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pootsie
09-19-2012, 06:15 AM
Dear UUers:

A few months into my uke journey I see that I really can take it easy on fretting my strings.

I usually press harder than I need to, especially when I'm working on a chord I find more difficult or tricky. I know that I don't need to press that hard, but often I find I do anyway.

It seems I really need to focus my attention to get the right amount of pressure, but my attention is a fraglie and flighty thing, like a butterfly of late summer seeking its mate and a place for its young amidst the passing flowers as the days grow long and have you ever noticed how they just never stay in one place long and by the way the evenings of late summer are also a great time to take pictures because when the sun goes down .... well, you see what my attention span is like.

I'm wondering if (aside from practice practice practice) you have any suggestions on exercises or techniques to develop the softer touch.

What worked for you?

JamieFromOntario
09-19-2012, 06:36 AM
Hey Pootsie,

I sometimes use too much pressure as well. I don't think that there's much for it except to be as mindful as you can and practice, practice, practice using a light touch.


I do wonder about lowering the action on your uke (if it's a bit on the high side) or maybe switching to lower tension strings where you'll need less pressure to fret properly...
Maybe you could fool around with how you form your chord shapes until you find a new variant that works and uses less pressure, then drill that new shape until you can't help but use it (I guess that falls under the practice, practice, practice advice).


I haven't really paid much attention to this myself, but I have little doubt that the extra pressure I might sometimes use has contributed to my occasional tendonitis.

pootsie
09-19-2012, 07:11 AM
I haven't really paid much attention to this myself, but I have little doubt that the extra pressure I might sometimes use has contributed to my occasional tendonitis.

Did I mention I spend most of my work day at a computer keyboard? That can't help! I often get that tight, sore feeling in the wrist:eek:

vanflynn
09-19-2012, 07:23 AM
I also would suggest checking the action and trying different strings

Single malt scotch also helps

seeso
09-19-2012, 07:39 AM
A reggae strum with any barre chord will help you develop that soft touch. I used to make my students do it for at least 10 minutes straight.

Play each chord as a barre chord, two measures each, playing only on the upbeat and chunking on 1 and 3. Think of the mute as your "at-rest" position. Squeeze each chord on the 2 and 4 like a pulse. Cycle through the I, V, vi, IV progression switching keys after each IV chord:

C G Am F
D A Bm G
E B C#m A
F C Dm Bb
G D Em C
A E F#m D
Bb F Gm Eb
B F# G#m E

pootsie
09-19-2012, 07:40 AM
I appreciate the guidance but I guess I was not being clear. I think the action on my uke is A-OK.

I'm not saying that I need to press too hard, I'm saying that my tendancy is to press harder than I need to.

It does not take a lot of effort to get my strings to the frets on either of my ukes. But I just end up squeezing really hard anyway.

So what I'm saying is, do you have advice to help me not overshoot on the amount of pressure needed. Get me to relax when there is no scotch around.

pootsie
09-19-2012, 07:42 AM
Thanks, Seeso! (i missed your input on my simulpost)

Um, what is "I, V, vi, IV?"

Mandalyn
09-19-2012, 07:46 AM
I tend to do this when learning newchords and when my hand hurts, I press harder. It seems to get better the more I practice.

JamieFromOntario
09-19-2012, 07:48 AM
Thanks, Seeso! (i missed your input on my simulpost)

Um, what is "I, V, vi, IV?"


I, V, vi, IV refer to chords. Using roman numerals to denote chords is a traditional music theory approach (rather than in Jazz where it isn't as prevalent).

The roman numeral refers to the note in the scale on which a triad is built.

So in C major, a I chord is a triad built on C - CEG.

A V chord is a triad built on the fifth note of the scale, G - GBD


All of the examples that Seeso gave describe the I, V, vi, IV pattern in a variety of keys (you can tell which key is being referred to from the first chord of each group).

It is also worth noting that the the vi chord is written in lower case. The case of the numerals denotes whether the chord is major (like the I, IV, V chords) or minor (like the iv chord).

seeso
09-19-2012, 07:50 AM
If you're wondering how to barre some of those chords, here's some help:

C: 5433
G: 4232
Am: 5453
F: 5553

D: 7655
A: 6454
B#m: 4222
G: 4232

E: 4442
B: 4322
C#m: 6444
A: 6454

F: 5553
C: 5433
Dm: 7555
Bb: 3211

G: 4232
D: 7655
Em: 4432
C: 5433

A: 6454
E: 4442
F#m: 6654
D: 7655

Bb: 3211
F: 5553
Gm: 3231
Eb: 3331

B: 4322
F#: 3121
G#m: 4342
E: 4442

seeso
09-19-2012, 07:52 AM
You explained that much better than I could have! Thanks! :shaka:


I, V, vi, IV refer to chords. Using roman numerals to denote chords is a traditional music theory approach (rather than in Jazz where it isn't as prevalent).

The roman numeral refers to the note in the scale on which a triad is built.

So in C major, a I chord is a triad built on C - CEG.

