Given up tenor due to hand pain/arthritis?

mikelz777

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Over time and in multiple threads I seem to recall that some players have mentioned giving up on playing tenors due to arthritis and/or hand pain. Has that ever been your experience? If so, was it due to more string pressure required to play tenors? A growing inability to play with the wider spacing? Neither? Both? Some other reason? I'd be interested in hearing your reason for moving on from the tenor. I've been toying with the idea of a tenor and I would like to hear how your experience might compare with mine.
 

Aline

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I don't like the thicker unyielding strings of a tenor so I generally substitute with DR fluorocarbon. I also tune in F which gives me a mellow sound as well as less tension. This works well for me in playing classical or fingerstyle.
 

KohanMike

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I only have tenors, on most of them I have the action lowered at the nut to make the first fret easier. But my big change is because of nerve damage to my neck spinal cord from radiation treatments for cancer in 1973, I found that my thinline ukes are much easier to play, so of my 8 ukes, I'm keeping 2 thinlines, bought 2 more, and raffling off my 6 standard depth ones to members of my uke group.

Michael Kohan in Los Angeles, Beverly Grove near the Beverly Center
4 tenor thinline cutaway ukes, 3 thinline acoustic bass ukes, 5 solid body bass ukes
•Donate to The Ukulele Kids Club, they provide ukuleles to children in hospital music therapy programs. www.theukc.org
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clear

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No arthritis here, but the thicker tenor body just doesn't fit well under my forearm. I need a strap to play it comfortably; and I dislike straps on ukes. So, no tenors for me (although I've tried many).
 

anthonyg

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Tenors certainly have more string tension than Concerts do at g,C,E,A tuning, so from very early on in my ukulele journey I detuned them to E,A,C#,F#. The instrument sounded SO much better like that, that I haven't looked back. F,A#,D,G works as well.

If you insist on g,C,E,A tuning, then I would stay with Concert size, which is native to this tuning.
 
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TerryM

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I've only been playing with ukuleles since Feb, and I haven't given up tenors, so not sure you can use my feedback. I do have some arthritis in both hands, though, and I don't find tenors any worse than concerts. The tension difference is noticable, but I've been able to find strings that are comfortable and still produce the sound I like.

If you can get to a store you should try one out. May not tell you about long-term comfort, but will give you an idea of reach and relative size fit.
 

Cadia

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I have arthritis in all my finger joints. My left pinky on my fretting hand, in particular, has trouble bending too far. I find my tenors are actually easier to play than my sopranos. The closer fret spacing of the smaller instruments makes it harder for me, because my finger joints have to bend more to fret. It is the bending that hurts and is difficuIt. I do like Uke Logic soft tension strings, both for the sound and the feel. I dislike thick, high tension strings. Action on all my ukes is low and comfortable.
 

Tin Ear

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I have no arthritis or hand pain and I settled on Tenors awhile back as easiest to fret and play. Size, shape and flexibilty of the fingers and shape of your hand and technique all play into it all. Add in stiffness or arthritis and I don't think I'd make any broad generalization.

If you want to try a tenor and haven't, beg, borrow or buy one and give it a try. Shape of the neck, width of nut all that plays a factor too. So you may need to try a few and see if it works for you. True of any size Uke. The ukes and varying brands all different and everybody's hands are different. Strings too with different tensions.

I wouldn't make a generalization about uke size for anybody. Just have to put a bunch of them in your hands and see what works for you. And I think it can change as you go along with your abilities, skills and father time and overall health, flexibility and so forth.
 

Contrails

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Concert strings on tenor uke will reduce the string tension. I find that very comfortable and I can play for hours with no soreness. Another thing that can affect pain is the thickness of the neck. I find that super thin necks causes me to press a lot harder especially in the first fret position with bar chords. Those with really small hands might get away with it.
 

hollisdwyer

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I gave up playing guitar because I wore out the cartilage in my wrist. The bones started grinding together and caused a lot of pain if I played half an hour or more.
so I sold all my guitars and transitioned to Ukes. My left wrist, particularly, requires support and have found that the ‘Shock Doctor 822’ wrist brace allows me to play 2-3 hour gigs.
I have recently culled my herd down to 3 sonically specific instruments (all custom made), a 4 string tenor, an 8 string tenor and a concert Banjolele. All have a radius fretboard and a wide nut width (38-40mm). I also use wound 3rd and 4th strings as part of my own ‘Frankenstein’ string sets.
 

