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gonnorregan
10-17-2012, 09:50 AM
I've been playing around with a concert ukulele since last December. It's the first stringed instrument I've ever really picked up (violin in 3rd grade for a year doesn't count) and from a musician's perspective, I started out all wrong. Instead of learning any theory or how to read music/tabs or any of the basics of ukulele "handling" if you will, I went immediately to learning chords and learning how to play simple songs. No exercises or anything. So I've gotten to a point in my ukulele career where I want to go back and figure out the things I probably should have learned first.
My biggest priority first off is getting better at playing chords without using my thumb. My thumb is double jointed so it makes playing chords easy but not pretty or polished. I have small hands so C# is pretty impossible for me to play right now without the assistance of my thumb. It's also just become a bad habit, so I instinctively use my thumb to play chords like D and E. I've been doing that for so long now that it feels unnatural to play simple chords without my thumb and it takes longer for me to transition between chords when I'm trying to play them properly.
My question is: what are some good finger exercises to improve finger strength/flexibility and make chords easier to form?
Thanks so much!

fitncrafty
10-17-2012, 10:09 AM
How about learning some simple finger pickings songs?
Scales are a great exercise too. Learn some basic theory so you can understand and figure out inversions of chords that you can't play as well. It will make things easier. Be sure when you are playing chords that your fingers are very close to the frets, don't press too hard either. I did that for a very long time. My fingers would hurt
As far as playing with your thumb, I don't use my thumb but I know that many people do. Do what works and gets you a good sound.
UU plus has some good videos wtih exercises in them... Keep practicing

OldePhart
10-17-2012, 11:22 AM
Actually, there is nothing wrong with going straight to learning chords and songs. In fact, that's the best approach unless your goal is to learn theory. :)

If you know the songs you are playing really well then one way to develop fluidity is to sing as you are strumming. You shouldn't have to slow or hesitate with the lyrics to make the chord changes fit. Another way that works very well is to use a metronome and simply strum exactly the same pattern on the beat regardless what chord changes come up. If you find yourself getting behind the metronome, set the metronome slower. Only increase it when you can fluidly strum right through all the changes without falling behind the metronome (and rushing to catch up on the next beat doesn't count - every downbeat strum should be dead-on with the metronome).

It's good that you have a concert ukulele as the scale length is very beginner-friendly - not too cramped for large hands nor too wide for small ones. As for the "difficult" chords for most of them there are no "secrets" - it's just a matter of practice, practice, practice. That said, you should certainly investigate alternate forms of various chords (there are at least three ways to form an E chord in the first position, and which is "best" will depend largely on what other chords precede and follow it).

One "trick" is to think of a song not as a bunch of chords, but as a set of chord transitions - "map" how you are going to play each transition in the song. It's not unusual to play two or three variations of a chord in the same song to make the transitions flow smoothly.

John

PhilUSAFRet
10-17-2012, 02:24 PM
there are a few threads on this forum about finger exercises, just use search feature.
Otherwise, practice makes perfect...it takes longer for some than for others. Master proper fingering techniques slowly...speed comes in time. Uncle Rod's Ukulele Boot Camp speaks to the idea that learning the uke by starting out on a few chords and simple songs not the best way to learn for many. Learn the chords, finger them properly, practice until chord changes are smooth. Learning chords, lyrics, and finger patterns all at once not great for some.

itsme
10-17-2012, 04:20 PM
Welcome to UU, gonnorregan! :)


My biggest priority first off is getting better at playing chords without using my thumb.
See Bob Bledsoe's thread about changing your left-hand position. As stated in that thread, if you can re-train yourself to keep your thumb behind the neck, you will gain range and extension in your other fingers, making chord formations easier.

http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?71441-Changing-left-hand-position-hard-but-worth-it-%28I-hope%29

Uncle Rod Higuchi
10-18-2012, 04:44 AM
below my signature is a link to Ukulele Boot Camp.

I hope it helps:)

I agree with the practice of placing one's thumb (generally) behind the second fret in the middle of the back of the neck - for starters anyway.

keep uke'in',

MisterRios
10-18-2012, 05:01 AM
First thing I thought of when I saw the thread name was Uncle Rod's Ukulele boot camp. It got me thinking of chords as belonging in Keys, instead of just randomly in songs.

Also recommended are Howlin'Hobbits document library http://www.howlinhobbit.com/ukulele/ as well as the backside of this chord chart from fellow UU member Ukemunga: http://ukechordchart.com/

molokinirum
10-18-2012, 07:12 AM
below my signature is a link to Ukulele Boot Camp.