A V chord is a triad built on the fifth note of the scale, G - GBD


All of the examples that Seeso gave describe the I, V, vi, IV pattern in a variety of keys (you can tell which key is being referred to from the first chord of each group).

It is also worth noting that the the vi chord is written in lower case. The case of the numerals denotes whether the chord is major (like the I, IV, V chords) or minor (like the iv chord).

JamieFromOntario
09-19-2012, 07:55 AM
Thank you, sir, for putting up all of those bar chord exercises! Now I know what to play to annoy the wife ;)

Steedy
09-19-2012, 08:05 AM
Maybe practice making the chords without pressing down at all. Just touch the strings enough to mute them, then press down a teensy bit, then a teensy bit more, until you're pressing down just hard enough for all the notes to sound cleanly, then don't press any harder. Rinse and repeat as needed. :)

seeso
09-19-2012, 08:11 AM
Thank you, sir, for putting up all of those bar chord exercises! Now I know what to play to annoy the wife ;)

Ha! Tell her she can blame me!

pootsie
09-19-2012, 08:20 AM
Oh, no, music theory!
http://ridexc.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/my-brain-hurts.jpg

Thank you all for the help.

Tonite I will work on "Uncle Seeso's Ukulele Relaxation-spa-camp" ;)

a-chunk-a-strum-a-chunk-a-strum .....

TheOnlyUkeThatMatters
09-19-2012, 08:24 AM
One nice way to develop a light touch is to play very quietly. The next few times you play, start off by playing as softly as you can for five or ten minutes. Might help.

pulelehua
09-19-2012, 11:13 AM
One thing you will find is that the more you play, the stronger your hand will become. Ironically, the stronger your hand, the lighter a touch you can achieve. Your hand is basically clumsy at first. It can do off and on. Off is 0. On is, say, 7. But you can't much access the points in between. So, you have off and arg.

As you gain strength, you will also develop different techniques. Seeso's idea of reggae barre chords is genius. Never thought of that. What he's getting you to do is unconsciously add some points of articulation. By gaining strength, your scale will shift to 0-10. By practicing different techniques, you'll be able to actually press however hard you like: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10. (In practice, a ukulele takes very little pressure to play - save the 10 for when you want to impress people with your can crushing ability)

Overflexing is a sign of strain. Strain causes loss of strength. You compensate for that by pushing harder. That's usually why beginners push too hard. (Why Jamie pushes too hard, I have no idea :) )

If you drive a manual transmission, you might think of it like this. When you first start, you push the clutch to the floor, then stall the car on the way up. Your foot is used to big movements. After a while, you learn to move your foot fractions of an inch.

Your ukulele is like a clutch. Or a dial with very few numbers on it.

Not sure which analogy is worse............................................. ...................... ;)

The Big Kahuna
09-19-2012, 11:19 AM
Pootsie is a drummer, he's beyond help.

SailQwest
09-19-2012, 12:40 PM
I've been trying to teach the soft touch to my husband for years. He's still working on it...

Pueo
09-19-2012, 12:46 PM
If you're wondering how to barre some of those chords, here's some help:

C: 5433
G: 4232
Am: 5453
F: 5553

D: 7655
A: 6454
B#m: 4222
G: 4232

E: 4442
B: 4322
C#m: 6444
A: 6454

F: 5553
C: 5433
Dm: 7555
Bb: 3211

G: 4232
D: 7655
Em: 4432
C: 5433

A: 6454
E: 4442
F#m: 6654
D: 7655

Bb: 3211
F: 5553
Gm: 3231
Eb: 3331

B: 4322
F#: 3121
G#m: 4342
E: 4442
Genius!
Mahalo Seeso, now I am prepared for every Jawaiian jam I enounter!

Pueo
09-19-2012, 12:56 PM
Yes the first step about the soft touch is realizing that you don't need to press as hard as you are!
Since you asked the question, it is a good sign that you will be able to work on it going forward.
I tell many beginners that working on easing off the pressure is important, once you take on more challenging pieces of music fretting too hard can keep you from switching rapidly/smoothly, cause fatigue, and can even pull your chords out of tune.
I was watching Bryan Tolentino play last night and I saw him fretting some crazy Jazz chords that looked like 2 7 10 12 or something nuts like that, he was using his thumb for the lower strings and he was pressing all from the fingerboard side - like he was making a "Shaka." Very light touch indeed!
:shaka:

stevepetergal
09-19-2012, 07:07 PM
I've been trying to teach the soft touch to my husband for years. He's still working on it...

I don't get it.

patico
09-19-2012, 08:17 PM
another excersice that'll help you soften the touch ... practice vibrato.
soft vibrato.
you'll need to relax the left hand, the fingers, the pressure to achieve a nice n soft vibrato.
finally it'll reach a point where you need only to touch the ukelele (left hand) with the freting finger, just that tiny point of you making contact with the instrument, expressing music.

patience n practice

SailQwest
09-20-2012, 04:58 AM
I don't get it.

He has a tendency to "manhandle" things when a lighter touch might be more appropriate. Ukulele included.

