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Pdyx
06-15-2011, 10:30 AM
Short story:

What do you do with your left thumb when you're playing chords such as D7?

Longer story:

I fell in love with the ukulele about two months ago. A couple weeks ago my left thumb began bothering me. I've been playing a lot less (which sucks). I've incorporated the ukulele into one of my comedy acts (I do a lot of improv and sketch comedy) so I had to play here and there in preparation for a recent show and at the show. Have put it down to let my thumb heal so I can get back on it properly.

Here's my issue, my thumb started to hurt when I started playing more chords like D7, E, and other similar chords more regularly. I realized from doing internet searches I'm undoubtedly gripping the ukulele too tightly (which I'm working on) but from watching some people play I realized I'm also using my left thumb too much gripping onto the back of the neck, pressing my thumb against it like you might press your thumb for a print.

I also know that because my day job has me at a desk typing much of the day and some of my other hobbies involve my hands (puppet building, writing comedy) I'm exacerbating the injury even without playing.

I've been laying off and my hand and thumb feel better, but my question from the top stands, what should I be doing with my left thumb generally and specifically with certain chords where I can't let it more gently rest on the top of the neck? I watch videos but I can't see what people are doing because they're facing the camera and not showing what's going on behind the ukulele.

Thanks in advance. I've decided I have to just lay off playing (and maybe sewing and writing some) until I'm healed, but I can't not type at work.

[EDIT-apparently I can't edit the topic title where I misspelled issues...darn]

cashew
06-15-2011, 10:40 AM
Short story:

What do you do with your left thumb when you're playing chords such as D7?

Longer story:

I fell in love with the ukulele about two months ago. A couple weeks ago my left thumb began bothering me. I've been playing a lot less (which sucks). I've incorporated the ukulele into one of my comedy acts (I do a lot of improv and sketch comedy) so I had to play here and there in preparation for a recent show and at the show. Have put it down to let my thumb heal so I can get back on it properly.

Here's my issue, my thumb started to hurt when I started playing more chords like D7, E, and other similar chords more regularly. I realized from doing internet searches I'm undoubtedly gripping the ukulele too tightly (which I'm working on) but from watching some people play I realized I'm also using my left thumb too much gripping onto the back of the neck, pressing my thumb against it like you might press your thumb for a print.

I also know that because my day job has me at a desk typing much of the day and some of my other hobbies involve my hands (puppet building, writing comedy) I'm exacerbating the injury even without playing.

I've been laying off and my hand and thumb feel better, but my question from the top stands, what should I be doing with my left thumb generally and specifically with certain chords where I can't let it more gently rest on the top of the neck? I watch videos but I can't see what people are doing because they're facing the camera and not showing what's going on behind the ukulele.

Thanks in advance. I've decided I have to just lay off playing (and maybe sewing and writing some) until I'm healed, but I can't not type at work.

[EDIT-apparently I can't edit the topic title where I misspelled issues...darn]

Aside from gripping lighter... make sure that you really have the uke well tucked or use a strap when you're standing. It'll really help you not squeezing too hard with the left hand. Practice though will undoubtedly be your best friend- You need to build up the muscles in your hand- including the thumb. You can also try swapping up your grip- push your wrist more forward, I find that helps me.

itsme
06-15-2011, 10:47 AM
Aside from gripping lighter... make sure that you really have the uke well tucked or use a strap when you're standing. It'll really help you not squeezing too hard with the left hand.
I'd suggest a strap as well. Since OP does comedy, I presume that means they are standing up.

ItsAMeCasey
06-15-2011, 10:48 AM
Well this may or may not be the case for you, but when I was playing for around the same amount of time as you my thumb and wrist would majorly cramp up after only about an hour of playing. Instead of thinking about long-term damage, I just played right through the pain and eventually, my hand built up much endurance. Now I have no problem playing for any amount of time--my hand never hurts. But, to answer your question, my left thumb is always planted in the back of the neck of the uke, regardless of the chord. So I'd suggest just relaxing your left hand a bit and not applying so much pressure. If the action on your uke is high, lowering it would make chording much easier. Also if the strings are high tension you might want to consider going for a lower tension. Hope this somewhat helps!

Pdyx
06-15-2011, 11:04 AM
Thanks for the quick replies folks, this all does help very much. I have the problem sitting and standing, and initially I think it came mostly from sitting. I played largely sitting at first and when I decided to incorporate uke into the show, I realized I needed practice standing so I've only really recently been standing (and trying to figure out how not to grip too tightly and yet still be able to hold the instrument). I definitely need to get a good strap for that so I can relax when playing standing.

Glad to hear that pressing the left thumb in the back of the uke isn't bad, necessarily, because I was worried I'd have to relearn some stuff. It's probably just the pressure I'm using.

I've been thinking I need to get a tennis ball or something like that to work my left hand muscles out more.

Dan Uke
06-15-2011, 11:30 AM
I have that problem still, especially having recessive genes for the thumb, where it bends back 90 degrees. I started to hold and put the pressure on the bone/joint where the thumb bends. Stick my thumb higher on the uke so the tip is showing when strumming...Relieve a lot of the stress.

mm stan
06-15-2011, 01:48 PM
Aloha PDYX,
Good idea to rest your thumb before you injure it further, it may just need time to heal from overuse..Good Luck and hope you feel better..MM Stan

geetee
06-15-2011, 03:52 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hM_3Sb-xfXk&feature=player_embedded

Pdyx
06-16-2011, 04:52 AM
Thank you everybody, and thanks especially geetee for posting that video, that's helpful. I needed to see someone talk about it some to get more perspective, it's one of the things I've been struggling with. Knowing I'm doing something 'wrong' (grasping too tightly, etc.) but just reading about isn't always easy to know exactly what I'm doing wrong.

I live in Austin and I discovered there's a Ukulele club here which I'm planning on going to their next meeting in order to talk to someone about this kind of thing. I wish I could afford lessons but right now money's tight.

Melissa82
06-16-2011, 05:12 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hM_3Sb-xfXk&feature=player_embeddedAwesome video, thanks!

BadLands Bart
06-16-2011, 08:24 AM
Yes that is an awesome video..some great tips!!! Thanks

OldePhart
06-16-2011, 01:57 PM
Conventional wisdom says put the pad of your thumb behind the neck to support it. In practice I find myself doing everything from that to having the neck firmly in the web or "pocket" with my thumb projecting above the G string side of the neck. The bottom line is to do what is A) comfortable and B) let's you move from chord to chord quickly and naturally.

Finally, for anyone who is experiencing pains, etc. Sharp, stabbing pains are a bad sign - stop and find out what's wrong as you might be damaging your bod. Dull ache is normal especially when you are beginning and will begin to fade as you build up strength and dexterity. Finally, gloucosamine works absolute wonders especially for those of us who are past life's mid-point. THe supplements aren't an instant fix (takes a week or two to notice improvement), but I injured a nuckle on my left hand years ago and would probably not be able to play uke for extended periods, and certainly not guitar, if not for gloucosamine capsules.

geetee
06-16-2011, 02:07 PM
All credit for that video goes to jimdville who posted it in this thread (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?48529-Interview-on-Ukulele-Ergonomics), which provides a link to his site (http://playukulelebyear.blogspot.com/). You should check it out.
This seems to me to be the type of info best suited for the Ukulele Tips, Tricks and Technique section of the forums.:confused: