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View Full Version : Strum Technique Help (My finger is bloody…)



virtualmatt
09-14-2011, 04:05 PM
I've been playing the ukulele for a little over a month. I started on a Lanakai.


Just yesterday, my brand new Mainland Soprano came in, and I immediately fell in love with it. Today, I was playing it for about two hours when I looked down and saw blood all over my new ukulele! If I hadn't looked down, I wouldn't have had an idea I was bleeding all over.

Obviously I cleaned the ukulele before mending my wound.

Here's a link to the damage (I won't embed it in case you're squeamish): http://imgur.com/JKKv9

Anyway, based off the picture of my injury, what am I doing wrong and how can I prevent it? I was strumming with my index finger, which I was under the impression I should be doing.

Trinimon
09-14-2011, 04:32 PM
Yikes! Like taking the line out of Brian Adams' Summer of 69 to heart. Time to grow your strumming finger nails. :p

virtualmatt
09-14-2011, 04:51 PM
Yikes! Like taking the line out of Brian Adams' Summer of 69 to heart. Time to grow your strumming finger nails. :p


Haha! That's EXACTLY how I just described the situation to my fiancée!

roxhum
09-14-2011, 05:18 PM
Oh my goodness. Grow your nails and maybe strum more in the center of the nail. I actually have gotten sore on that side of my nail when playing for a very long time. Glad you love your Mainland.

ered
09-14-2011, 07:42 PM
Very impressive dedication, BUT...that will take a day or two to heal. My suggestion is the same I tell all of my beginning guitar students. At first, only play for 15 minutes at a time in order to let your fingers heal from the string stresses. Play 15 and wait 15. This will allow a callus to grow, instead of just shredding your fingers.

Also, (everyone correct me if I seem wrong, please - just a humble opinion) you may be just a little heavy on your strum from the looks of the damage to the finger. Loosen up on your right arm (or strumming arm if a leftie). I have a feeling quite a bit of your right forearm is on the body of the instrument, and that you are holding a great deal of tension. This causes the hand to loose suppleness, and be rigid. Your arm should hold the least amount of tension possiblee to hold the ukulele. As often as not, i turn it up on the end like a classical guitar, and barely touch the body with my strumming arm.

Another thing is that you should use the wrist to strum, not just an up down finger motion. When I first started playing uku, I strummed like I was finger picking a guitar, and recieved similar injuries. I still do to an extent, but my fingers are tougher now. Strumming with the wrist allows the fingers to remain loose, and flow over the strings, instead of pushing through them.

Again - just my humble opinion. But be careful about pushing through injuries like this, or you will grow scar tissue deep in the finger instead of calluses on the skin. Scars tissue loses feeling.

Michael N.
09-14-2011, 11:50 PM
That's not humble opinion, just common sense. You don't need nails, they aren't absolutely necessary. You do need technique. You would do well to heed ered's advice - all of it.

virtualmatt
09-15-2011, 12:55 AM
Thanks, that's exactly the sort of advice I was looking for! Obviously I was doing something wrong ;)

Tantal
09-15-2011, 02:48 AM
Take the following from a very noob player (under a year of Uke playing), but this is how it was for me.

The way I figured out the proper way to strum was to do a quiet strum. Trying to be as loose and relaxed as possible. Then when I get a clear sound, I think to myself, could I strum like this super fast? If not, then adjust your strumming to make it possible while getting a clean sound. Like most people have said before, it is all in the wrist, and make sure you strum where the neck meets the body.

After this point, I increase pressure gradually until my strumming was clean and loud. It took very little pressure actually. I also have no nails.

Hope this helps.

23skidoo
09-15-2011, 02:56 AM
Like the others said, just a lighter touch is all you need.

I have really soft nails and strum pretty hard, so I can't keep a nail of any length on my strumming index finger. I've never been able to fingerpick with nails on the guitar either - the just aren't tough enough to stand up to it.

Go slow and build up a callous - I've been playing 'uke for 5 or 6 months now and I've got a pretty monster callous going on the strumming edge of my index finger..... slow and steady wins the race.... and you don't get blood all over your beautiful new Mainland:)

PhilUSAFRet
09-15-2011, 04:45 AM
2 hours is usually too much for someone who's only been playing for a month. Also, if you don't master your strumming technique (have to start out veeeerrrrryyyyyy slowly) the you may also be hitting the edge of the fretboard with your finger tip.

virtualmatt
09-15-2011, 05:43 AM
2 hours is usually too much for someone who's only been playing for a month. Also, if you don't master your strumming technique (have to start out veeeerrrrryyyyyy slowly) the you may also be hitting the edge of the fretboard with your finger tip.

Aside from being bad technique, is hitting the fretboard dangerous to the fretboard, or just my finger?

molokinirum
09-15-2011, 08:39 AM
Where are you strumming your uke? If over the sound hole, that most likely is the problem. Strumming over the soundhole, as you would with a guitar, will cause your strumming finger to get "hung" up between the strings and therefore causing tears in the skin or the nail. If this is where you are strumming, try strumming where the fretboard meets the body and at that location you finger will not get "hung" up between the strings as the fretboard keeps your finger at string level.
Or...like others have said, you are strumming way too hard.

virtualmatt
09-15-2011, 09:19 AM
Where are you strumming your uke? If over the sound hole, that most likely is the problem. Strumming over the soundhole, as you would with a guitar, will cause your strumming finger to get "hung" up between the strings and therefore causing tears in the skin or the nail. If this is where you are strumming, try strumming where the fretboard meets the body and at that location you finger will not get "hung" up between the strings as the fretboard keeps your finger at string level.
Or...like others have said, you are strumming way too hard.


I'm strumming where the fretboard meets the body, but obviously too hard :(

Michael N.
09-15-2011, 10:56 AM
Hitting the fretboard won't damage it or at least it's highly unlikely to.
I agree that 2 hours is too much for the early weeks. Much of the secret in playing any instrument well is to relax or rather free yourself of what they term dysfunctional tension. You have to think more in terms of economy and efficiency of movement rather than trying to bash the instrument into submission. That's why it can be important to have a good teacher, especially in the early stages. They can save you both time and pain. That costs, I know.

FlyedPiper
09-15-2011, 01:52 PM
Ouch! I'm a noob as well and have had a couple of tears under the nail (I'm currently experimenting with how much nail I need to grow out). My main "injuries" are on my index finger of my left hand (soreness), but I've got a nice callus going now. Yeah, maybe tone down the velocity of your strumming and go a little lighter after you let your finger heal for a couple of days. Taking breaks every 15 or so sounds like sound advice, but you will play through some mild discomfort anyway while your skin toughens up. Or you could just put super glue in it and keep playing like Flea from RHCP. :)

I'm getting a Mainland soon too (concert). Can't wait!