Electric Ukes better for tendonitis?

Strum

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3 months ago I got tendonitis in both elbows from playing my acoustic ukes—worse in my chording hand. It's the first time I've had this problem in 1 1/2 years of playing daily—must have over-practiced. I have stopped playing, but hope this will go away in a few months. If it does, I'm thinking of trying an electric ukulele—not electrified acoustic, but the kind that looks like a Fender Strat. I tried a friend's electric guitar and it took 25% of the effort to press the strings compared to my acoustic ukes. Not sure if my style will have to change—I like combining finger style with chording—but it's better than not playing at all. Can anyone speak to the ease of playing an electric? Or downsides?
 

Neil_O

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I think the easier fretting will help; it helps me. A very low setup on an electric unwound-steel string instrument allows for a lighter touch, as you noticed. You can fret and strum in a very chill manner, and just turn up the volume to taste.

It will probably make you play completely differently.

I think that a strap also helps your fretting hand to move freely without having to think about clutching the neck.
 

besley

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I would doubt that this will help as much as a good setup will. I just compared the effort to fret a D chord on my Gibson CS-356 electric with 10 gauge strings with the effort to fret a G on my Klos carbon fiber tenor uke, and it felt to me as if the uke took less pressure. Get someone to set up your uke with no more than 0.020" action at the first fret, and 0.085" at the 12th (like my Klos), and you will probably have a much easier time of it. Even if you were to get a steel string uke, you will still need to be sure it is well set up for it to be easy to play.
 

anthonyg

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It's all in the setup. Solid body electric instruments can and mostly do have lighter actions because they are usually setup with lighter strings and lower actions.
The instrument you get still needs to be setup properly and this is not always the case.

Now to take this off in another direction. Take some actions in support of your liver health. This is often the actual cause of joit pain and its not just about over playing.
When I was younger I had much joint and tendon pain, now I'm better and I've never played or practiced more than I do now.
Check out a Dr called Eric Berg on YouTube.
 

Neil_O

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I would doubt that this will help as much as a good setup will. I just compared the effort to fret a D chord on my Gibson CS-356 electric with 10 gauge strings with the effort to fret a G on my Klos carbon fiber tenor uke, and it felt to me as if the uke took less pressure. Get someone to set up your uke with no more than 0.020" action at the first fret, and 0.085" at the 12th (like my Klos), and you will probably have a much easier time of it. Even if you were to get a steel string uke, you will still need to be sure it is well set up for it to be easy to play.
Good advice on setup. Do you think that unwound steel strings can be set up lower (and played harder) before they buzz?
Is your Gibson radiused? My experience tells me a flat fretboard can allow strings to get setup lower.
 

rainbow21

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I am struck how at the same time both elbows developed tendonitis. That is an incredible coincidence if the cause is playing your ukuleles since the right elbow and left are so different in all they do (position, action, etc.), especially if you are playing as you have for over a year. I am not sure that lesser string tension will solve the problem for both elbows. Have you done any different activities that might actually be the cause?

Anyway, regarding string tension, have you tried lessening the tension with lighter strings or a smaller scale size? Tenor string tension is uncomfortable for me so I only play concerts or sopranos. And, as mentioned, proper setup with low action is a good starting point. Good luck on figuring this out.
 

besley

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Good advice on setup. Do you think that unwound steel strings can be set up lower (and played harder) before they buzz?
Is your Gibson radiused? My experience tells me a flat fretboard can allow strings to get setup lower.
Well yes every Gibson electric has a radiused fretboard, but it really doesn't make a difference, since the saddle matches the radius of the fretboard and nut. What would make a difference to buzz is how flat the neck is (amount of neck relief), overall action height, how even the frets are (any high frets?), how hard you strum, and string tension.
 

Strum

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Thank you all for the suggestions!
AnthonyG, my wife is an acupuncturist and will be very interested in hearing your suggestions about liver health! I will check out Dr. Eric Berg.
Rainbow21, the tendonitis is much, much stronger in my chording hand. It's very light in my strumming hand and goes away after a day or two of flair up. I can't think of what else can be causing this, except since covid I haven't been doing light weights like I did before, so I've lost some muscle tone. Once the tendonitis recedes, I plan to gently work up some strength there. Also, I have always used a strap, but just before this happened I had been trying to hold my tenors without one. I can't see how this might cause tendonitis but it's another thing I'd done differently right before it happened. Maybe I was tensing up.
Besley, I'll check out the action on my ukes.