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View Full Version : First post, uke newbie...Seeking help to break a bad strumming habit! :)



Cath
11-07-2012, 06:41 AM
Hi, I've just discovered this wonderful website and I'm very excited to see the terrific resources available!
I started playing the ukulele a few months ago, and I'm absolutely loving it. Having previously played the violin, piano and a bit of guitar, the uke is far and away the most enjoyable and satisfying instrument I've ever played.
When I started playing, I decided to concentrate on my left hand first, and sort out the right hand technique properly once I'd learned the chords. (A bad idea, I now realise! :o Much better to do both at once.) The consequence is, I've made pretty good progress with the left hand and learned lots of chords....but I got into the habit of strumming with my thumb, and I'm now struggling to switch to my index finger. I can hear that the sound is sweeter that way and chunking (which I'm currently trying to master) will be easier.
The problem I've hit is this: When I was strumming with my thumb, I must have got into the habit of slightly supporting the bottom of the uke with the index and middle finger of my right hand. So now I'm strumming with my finger, I find I kind of "lose control" of the uke as soon as I go up the fretboard or play a chord that involves barring all four strings. I've got so used to having that support underneath the instrument, I'm lost without it.
Is there a way round this? Am I doing something wrong? I'm really hoping I can get past this problem, as I feel like I've kind of gone backwards recently; having been playing quite fluently (albeit with the thumb) I'm now stopping and starting because of this "out of control" problem. I guess a strap would help, but I'd rather learn to do whatever everyone else is doing so I don't need one! :)
Apologies for the long post. Many thanks for reading this far, and for any tips offered on training myself to strum with the index finger.
Best wishes
Cath

Caddy65
11-07-2012, 06:49 AM
Being new to the uke myself, having played various other stringed instruments for over 50 years, I have found I have done much the same as you. I am looking forward to any help you receive on this.

Welcome to a very nice forum.

Cath
11-07-2012, 07:01 AM
Being new to the uke myself, having played various other stringed instruments for over 50 years, I have found I have done much the same as you. I am looking forward to any help you receive on this.

Welcome to a very nice forum.

Thank you for your kind welcome. I'm glad to hear that I'm not alone in this! :) This seems like a lovely website; I'm sure it will make a huge difference to my ukulele experience!

Mandarb
11-07-2012, 07:04 AM
Welcome to the UU. There are some great videos on the main page where Aldrine explains how to hold a uke and how to strum with your index finger. Good luck and keep at it.

sukie
11-07-2012, 07:06 AM
Welcome!

The thumb thing? Maybe don't stop. My teacher yips at me sometimes to USE my thumb for strumming. It does sound richer. I prefer my pointer finger. It's easier. But it doesn't sound better. Nothing wrong with "holding" your ukulele either. For fingerpicking I do it a lot.

Hate to say it, but you already do know this -- it's all practice. :-)

Have fun. That's the most important thing.

ukulelecowboy
11-07-2012, 09:13 AM
I would seriously consider a strap. I know the purists would disagree but the degree of control is exceptional. If you don't want to have strap buttons installed then you might want to at least consider a "Uke Leash."

Supporting the ukulele with a strap allows for much more freedom and flexibility when playing. You can really begin to vary your strum techniques , etc, and concentrate on chord shapes and voicings.

I use a strap on every ukulele that I play when we perform. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Mike

Cath
11-07-2012, 09:47 AM
Thank you so much for the encouragement and advice. I really appreciate it. The uke leash sounds like a good idea, I love the idea of not having to worry about supporting the instrument. I'm also experimenting with different "holds", and I guess it's all about sort of anchoring the instrument to your body with your right arm...is that how most people solve the control problem?

I guess it's all trial and error and lots of practice! Definitely going to try the strap though.

Thanks again for the replies.

BlueLatitude
11-07-2012, 10:04 AM
A uke leash really helped me at the start. I don't use it too much any more (though I'm still very much a beginner). At least not while sitting, and I haven't actually ever played standing up (when I probably would haul it out again). It gives you one less thing to have to think about.

Cath
11-07-2012, 10:14 AM
A uke leash really helped me at the start. I don't use it too much any more (though I'm still very much a beginner). At least not while sitting, and I haven't actually ever played standing up (when I probably would haul it out again). It gives you one less thing to have to think about.

That's exactly what I feel like I need. Something that allows me to focus fully on playing and learning, without having to worry about "controlling" the instrument when it kind of jumps out of my grip.

My only concern is that if I get too used to the leash in those early learning stages, I might get "dependent" on it and not be able to adjust to playing without it. Is that likely to be a problem, do you think? Or is it likely that when my confidence and skill levels improve, I'll be able to wean myself off the leash (a bit like stabilisers on a bike)? :)

BlueLatitude
11-07-2012, 10:20 AM
That's exactly what I feel like I need. Something that allows me to focus fully on playing and learning, without having to worry about "controlling" the instrument when it kind of jumps out of my grip.

My only concern is that if I get too used to the leash in those early learning stages, I might get "dependent" on it and not be able to adjust to playing without it. Is that likely to be a problem, do you think? Or is it likely that when my confidence and skill levels improve, I'll be able to wean myself off the leash (a bit like stabilisers on a bike)? :)

No, I don't think you should have a problem with that. In a couple of weeks you should be comfortable enough that you can just pick up your uke and play it. You won't even notice you don't have the leash if you're sitting.

Mind you, a lot of the really good players use a strap of some sort.

Cath
11-07-2012, 10:24 AM
No, I don't think you should have a problem with that. In a couple of weeks you should be comfortable enough that you can just pick up your uke and play it. You won't even notice you don't have the leash if you're sitting.

