View Full Version : Does anyone use the thumb for chords??

Dan Uke
06-12-2011, 07:25 AM
I noticed that certain chords seem easier to play w/ the thumb. I can play the chord normally but can't switch fingers quickly enough to play a song. I think it's mostly jazz chords. Just wondering

Ukulele JJ
06-12-2011, 08:12 AM
I do sometimes. Not often.

I don't feel good about it. :-)


06-12-2011, 08:38 AM
I do sometimes as well because it leaves my fingers free.

mm stan
06-12-2011, 08:56 AM
Not too often...I choose thin necks for my ukes and therefore don't need them....

06-12-2011, 09:31 AM
Thanks to early conditioning that it's bad practice, I don't. When reach is an issue I've often found it's easier to barre, rather than use 4 fingers.

06-12-2011, 10:05 AM
Yes, I do quite a lot. I know it's probably not the correct technique, but it's comfortable for me, so I don't mind.

In my own case, I think it comes from being a guitarist and using the thumb to alternate bass notes in chords, so that's where I picked it up.

I suppose I would say do whatever you're most comfortable with :)


06-12-2011, 10:21 AM
I do it all the time. I've been doing it for 35 years. I'm self-taught, so I didn't have anyone around to tell me that I shouldn't do it. And as a result, I'm perfectly comfortable playing chords like E and Fm7 that many people try to avoid. There's not a thing wrong with using your thumb. You still have to practice to do it cleanly, and to get to and from chords in whatever song you're playing, but there's a lot of things I can play easily that would be very difficult to play without using my thumb. Use every weapon in your arsenal to play what you're trying to play. Don't limit your abilities and options because someone else told you to.

I use my thumb to barre the E and the 6664 F#. And I use my thumb a lot on the G string, even on simple chords like Am or Dm, to leave me with fingers free to pick out notes. With a low G string, I also sometimes play bass notes using my thumb -- the video "Uncle Wheels" on my YouTube page is an example.

06-13-2011, 02:16 AM
Use the thumb for the D chord every once in a while.

06-13-2011, 03:49 AM
To me, playing is playing clear notes at the right time in the right order. I'm sure some will balk at this. So be it.

The only thing is that if you use certain techniques to play certain notes or chords, it may limit you in terms of speed or accuracy. Using your thumb means orbiting the neck using the arc of your hand (area between thumb and index). This extra movement adds strain to the wrist, takes time, and to shift to another chord you've another large movement that takes time.

If you can play the songs you want to play and play, say, D, by barring with your thumb, then all the power to you. You're playing the song. The timing is spot on. It sounds good. It's music!

I know, though, that the songs I enjoy playing (almost all involve finger picking and sliding from the first to the 10th or 14th fret) require more left hand mobility than beginner strumming-only tunes that only involve the first four frets... so I forced myself to acquire more agile finger positions. Was painful. Took time. My neighbours hate me as my uke sounded like a molested rodent for weeks. But I got there.

06-14-2011, 02:48 PM
I never use my thumb for chords. I had no idea it was bad to use it though, it's just my thumbs are super stubby so using them for chords would be too much trouble.

06-15-2011, 02:30 AM
I avoid using my thumb and try keeping it placed on the back of the neck. When playing along, if I were to notice the thumb out of position, I gently re-position it. Keeping the thumb on the back of the neck puts my other fingers in better position for me. Having said that, whatever makes you comfortable is OK.

06-16-2011, 08:21 AM
I use my thumb on some guitar things, but I've found that 4 is plenty of fingers for the uke! :)

06-16-2011, 11:40 AM
I use my thumb for the E-chord :P I was taught basic chords by a teacher, and I asked him if I could and he said it wasn't correct, but whatever is easiest is fine. I have a Pono, which have beefier necks, so if you aren't used to it, it can make your wrist extremely sore..

06-16-2011, 01:51 PM
This has been pretty well covered but I will add one note - something that is comfortable on one scale (soprano) may not work so well on a uke with a longer scale and wider fretboard (tenor). For this reason it's probably best to follow "conventional wisdom" and avoid use of the thumb if possible. On the other hand, if avoiding use of the thumb is going to make you avoid songs with certain chords, then by all means use the thumb. Clear as mud? :)


06-16-2011, 02:20 PM
Since you mentioned jazz chords, watch this use of the thumb for otherwise impossible fretboard spanning grips. Happens for the first time at about :30 , then again at 1:10.


Dan Uke
06-16-2011, 03:00 PM
I gotta try those chords...that guy is amazing...when I hear these guys play, I would think they are playing guitar and not ukulele

06-17-2011, 05:50 PM
yes some people do, especially when they play guitar, but everyone is different

06-18-2011, 07:54 AM
Hendrix used his thumb a lot. So maybe, you could be the Henrix of the uke! If that's your goal.

I use my thumb a bit on guitar, but have never really done it on uke. Whatever works for you, but don't hurt yourself.

02-11-2018, 10:32 AM
Here's another example of using the thumb in certain chords: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tNdNFACU00

02-11-2018, 11:40 AM
A number of my students want to use the thumb to make F and D chords. I don’t know how they decide this, as nothing I teach shows this or encourages this in any way...in fact, it is quite the opposite!


02-11-2018, 04:04 PM
I do, but only for diminished chords. My pinkies are very tiny and not very strong.

02-18-2018, 10:35 AM
I do it for just one chord, the 1013 version of Fm. Otherwise I find I have to contort my hand/wrist somewhat to play it cleanly with fingers only.

02-18-2018, 05:45 PM
I initially did this, but after reading that it is a bad habit, I have stopped. Had a hard time with D and D7 and found fretting with the thumb easier, but now I have them both down without it. Some other chords would still be easier with thumb, but I have found it better to just use proper fingerings and avoid using the thumb as a shortcut.