He's a hard-playing tenor strummer. I'm more of a light-fingered concert picker. Merging our playing styles can sometimes be a challenge.

lkdumas
09-20-2012, 05:55 AM
I enjoyed an "Ukulele Ergonomics" workshop by David Egan. He suggests some daily practice of first position chords without any contact of the thumb on the back of the neck. This way, you get a real "feel" of how little pressure is required to fret a chord without any buzzing. Of course, you wouldn't actually play this way, but practice like this develops some muscle memory and awareness of how "lightly" you can fret a string and still get the note. OBTW, you need a strap on your uke to practice this way.

caukulele
09-20-2012, 08:02 AM
I enjoyed an "Ukulele Ergonomics" workshop by David Egan. He suggests some daily practice of first position chords without any contact of the thumb on the back of the neck. This way, you get a real "feel" of how little pressure is required to fret a chord without any buzzing. Of course, you wouldn't actually play this way, but practice like this develops some muscle memory and awareness of how "lightly" you can fret a string and still get the note. OBTW, you need a strap on your uke to practice this way.

I took the same workshop this year at the Wine Country Uke Fest and found it very helpful...I am now trying to unlearn a few bad habits...

hmgberg
09-20-2012, 08:11 AM
I also would suggest checking the action and trying different strings

Single malt scotch also helps

Single malt scotch helps with most things in life. I heartily recommend it.

JamieFromOntario
09-20-2012, 09:21 AM
Single malt scotch helps with most things in life. I heartily recommend it.

Unfortunately, it doesn't help when you've already had too much scotch...

hmgberg
09-20-2012, 03:22 PM
Unfortunately, it doesn't help when you've already had too much scotch...

I can't remember the last time I had too much scotch, if you know what I mean.

JamieFromOntario
09-20-2012, 04:09 PM
I can't remember the last time I had too much scotch, if you know what I mean.


touche ;)

pootsie
09-20-2012, 04:46 PM
Thank you all for the wonderful advice. I will put some of this to work.

So ... how does one do vibrato?

Nickie
09-20-2012, 06:43 PM
Pootsie, I think what they are talking about is rolling the end of the fingertip quickly back and forth against the fret. You can see this very easily by watching a concert violinist or cellist up close.

Booksniffer
09-21-2012, 02:02 AM
I've found these two Youtube clips by Stukulele very helpful:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVTrQiUF6YM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1E4Au0JeNmk&feature=plcp

(the second one is for barre chords, but good in general as well)

His style probably isn't for everyone (personally, being a bit of an old hippie, I quite like it) but he has some great advice!
I tend to go for a death grip any time I'm learning anything that's still difficult, or if I'm concentrating on something - this sort of stuff really helps, if I take some time out every day to focus on it (usually before and again after playing songs I'm working on, Boot Camp etc; it's a nice warm-up and cool-down both).

coolkayaker1
09-21-2012, 03:40 AM
Thank you all for the wonderful advice. I will put some of this to work.

So ... how does one do vibrato?

http://liveukulele.com/lessons/techniques/vibrato/

Thank you, liveukulele, aka hippie guy on UU. There's the answer, with video, Pootsie.

pootsie
09-21-2012, 04:36 AM
Thank you all. I should have known that the hippies can teach me to mellow out. groooovyyyy

ProfChris
09-21-2012, 07:57 AM
Try to make the chords using the tips of your fingers, not the pads. This requires less pressure. It also needs short nails - I find that if my nails need trimming I tend to have to press harder to make the note.

uncle david
09-21-2012, 11:31 AM
It will definitely help to try to relax, i.e. start with a stiff drink. However, there's no quick cure to this ailment. You must play often for quite a while to be able to feel more comfortable and natural while playing. It took me years on the guitar to stop pressing so hard. At some point, I must have just stopped pressing so hard because I no longer do that. I have been playing for many years, though.

vanflynn
09-21-2012, 05:20 PM
If you're wondering how to barre some of those chords, here's some help:

C: 5433
G: 4232
Am: 5453
F: 5553

D: 7655
A: 6454
B#m: 4222
G: 4232

E: 4442
B: 4322
C#m: 6444
A: 6454

F: 5553
C: 5433
Dm: 7555
Bb: 3211

G: 4232
D: 7655
Em: 4432
C: 5433

A: 6454
E: 4442
F#m: 6654
D: 7655

Bb: 3211
F: 5553
Gm: 3231
Eb: 3331

B: 4322
F#: 3121
G#m: 4342
E: 4442


Seeso, thank you so much for this. I wanted some stuff to get me off the nut and this helps a lot.

Sorry if I sidetracked the post Pootsie but this is good stuff

coolkayaker1
09-21-2012, 06:27 PM
Pootsie and Vanflynn et al. Gerald Ross, from UU, too, made this three part vid series not long ago, and it really helped me immensely to "come off the nut" (that sounded weird).

Check it out...jazzy swinging barre chords! Three simple lessons from a superb teacher, GR.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YafhDexY6I