View Full Version : Can't seem to start!

11-22-2010, 02:28 PM

So i've have a Kala Uke that i bought quite awhile ago, but haven't been able to really learn it. The problem is, my uke is a soprano and i have like really stubby fingers and i find it hard to press on a string without accidentially hitting another one. Also i feel like i can't strum! When ever i try, my finger get "stuck" and it makes a horible sound. I tried a pick, using my thumb, intex finger but still no luck. Do you guys think i should get a bigger uke? and what can i do about the strumming problem?? Thanks!

mm stan
11-22-2010, 02:59 PM
Aloha Prettyshyy,
I'd say go to the music store and try some of the different sizes out....and see what's comfortable for you, have good playability and sound.....and practice will get you better too.
Everybody new stumbles with the fingerings when they start......I've seen IZ play a soprano no problem..and he's big guy. Good Luck!! Happy Strummings!! Have fun and Enjoy!!MM Stan...

11-22-2010, 03:35 PM
With occasional exceptions (such as when you need to bar two or more strings with a single finger) you want to make sure that you are curling your finger and placing just the tip of the finger on the string. It helps to have short fingernails on your left hand.

When doing chords, don't think of it as, "my index finger goes here, my second finger goes here, etc." Try to develop the habit of planting all of your fingers pretty much at the same time. Think of it as if each different chord was a different rubber stamp that you are pressing down. I know it seems like you would want to do one finger at a time while learning, but trust me, it will take you far, far longer to get to the point where you can actually play a song at normal tempo if you develop that habit! You will actually have to break the "this finger here, that finger there" habit before you can relearn doing it right and begin to build up speed.

Find others to play with. Not necessarily instructors, but somebody who is just a little better than you. That way, you're always stretching to catch up, and that's how you learn. If you practice the same thing every day at a pace that is comfortable you will never get better! in fact, if you aren't making mistakes when you're practicing, you're not working hard enough to see much progression. That doesn't mean that you want to just run on and ignore the mistakes, but push youself a little until you catch yourself making the same mistake - then slow down and work on that one little thing until you can do it at speed. Once you've mastered that glitch, speed up to find your next mistake, etc.

Edit to add: Oh, and remember it's supposed to be fun! Go ahead and make mistakes while you're learning - you have my permission!


11-22-2010, 03:48 PM
I always know I'll pick up some sage advice if I prowl around UU.
Thanks Oldephart, really good tips for me to learn.

11-22-2010, 04:22 PM
Aloha OldePhart great tips for many of us to follow. Mahalo John & happy Holidays !

11-22-2010, 05:04 PM
Just passing on things folks have taught me over the years - and, BTW, I'm still a pretty mediocre player! (Didn't want to inadvertently have y'all thinking I'm a guitar hero or something.)

Years ago when I was learning guitar I was talking to one of the salesman in my local guitar shop and complaining that I just couldn't seem to build up any speed with chords. He hands me a guitar and says here, play something. I made one chord change and he was like, "no, no no." He went on to explain the rubber stamp thing and it was like somebody switched on the light for me. It took a long time to break the habit (mostly because I was already well past my youth by then, I think). Now, though, I don't think I could lay down one finger at a time if I had to. You just don't think about it after a while.

What's really fun is switching around instruments. I usually play open chords on acoustic guitar and bar chords on electric, and it's almost like two different instruments - I actually think differently depending on which I'm playing.


11-23-2010, 02:59 AM
Welcome to UU. As of otheres have said - it takes some time. And as already suggested - try some concert and tenor size ukes and see if you like them a little better. Good luck and have fun.

11-23-2010, 05:56 AM
Something to consider is that different brands of ukuleles also have different width fretboards. If your fingers are hitting adjacent strings in the same fret, you may find a uke with a wider fretboard is easier to play - rather than a concert or tenor uke which would give you more distance between the frets.

Kala's fretboards are on the narrow side. They are 1.375" at the nut (the white bar at the top of the fretboard). Some other brands have widths of 1.4" or even 1.5"

I Ukulista
11-23-2010, 11:03 AM
Sausage fingers is a must. Stop those strings beat those chords. (cut yer nails)...........
Ukuleles ain't for sissies.

11-23-2010, 11:23 AM
It may not be obvious, but the larger the 'ukulele, the higher the string tension (assuming they are all tuned to the same pitch). The higher the string tension, the easier it is to strum. Sopranos (my favorite at this time) have the lowest tension. In some ways, they are the hardest to play. It's too easy to bend a note by pressing the string a bit sideways, etc.

Sausage fingers can work fine on a soprano. Just look at Herb Ohta play "Hawaii" on Utube...

11-23-2010, 11:36 AM
Seriously fella, whilst the uke is a great straightforward instrument to learn, if you have not played strings before, it does take time. No instrument can be learned overnight.

Its really worth sticking at - I suggest some getting basic chords in your head, and mastering changes between them. Learn some 3 chord songs that YOU like, (not what a tutor book tells you to like) and practice practice practice.

I run a blog primarily aimed at beginners and posted about how much to practice with some tips here - http://gotaukulele.blogspot.com/2010/11/how-much-should-i-practice-ukulele.html

11-23-2010, 11:52 AM
Thanks so much for the replies!! I'm def gonna take your active and just practice practice pratice! I guess i'm going to stay with my soprano, then if it still doesn't work out, then i'll change. Thanks so much for the suggestions, i'm going to try them now while i practice. Once again thnx!

11-23-2010, 11:56 AM
I agree with Bobj abot the advice from oldephart. I think this is my trouble with chords like Bb. I am going to work on this in my next practice sessions...
Thank you so much!

And prettyshyy hang in there and keep up practicing... It does get better!

11-23-2010, 04:06 PM
prettyshyy, My biggest hurdle has been tension in wrist, arm, shoulder, neck etc. I learn faster when I can relax and practice and not hurry to fit in "X" number of minutes or hours of practice.

OP has some great insight about fingering. Rubber stamping instead. Play to your mistakes and play through them until you find your next one...a lot of wisdom in his words.

11-26-2010, 02:59 PM
Heey guys!
Just wanted to thank you guys again! Today (my 3rd day practicing) i finally got my uke in perfect tune! and i also learned my first song, which is "i'm yours" by Jason Mraz. All i need is to play faster, but i finally got the strumming and finger positions down. Thanks for the "Rubber stamp" method, its really helping my speed. I'm so excited, this is funner than i thought lol. Hopefully when i learn the song better, i record myself lol- Izzy

11-27-2010, 05:03 AM
The rubber stamp method is something I've struggled with (especially, for some reason, the G Major chord - I keep placing fingertips one at a time and not all at once). As for the strumming - I read online somewhere (don't recall where exactly) that when your fingers get 'stuck' when you're strumming, you're thinking about it too much. It should be more of a 'feel the rhythm' kind of thing. Now, I'm no super-uke player, but that bit of advice helped me a lot.

Have fun!

11-27-2010, 09:20 AM
I found the soprano was a bit cramped for my fat fingers so I bought a tenor. no probs there but later I also acquired a banjolele which is the same as a soprano, surprise was that I can play it fine now. I think its a matter of practice. Still love the tenor though

mm stan
11-27-2010, 09:53 AM
Just practice....for me certain days I have a better creativity factor, and try and learn new things....just by fooling around...Have Fun and enjoy!! Keep strumming them strings" MM Stan