Mind you, a lot of the really good players use a strap of some sort.

That's really helpful, many thanks again for your advice. What a great forum! :)

Barbablanca
11-07-2012, 10:39 AM
Benvinguda Cath (as we'd say to welcome you here in Catalonia! ) I'm a Scouser whose been in self imposed exile since the 1980s.
Whereabouts are you from in the UK?

I had a Uke for years; it was a terrible cheap one from China. (Chinese quality today is nothing like as bad) - put me off taking the instrument seriously. Then I bought a much better quality Romanian Tenor Uke a couple of years back and started to get into it. Now I love the Uke family!

My only advice would be to work through the videos on the main site (and others that members here have on Youtube). It is amazing how generous the people on this site/forum are with their time and knowledge.

Happy strumming/picking from Barcelona!

uke_rob
11-07-2012, 10:49 AM
I use my thumb as part of my strum. I usually hit the string with the thumb on my way up. I used to always strum with the thumb when I first started also. It's fine. If you grown your nail out a bit then you can get a nice sound off the nail going down, and then just come back up with the flesh.

In terms of holding, try and use your forearm to hold the uke into you and into place and I use my little finger to almost anchor/pivot. If that makes sense?

lovinforkful
11-07-2012, 12:33 PM
That's exactly what I feel like I need. Something that allows me to focus fully on playing and learning, without having to worry about "controlling" the instrument when it kind of jumps out of my grip.

My only concern is that if I get too used to the leash in those early learning stages, I might get "dependent" on it and not be able to adjust to playing without it. Is that likely to be a problem, do you think? Or is it likely that when my confidence and skill levels improve, I'll be able to wean myself off the leash (a bit like stabilisers on a bike)? :)

I don't think you'll have a problem. I used to use an UkeLeash quite often when I was just learning to play and now I never have/choose to use it, I am able to keep the ukulele to my body with my right arm like many other players.

fitncrafty
11-07-2012, 12:59 PM
That's exactly what I feel like I need. Something that allows me to focus fully on playing and learning, without having to worry about "controlling" the instrument when it kind of jumps out of my grip.

My only concern is that if I get too used to the leash in those early learning stages, I might get "dependent" on it and not be able to adjust to playing without it. Is that likely to be a problem, do you think? Or is it likely that when my confidence and skill levels improve, I'll be able to wean myself off the leash (a bit like stabilisers on a bike)? :)
Ihad a uke leash when I first started, I used it all the time. It helped a lot. I have been playing for 2 yrs. I don't always use the leash anymore. HOwever I started to learn new techiques and got it back out to support the neck again while I was learning and I am now able to use the uke without... Good luck. .It really doesn't sound like you are doing anything 'wrong' at all.. have fun!

Cath
11-07-2012, 10:07 PM
Wow, what a friendly forum! I'm overwhelmed by all the welcomes and helpful advice! :) Special thanks for the Catalonian welcome, Barbablanca. :) I'm in Kent in the UK. I fell in love with the uke after going to a few Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain gigs about ten years ago; I was lucky enough to see them before they got huge, (believe it or not I saw them play FREE concerts in the Festival hall foyer more than once! These days they're filling the Albert Hall!) That was what got me interested, and this year I finally took the plunge, bought a Kala KA-CEM, and now I'm totally hooked. Trouble is, I just want to play it all the time, to the detriment of everything else I should be doing! :)

Thanks again everyone for such constructive advice re the problem I posted about. I now feel reassured that I won't be creating problems for myself further down the line if I use the leash to get "settled in" with and keep the instrument under control while I'm mastering the strumming patterns etc. As one very helpful poster said, it's one less thing to worry about and that's bound to help.

Thanks again! It's all very much appreciated!

addicted2myuke
11-08-2012, 09:48 AM
I have 3 ukuleles and they all have straps. I cannot play without them. The control that you have with a strap is amazing. Helps alot with barred chords. If your uke does not have a button, install one, and or have one installed by a luthier. That way, you can make your own, by attaching one end of some flat nylon strapping to the button and slip the other end under your strings on the head and adjust with a small plastic belt buckle. You can make this for around $3.00. You'll be amazed at how much easier it is to play with a strap.The bottom line is... being able to play your instrument no matter how you get there.Ukulele players are among the friendliest folk anywhere. Best of luck.

Cath
11-08-2012, 10:45 AM
Forgive me for picking everyone's brains even further, but I'm interested to know what type of strap people would recommend? I'm very keen to try this out (after reading the posts on here I'm sure it will help enormously with the control thing) but I'm not sure which type would be best. Thanks in advance for any pointers. :)

Edited to add: Sorry, addicted2myuke, I only just noticed your post after I'd written mine! Thanks for that advice, that's great. I'm a bit nervous about the idea of adding a button just yet (I'm still in that honeymoon period with a brand new uke so I'm reluctant to do anything too drastic to it!) although I daresay that will change when I've settled into it! Thanks again for the tip.

Shastastan
11-08-2012, 11:35 AM
I'm still very much a rookie, but I could see the benefits of a strap right away and from reading posts on this forum. I didn't know which one to get, but knew that I wanted a strap rather than a leash. Someone recommended a mandolin strap. The guy at the guitar shop recommended a leather one, made in Canada. It's perfect for me and I like it better than the wider nylon Kala strap that I bought for around $10. I plan on getting another leather one since I'm too lazy to change straps from uke to uke.

ukuleletown
11-08-2012, 04:35 PM
Straps are nice BUT I made myself learn to play standing up without a strap while holding the ukulele in the traditional manner. I think there are some benefits to learning to play like this but I'm not one of those anti-strap guys ;-)