets and no other support from the left hand? Or am I supposed to have my thumb wrapped around, almost touching the frets by the G string and the neck resting in my palm? That's how I've been playing and of course it give me more support than just having the neck between my thumb and fingers but not actually supported by anything.

I also don't know if it makes any difference... but I have really tiny, thin hands and fingers (which is making barring super difficult!).

I hope this makes sense!

Thanks!

janeray1940
11-04-2016, 05:31 PM
... am I supposed to play with my thumb on the back of the neck and my fingers on the frets and no other support from the left hand? Or am I supposed to have my thumb wrapped around, almost touching the frets by the G string and the neck resting in my palm?

People can and will do both, but - the way I was taught was "correct" is with the thumb on the back of the neck, ALWAYS, do not wrap it around the way you might often see guitarists do. But trust me, if you do wrap, the ukulele police aren't going to come after you :)

If stability is an issue, I'd recommend getting a strap button installed and using a strap. I have really tiny little hands too and playing with a strap made a huge difference.

Another tiny-hands problem you might run into is with barre chords - when I was first learning to play I found I'd run into chords where I'd unintentionally mute strings. I was taught to angle my wrist forward, if that makes sense - problem solved!

zztush
11-04-2016, 05:39 PM
So I guess my question is am I supposed to play with my thumb on the back of the neck and my fingers on the frets and no other support from the left hand?

Yes. It is very good. I think we need strap or we have to wedge your uku by your lap. Then you don't need your left hand support of the neck. I do these ways. But most of the people grab the neck as you stated.

A friend of mine has just started ukulele two weeks ago. He has a strap and no need to grab a neck. He took 2 weeks to play F chord.

Mivo
11-04-2016, 06:25 PM
So I guess my question is am I supposed to play with my thumb on the back of the neck and my fingers on the frets and no other support from the left hand? Or am I supposed to have my thumb wrapped around, almost touching the frets by the G string and the neck resting in my palm?

Professional players and very advanced amateurs use both of these methods. Thumb behind the neck, which is a classical guitar method, gives you the most freedom, which you may or may not need, at the expense of almost requiring the use of a strap (unless you play a very light soprano - see some videos by the amazing George Elmes (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWXxDe0SF6QY8oKiu3_HjkQ)) or a tenor that you can hold like a guitar. In some videos where Ken Middleton (https://www.youtube.com/user/KenMiddletonUkulele/videos) plays the soprano and tenor, he rests the neck between thumb and index, and so does Daddy Stovepipe (https://www.youtube.com/user/daddystovepipe/videos). Then there are gifted players like WS64 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaDADJ0O73U) (the video that made me get a Famous/Kiwaya laminate) who pick a lot with their thumb and (seem to) hold the uke with the pinky of the right hand. I believe Otha San is doing this also.

kohanmike
11-04-2016, 07:40 PM
I will always use a strap so I don't have to hold up the neck. I always keep my thumb at the back of the neck because it gives me more leverage to make chords and not mute strings. I played guitar for almost 50 years, started with 8 lessons in 1965 from a studio musician and teacher who was very strict on technique and I got very good with bar chords. When I took up ukulele about 3 1/2 years ago, I transitioned very easily because I had good technique.

geetee
11-05-2016, 06:47 PM
I found these left hand technique tips to be helpful. I try to use them even if not using a strap.

You'll notice that when he demonstrates a one finger barre, he's not really using his thumb at all; it seems to be resting at the bottom of the neck. Also, you only need to apply enough pressure to have the string contact the fret.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hM_3Sb-xfXk

idxxoutoftheblue
11-12-2016, 12:18 PM
Thanks for the advice.
I'm having quite a lot of trouble trying to get the left hand in the proper position while still supporting the ukulele. Even with it resting on my leg, it kind of slides around. I just feel like I"m not sure how to get the proper support from my right hand/arm especially while strumming. I know I could get a strap, and I'm fine with that but I'd still prefer to get the proper technique without a strap.
Also this video was just posted which gave me some other ideas:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPQK5XOZVdI

peanuts56
11-12-2016, 03:49 PM
I play with my thumb on the back of the neck much like a classical guitarist. As an undergrad music ed major we were required to take a semester of guitar. The guy who taught the class was a real stickler for playing that way. Funny thing is he never once picked up a guitar during the semester. It stuck with me I guess. If I'm strumming I will sometimes let the thumb come over the neck a bit.

Choirguy
11-12-2016, 03:54 PM
I can't quite remember where I saw this, but what you want with ukulele is efficiency of movement. There may be chords or specific chord progressions where it is more efficient to play a chord with different fingering or to put the thumb somewhere else.

That said, I have found that barre chords are easier if the thumb is behind the barred chord, almost in the middle of the neck, with the thumb pointing up, but just above the barred chord. This gives me the greatest chance to barre chords with the least amount of force necessary to play a chord.

DebRocks
11-13-2016, 06:20 AM
Also this video was just posted which gave me some other ideas:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPQK5XOZVdI

As a beginner, it's very useful to hear him explain, in this video, why different hand/thumb positions work. There really is no ONE hand position that works best in all situations.

Also, I gave found a strap very useful , especially when working on right hand technique, as I don't need to worry about my left hand supporting the uke in addition to doing the fretting.

idxxoutoftheblue
11-13-2016, 07:54 AM
Thanks for the responses.
Does anybody have advice on supporting the ukulele while strumming and keeping the thumb on the back of the neck and not using a strap? I'm kind of at a loss as to the proper way to hold it. I feel like there's no support.

Louis0815
11-14-2016, 01:55 AM
I usually press the uke against my chest with my right elbow, my strumming is mostly a wrist movement ("rotating") rather than involving the whole forearm ("up and down") - after all I am playing ukulele, not guitar.

Michael N.
11-16-2016, 01:29 AM
Whilst it is true that classical guitarists place their thumb on the back of the neck it isn't always in the centre, frequently it's a bit higher, sometimes lower. Don't forget that the classical guitar has a very wide fretboard, the Ukulele does not. The earlier romantic guitar was often played with the left thumb over (Giuliani) just like you see some electric guitar players fretting a note with the left hand thumb. That type of guitar usually had a fairly narrow neck compared to modern classical guitars though.
What you do need to be careful of is the left hand wrist. If you place your left hand thumb in the centre of the neck there's a good chance that your wrist will be constantly bent (cranked), as though you were playing bar chords all the time. That can lead to injury. Placing your thumb right at the top edge of the neck may not be all that bad, just don't clamp the thumb and the index finger against the fretboard. Both should be 'free'.

Joyful Uke
11-16-2016, 09:50 AM
Any particular reason for not using a strap? If you don't have and don't want a strap button, you can use something like a Uke Leash, which doesn't require that any holes be drilled.

I tried playing without a strap for quite a while, but finally moved to playing with a strap. That's making a very positive difference for me.

But, you might have a reason for wanting to avoid a strap.

idxxoutoftheblue
11-19-2016, 07:26 PM
I'm fine with getting a strap. I just think it would be nice to be able to properly play without one as well.
I've actually been looking for one but I'm rather picky and haven't found one for the right price that I'd like to buy.


Any particular reason for not using a strap? If you don't have and don't want a strap button, you can use something like a Uke Leash, which doesn't require that any holes be drilled.

I tried playing without a strap for quite a while, but finally moved to playing with a strap. That's making a very positive difference for me.

But, you might have a reason for wanting to avoid a strap.