View Full Version : Chord hand strength exercise

08-26-2008, 03:34 PM
I went to my second uke lesson. My teacher had asked me to think of a few songs I wanted to learn at my first and I had several. One of them was Alcohol by Brad Paisley. If you have never heard it, check it out. It's hilarious and after a listen or ten, pretty easy to sing along to. I should warn everyone that it is Country and Western...based on the favorite band thread elsewhere on this site, that is not a popular genre of music around here. My teacher thought this would be a good song for me because it's fairly slow and there are only 6 chords.

Here are the chords: B, E, F#, Abm, C#m, and C#m7

Every one of those chords requires covering all 4 strings. I've been working on this every day and my fret hand gets pretty sore at times. I'm not looking for ways around those chords because I really want to be able to play up the fretboard and my teacher is well aware of this. I am wondering if there is some kind of exercise other than playing that will help me develop the muscles involved. I'm also wondering if maby I'm just pushing to hard cause I'm still new at this.

I'm really curious about this because my hands are pretty strong from years of tool use but the tools I use are very different from fretting a uke.

Howlin Hobbit
08-26-2008, 05:34 PM
I'm not looking for ways around those chords...
Oh, bless you! You don't know how refreshing it is to read that. ;)

I am wondering if there is some kind of exercise other than playing that will help me develop the muscles involved. I'm also wondering if maby I'm just pushing to hard cause I'm still new at this.
Lots of people happy to sell you gadgets for "fretting hand strength" but I really think it's just a matter of practice. All the new chords you learn are working your muscles in different ways than they're used to. I find that still happens when I run across some new chord or voicing that's more than a trivial fingering. With practice they become "muscle memory" and you won't have to either think about it so much nor work quite so hard to get them.

Yes, you could be pushing a bit too hard. Sometimes I think the uke's reputation as an easy instrument to learn is a bit misleading.

Yes, it's easy to learn enough to enjoy yourself and even entertain others.

No, it's not easy to really master. I'm sure nowhere near there and, if you really stop and count 'em up, the ratio of "masters" to "regular ol' players" is pretty small. I could maybe name a dozen and I'd bet that most of them would demur at being called "masters."

Take it at a pace that doesn't hurt you too much, hm? You will get it.

08-26-2008, 07:42 PM
I completely agree with HH on this one. You just need to build that familiarity of placing your fingers in positions onto the chord over time. I know some people use tennis balls to squeeze and build strength but there really isn't anything more effective than just practicing your finger placement and the chord shapes.

To check if you're pressing hard, make sure your hand is comfortable and keep plucking a string while you slowly depress a fret. If you're pressing too lightly then the sound would be dull. You can find that nice, medium amount of pressure you need by being more aware of your how hard you have to press for one finger. Then apply the same technique to your other fingers so that you find that point where you're not exerting too much enery while fretting.

There'll be a time after practicing where you'll suddenly realize that you're not trying as hard as you used to when forming these chords. You'll build up to that faster than you think.

08-27-2008, 05:07 AM
I use a wad of clay to help with this, I got from my PT person after having hand surgery.
It has helped alot cuz unlike a tennis ball you can sink your fingers into it like you are fretting the strings.

For me to learn new chords/changes, I'll take the chords and just play them over and over doing a down strum for each chord till I am happy with it then start playing the song.
I've even started playing some songs that have the chords I don't like...

Now If I could only get that e chord to work!!!!

08-27-2008, 06:48 AM
Very nice practicing tips in this thread. Thank you HH and cMejilla!

08-27-2008, 11:43 AM
i agree with HH. just keep on strumming and it will soon get easier and easier.
practice the songs you know and learn new songs with new chords and just keep playing them. your fingers will get used to playing the chords but the most practical way to get better is just to practice.

08-27-2008, 02:12 PM
After playing for a few months, my hand doesn't get sore anymore, and I haven't done any special exercises (too lazy). There's still discomfort at times, but nothing I would call pain -- and my hand used to get really sore. I also switched to lighter strings, which I find more comfortable and easier to play.

08-27-2008, 02:22 PM
I agree with all the comments on this thread but one great thing I foud to practice at the same time your fretting hand strenght and ability to play multiple chords is to find a song that changes tone every verse. Now I know one of hem that took me a month to learn but it's in french. all you need to do is find a song that does the same and tha you personally know and like.