Soprano forearm pain

aaronkb

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I recently scored a lovely Kamoa soprano for $90 with shipping and I love the thing, but it’s starting to cause me forearm pain and tendinitis flare-ups. This isn’t an issue with concerts, tenors or baris, but with the soprano my forearm is resting on the edge in a way that’s really painful. Any suggestions/hacks to avoid this? I don’t wanna give up playing it!

Thanks,
Aaron

EDIT: I somehow managed to leave out half of the explanation I meant to write. It’s from the edge of the body digging into my forearm when I rest it there. See video below.
 
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man0a

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Where is the pain? Which arm? Can you post a video of how you are playing the ukulele?
 

aaronkb

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Where is the pain? Which arm? Can you post a video of how you are playing the ukulele?

I don’t know what distracted me when I was writing the original post but I seem to have skipped the entire explanation I intended to write. It’s just from the way my right forearm is resting on the body and I’m trying to figure out a solution.

Thanks for responding to such an absurdly vague post and asking clarifying questions!
 

rainbow21

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When I duplicate your position without an uke and place my left hand over that area that is bothering you and then wiggle my fingers, it is understandable why you are getting pain/tendinitis... I can feel that area straining without any playing.

Without any expertise, it seems a starting point is to reposition your uke, likely on your left leg so that you are not "chicken winging" your elbow and straining your shoulder. You still want a similar/same body position as when you are playing your other scale ukes so move the uke to accommodate your posture, rather than changing your posture to adjust to the uke size. Or angle the uke so the headstock is pointing much more forward so your elbow (and with less wrist bend/strain) can go back some rather than out. Experiment to eliminate the strain.
 
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aaronkb

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When I duplicate your position without an uke and place my left hand over that area that is bothering you and then wiggle my fingers, it is understandable why you are getting pain/tendinitis... I can feel that area straining without any playing.

Without any expertise, it seems a starting point is to reposition your uke, likely on your left leg so that you are not "chicken winging" your elbow and straining your shoulder. You still want a similar/same body position as when you are playing your other scale ukes so move the uke to accommodate your posture, rather than changing your posture to adjust to the uke size. Or angle the uke so the headstock is pointing much more forward so your elbow (and with less wrist bend/strain) can go back some rather than out. Experiment to eliminate the strain.
Sound advice, thanks! Gonna give these suggestions a go.
 

man0a

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I don't lean on top of ukulele, especially when playing a soprano. My right arm position is similar to this when I'm playing while sitting, with my arm more in front than on top of the ukulele. He plays several different instruments; the first 2 are sopranos.
 

clear

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Since the way you're holding it is painful for you, then IMHO definitely try some other ways to hold it. I've made a short video to demo my hold; it works well for me for soprano and concerts. This hold also has the benefit of remaining the same when sitting or standing.

 

besley

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Sounds like a good reason to try a strap, as most folks would not play a soprano having it resting on your knee. Maybe not forever, but at least long enough to experiment with different positions.
 

man0a

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If you don't want to rest the ukulele on your knee, you can lean back in the chair and rest it on your belly like Ohta-San. A strap on a soprano when you are sitting down just gets in the way IMHO.
 

kerneltime

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Don’t shy away from a strap, not having to keep the uke in place frees up soo many muscles when playing and improves overall playing as well. Take a look at a video from Samantha Muir, she has impeccable technique and she always uses a strap.
 

donboody

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My approach to a strap is that everyone needs one until they don’t. I still do. I can play without one, but why? I’m better with it on. YMMV.

EDIT: again YMMV but most people IRL who see me playing ukulele with a strap are more confused by the ukulele than the strap.
 

Kenn2018

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As I understand it, the right upper arm should be as straight up and down as possible. Relaxed and not pushing your shoulder forward or back.
Ditto the left arm. So you angle the neck out from the base to be able to fret.

To me it looks as though you have all of the weight of your right arm resting on the edge of the lower bout. You want to move your arm across the front so that you are pushing the bottom half/quarter into your ribs. Not on the upper edge. Play with the anges and the positions until your arms are loose and relaxed. And your hands still reach the areas where you want to play.

Not only are you compressing nerves and tendons, blood vessels and muscles, your shoulder is all pushed forward and tensed up and will eventually start hurting your should which will also radiate pain.

Try playing standing. Get comfortable and note how your arms naturally fall into place as you tilt the neck up and press into the bottom front while angling the neck out away from your body. Then duplicate this as much as possible while sitting down.

Do not sit cross legged. Sit in an armless chair or stool if you have one. Try not to hunch over.

I only play tenors, and the dynamcs are slightly different. I use a strap so I don't have to use my right hand to press the uke into my body to hold the body of the uke. And It frees up my left hand from trying to hold the neck in the crook of my thumb and finger. Less to worry about. Much easier to play. Especially since you're a pretty big guy trying to play a smaller instrument.

You can get an uke with a beveled armrest or attach an armrest. Though the attached armrest probably won't work with the way you are currently holding your uke.

Look at videos of soprano players holding their ukes as they play standing and sitting. The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Briton has some soprano players. I think I remember Barry Maz at gotaukulele.com talking about big people playing soprano sized ukes and showing pictures of him doing so. He's 6'3" or taller.
 

man0a

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From the Ukulele Underground YouTube channel. How to hold your ukulele.
 

Kenn2018

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From the Ukulele Underground YouTube channel. How to hold your ukulele.
It's more like a lever. The right arm gently pushes the bottom of the uke into your chest while the left arm has a cradle that the neck sits in.

The uke should angle upward and away from your chest.
 

CPG

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This video discusses hand/wrist positioning in some detail starting at about 1:20


I really only play sopranos and I like to mostly play without a strap, but honestly it comes with compromises. I just starting messing around with some of Samantha Muir's and John King's classical finger picking stuff and in doing so have been finding ways to raise the uke up and get the neck up around 45 degrees without having to rely on supporting the neck with my left hand. I do this either by crossing my left leg over might right and leaning the uke against my left leg (almost like a classical guitar but with my left leg higher to support the small intrument) or I just grab my little strap that hooks on the sound hole. It gives me a lot more freedom in both the left and right hands and it's really made me rethink the use of straps which I have in the past avoided like the plague for playing my sopranos.
 
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