I hope it helps:)

I agree with the practice of placing one's thumb (generally) behind the second fret in the middle of the back of the neck - for starters anyway.

keep uke'in',

I agree....use Uncle Rod's boot camp. Great method to learn to play chords.

kaizersoza
10-18-2012, 07:32 AM
2 things firstly learning chords and simple songs ain't wrong, so don't be too hard on yourself, playing this way makes things fun and a hell of a lot more interesting, you can work on scales and fingerpicking as you go along, like fit says join UU+ you will get more fingerpicking tutorials on there than you can shake a stick at,

secondly I highly recommend Uncle Rods Boot Camp all the members of my club receive it on joining and fair play they are coming on in leaps and bounds, it is quite possibly one of THE best chord progression learning tools available on the internet today, so keep on strumming gonnorregan, your doing just fine

Hms
10-21-2012, 06:58 AM
On recommendation of this thread, found Uncle Rod's Boot Camp, similar to what I had already started to do. Strum, chord change, strum etc. with chords I had come across in the songs we play at our uke meets.
However, what do I do with the chords that my fat old newbie fingers cannot get around?
My plan is to get as close as I can to the correct fingering, thinking this will improve over time, without holding back the learning of the other chords.
Is my plan correct, or should I be taking some other approach?
By the way, thakns Uncle Rod for a great resource.
H

ukemunga
10-21-2012, 08:14 AM
Just practice very slowly so you can make the chord changes without altering your pace. As the muscle memory kicks in you'll gradually pick up the tempo until it becomes second nature.

OldePhart
10-21-2012, 08:40 AM
What ukemunga said plus - if you have a chord (or chord transition because that's what you're really practicing) that is giving you a lot more difficulty than others, then sometimes it helps to just take a full practice session or two and concentrate on the "problem child." Start very slowly, I mean crazy slow, if you have to and only speed up as you can make the change cleanly. This kind of practice tends to be very boring and drive family members to distraction - it is also very effective. Often I will find that in one or two days I can 'lick' a problem that haunted me for months. Once you have the trouble maker taken care of you can go back to a more balanced practice.

The same technique works with difficult picking sections - break it down to it small sections, work on each one until it's smooth, then combine them.

John

KenRice
10-21-2012, 08:52 AM
What ukemunga said plus - if you have a chord (or chord transition because that's what you're really practicing) that is giving you a lot more difficulty than others, then sometimes it helps to just take a full practice session or two and concentrate on the "problem child." Start very slowly, I mean crazy slow, if you have to and only speed up as you can make the change cleanly. This kind of practice tends to be very boring and drive family members to distraction - it is also very effective. Often I will find that in one or two days I can 'lick' a problem that haunted me for months. Once you have the trouble maker taken care of you can go back to a more balanced practice.

The same technique works with difficult picking sections - break it down to it small sections, work on each one until it's smooth, then combine them.

John

What length of time would you recommend practicing for? Does it change with experience? Thank you.

OldePhart
10-21-2012, 11:35 AM
What length of time would you recommend practicing for? Does it change with experience? Thank you.

That depends on the individual. Unless you are approaching this like a "job" (i.e., have to be on stage next week) then I would never practice past the point where something becomes frustrating and is making you mad. If that's ten minutes, thirty minutes, or six hours that's fine - that's ten minutes, etc. that you concentrated solely on your trouble spot. Once it begins to annoy you and you feel like you're getting worse stop that concentrated effort and move on to something more fun. Later (hours, or the next day, or what have you) do another concentrated effort on that trouble spot. You'll probably notice that each time you start at a higher level and then, one day, you'll look back and think, "gee, I don't know why that seemed like such trouble!"

Uncle Rod Higuchi
10-22-2012, 06:13 AM
Great advice OldePhart!

Divide and Conquer. I think that strategy works in many different situations :)

keep uke'in',

PS Thanks everybody, for the kind words :)

GinnyT11
10-22-2012, 07:22 AM
You'll probably notice that each time you start at a higher level and then, one day, you'll look back and think, "gee, I don't know why that seemed like such trouble!"

I agree with this. I was one of the many people who thought Bb a very hard chord. After a few weeks, I noticed that it wasn't difficult for me anymore, and I can play F-Bb-F-Bb with ease.

Tootler
10-22-2012, 10:53 AM
Much good advice here.

I agree there is nothing wrong to starting with learning songs and chords. That's how I started because the reason I took up the uke was to accompany myself singing. If your aims are different, then you will maybe want to take a different approach.

I learn new chords as and when I need them because they are necessary to a song I want to learn.

I don't think there is necessarily anything wrong with using your thumb on the G string when forming chords, though I try to avoid it if I can. I think it's a case of do it sparingly.

If you want to get away from using your thumb and learn to finger your chords with fingers only, then you must expect to go backwards initially as you will first have some "unlearning" to do, so don't be surprised if chord changes that were reasonably fluid previously become less so until you have learnt the new fingering. Initially you have to consciously make your fingers use the new fingering, but with practice it becomes automatic and your fingers eventually learn where to go without you having to think about it. This is what is called Muscle Memory.

hedgehogsontoast
10-22-2012, 11:01 AM
When I first started playing, I just played simple songs and chord sequences until the chord changes were completely fluid. Then, I would find songs with one or two more chords that I hadn't played before, and then learnt them, until I built up being able to play lot's of chord sequences fluently. The key though, is to just practise (although that wasn't a problem for me, I love playing uke!)

One thing I would say to anyone new reading this, is to learn some finger-picking songs early on; I didn't dp this, and had to put in quite a lot of effort to become a competent finger-picker.

But practise is the key!