Kenn2018

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Different builds require slightly different posture and playing. Necks make a big difference. Some instruments bother my arthritis more than others. As does the tension, thickness and bendy-ness of the strings. (I know bendyness is not a word.)
A very low setup/action is less aggravating than a "normal" setup. I can use a softer touch when I fret. Radiused fretboards seem to help a little. But I don't think they affect my hands as much as the setup or shape of the back of the neck.

I get a tendonitis in my wrist if I am not careful to position my hand and arm correctly when I fret.

Your body's positions will change depending upon the size of the ukuleles you play. You hold and strum or pick differently for each. So your muscles and connective tissues will react in slightly different ways to each size.

Oh, my posture also suffers if the uke doesn't have side fret markers. I get hunched over if I'm trying to see the front makers. Fortunately, I don't look at the markers as much as I used to.
 

M3Ukulele

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I only play tenors. I do have pain in hand especially my thumbs. My so,union is use concert strings on tenor and tune down half step to b flat. Much nicer sound, less tension. Much nicer to play. If thumb pain is real bad, I have to put down the ukulele. It comes with age. I would not eliminate tenor strictly for pain. Mind you I really have not played concerts or soprano. I just like the size and bigger sound, more fretboard room. Recently, my nicest surprise was putting low G concert Red on my tenor Fluke. Sound is so good for that ukulele. Good luck!
 

ploverwing

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I'm a noob, so put it down to user error if you will, but I agree:
The closer fret spacing of the smaller instruments makes it harder for me, because my finger joints have to bend more to fret. It is the bending that hurts and is difficuIt.
 

jkib

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I have arthritis in all four fingers at the 1st joint of my fretting hand. Certainly makes playing painful at times. Tunning down to F Bb D G helps and actually sounds pretty good. I've done this on one of my concert's.
I'm allergic to NSAIDS, so that compounds the issue of trying to reduce inflammation. Aspercreame helps, but can't play with that on my fingers.
Any experience with foods or herbs to reduce inflammation?
Don't give up, there has to be a solutions with strings and or tunning.
 

Jan D

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Any experience with foods or herbs to reduce inflammation?
Turmeric and ginger both have anti-inflammatory qualities. I have rheumatoid arthritis, so one of the things I do daily is drink a cup of hot tea consisting of two teabags - one turmeric, the other ginger. I find that it works fairly quickly and definitely improves the flexibility of my finger joints. Turmeric is not highly bio-available, so when consuming it (in any format), be sure to include a bit of black pepper (or piperine). This will help your body more easily absorb the turmeric’s key anti-inflammatory ingredient (curcumin).
 

ripock

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I find it surprising that moving from a tenor to a concert could really have so much impact. The difference in size is so small. I am not saying that I don't believe you guys. Obviously I am wrong; I just never would have guessed that a couple of inches could make so much difference.
 

Tin Ear

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Turmeric and ginger both have anti-inflammatory qualities. I have rheumatoid arthritis, so one of the things I do daily is drink a cup of hot tea consisting of two teabags - one turmeric, the other ginger. I find that it works fairly quickly and definitely improves the flexibility of my finger joints. Turmeric is not highly bio-available, so when consuming it (in any format), be sure to include a bit of black pepper (or piperine). This will help your body more easily absorb the turmeric’s key anti-inflammatory ingredient (curcumin).
What does that tea brew taste like ? Do you need to add a little brandy or whiskey to it to help it out ? ;)

Not sure I'd be brave enough to try drinking that tea and maybe would just opt to soak my fingers in it instead for relief.

Turmeric, ginger and add black pepper to boot - I think the black pepper in any drink would take some getting used too.
 

jkib

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Ginger tea is good, and also helps immensely with an upset stomach. Turmeric tea doesn't sound too appealing to me, but have been reading lately about the benefits of it. May have to give it a try in capsule form. Thanks for the advice.
 

UkerDanno

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I have a Martin IZ tenor, the nut width is narrower than normal, even for a soprano. I was never a fan of tenor because of the longer fret spacing, but got one for low G. At first it was a little weird to get used to, but now I like it and I think it's easier to play than my concert, which is/was my favorite! I use Living Water strings and the tension is really nice and soft.

I have Psoriatic Arthritis, so every joint is sore and stiff.