Sore left thumb when playing ukulele due to arthritis - is there any way around this?

Peter Frary

Well-known member
Feb 21, 2019
I fret by using light pressure from my left arm (biceps) bearing on the fingertips. The left-hand thumb stays fairly loose and serves as a guide rather than a clamp. It's a technique I learned as a classical guitarist and merely transferred it to the 'ukulele when I started some years back. As a teacher, I've seen many guitar students with left-hand problems due to clamping between the thumb and fingers—it can can painful if you play a lot. Of course, to use light arm pressure bearing on the fingers requires the instrument be held securely—cradled or locked against the body—so it doesn't move.

The other thing to consider is the amount of pressure required to fret a note or chord is extremely small—just enough to prevent buzzing or muffled tones. To maintain a light touch, you also need to fret as close as possible to the fret wire. Finding the lightest touch possible is important for not only hand health, but for speed and dexterity. Most players press way too hard.

Of course you want the instrument correctly setup for ease of playing or all of the above will be for naught.