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Thread: Is there a "right way" to fret?

  1. #1

    Default Is there a "right way" to fret? (trying to figure out wrist/hand position)

    I'm just starting to learn uke & leaning from videos, books, online, etc. Im working hard on learning & practicing chords but I'm almost terrified of developing a bad habit that will be hard to break later on or will limit me in what I can do later on because of it.

    Is there only one "right way" or perhaps the better way to say it is is there a "right hand shape" to fret? In this case, Im not even talking about finger positions as much as wrist position. I'm trying to get only the very end tips of my fingers on the strings and to drop my wrist down so that for the most part, the palm of my hand is parallel to the neck/fretboard and I have a lot of space in the "hold" made by my rounded fingers. I've been drilling moving between G & Em (the full switch, not just moving the pinkie up to the C string) but I've been noticing that I'm getting a lot of pain in the inside my wrist when I stop doing the chords. I don't know if I'm exaggerating the drop wrist position and rounded fingers with space to the fretboard or if it's simply because I'm new at this (I tend to think the former as I tend to be a "more is better" person). Since I have a genetic disorder that affects my connective tissue, this makes it easier for me to get injured doing such things - so I just want to be smart about it. The other issue I've had difficulty with on fretting is that the neck moves when I switch chords making things infinitely harder. I've added a temporary neck strap after reading that so many people here in this community use them (which was encouraging!). This has helped a bit already but it also has bearing on my fretting hold. I was watching a video that someone posted here in the forum and the player is incredible. The first thing I noticed is that she does a very different hold that looks secure on the neck and perhaps more natural for bending fingers. The thing I'm finding is that if you leave a lot of space between your fretting fingers/hand and the fretboard (with your thumb on the back} when you release your fingers to switch chords, you have no opposing force to hold the neck still. Is that making sense? Should I be trying to do more what the girl is in the video? I've watched every "how to hold a uke" video I can find as well as reading articles & forum posts but I'm still not very clear on the best position of the fretting hand and I desperately don't want to create bad habits starting out. How much wrist/hand pain is normal for starting out (not including fingertips, of course) and how much is saying that I'm using an unnatural position for me?

    Here's the video! This fretting/hold position more along the fretboard rather than fingers perpendicular to it certainly hasn't held this girl back or limited/diminished what she's able to do. So how much is about "doing it right" and how much is about "doing it right and comfortable *for you*"? https://youtu.be/4tNdNFACU00

    Any thoughts and advice would be hugely appreciated! Thanks so much!

    Edit:
    PS As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. So I decided to take a few snaps to get your thoughts. I think in doing this I may have helped answer my question but still would like to hear from people who know more than I do. The photos show different angles of the two wrist positions: forced dropped and more relaxed. In particular, as well as the forced dropped causing significant wrist pain, I have trouble getting my ring finger to bend in from that position to get the string on the too rather the the pad of my finger. This is one thing I noticed from the girl in the video above, her fingers curled very naturally towards the fretboard, not forced. I feel this is moreso for me with the less drastic wrist position. But people who know uke say to make sure there is a lot of room (sort of making a tunnel or hole) between your curled fingers and the fretboard. Is the relaxed position enough "space" in there to be correct? Which way should I proceed to learn? If pain should be my guide, the the relaxed but if I just need to develop strength, I can try to push through. https://photos.app.goo.gl/ogZnszgo5kuGVRrD3
    Last edited by lifereinspired; 02-19-2018 at 02:31 PM. Reason: Added PS & photo link

  2. #2
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    I have a few contradictory thoughts. Being a perhaps more advanced novice player I have some insight. First of all, this was (and frequently still is) my way of forming Em. I think the main consideration is "does this technique help you at a particular musical moment and is it efficient." Unquestionably it is great in going from G to Em, however in my case it became a crutch and a hindrance. I didn't learn to play Em in any other way. I couldn't play it any other way. And as you can imagine there are musical contexts in which this isn't the most efficient way of playing. For example, I was playing in G and I needed to get from Gmaj7 to Em. It would have been a burden to un-barre the second fret, form the G shape, and add my pinky to the C string. It was more efficient to keep the barre down and just add fingers to the E and C strings. Therefore I would suggest learning to play Em in different ways...including ways that utilize your pinky. Okay...I'm starting to ramble. I'm merely saying don't paint yourself into a corner by only using one technique. Use it when it works and use other things that work better in different situations. You'll find the more you do, the more you'll be able to do.

  3. #3

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    The pictures make what you are asking more clear. Definitely go with the more relaxed wrist. It actually looks pretty good. Try to keep your hands and wrists as relaxed as possible. Brittni was using more of an electric guitar hold for most of that video, but if you look at more videos of good players you will see them switch to what could be described as a classical guitar hold as needed.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by seesar View Post
    The pictures make what you are asking more clear. Definitely go with the more relaxed wrist. It actually looks pretty good. Try to keep your hands and wrists as relaxed as possible. Brittni was using more of an electric guitar hold for most of that video, but if you look at more videos of good players you will see them switch to what could be described as a classical guitar hold as needed.
    Thank you. That's what I needed to know. I don't want to push towards something that isn't needed or worse, bad, since it causes pain. I've been tryng to use the more relaxed position in the last day & the pain has almost completely gone. Te photos actually helped me, too, just to see the wrist from different positions than from behind the uke.

    One thing, @seesar. Could you please explain a little bit about what you mean by electric guitar hold vs classical guitar? I'd love to better understand the difference.

  5. #5

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    There really is no 'right way' as long as you are pressing the strings firmly enough to get a clear sound and also close enough to the frets that the pitch is right. It is not uncommon when you start to have a bit of a death grip on the neck which will tire out your muscles and make you feel uncomfortable. (also a lot of the shapes you are making are unfamiliar so your muscles need to learn the movements to become comfortable) Being able to relax will help a lot with smooth movement from one chord to the next but it really only comes with practice, knowing just the right amount of pressure on the strings. As to whether the palm is parallel to the fingerboard, I really wouldn't worry about that at all - many of the 'trickier' chords require your hand to be in quite a range of positions that would be impossible (for me at least!) if you were trying to keep your palm in a fixed position. Just relax and enjoy!

  6. #6
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    Regrding a hand hold and you are a beginner. I suggest you not start straight at least with thumb behind the neck. Except when it is needed. Barre chords and some more difficult, you will need that to be able to fit the fingers.

    There is no fixed hand position and your wrist should be able to turn freely, sometimes into the tuners ( I can't express it better). Main thing the hand hold should change for to better adjust various chords.

  7. #7
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    With regard to wrist position: you will definitely find that certain shapes are easier to play or switch between with more curl in the wrist, around the neck of the uke. This position allows your fingers to come down more perpendicular to the strings and attack them from "directly above" so to speak. In particular I find that this is true for four-fingered chords or shapes with a large stretch.

    There are other chords, like barres, that require less curl in the wrist. Barres are almost impossible to play without unwrapping your wrist a bit so that the pad of a finger segment can make good contact with the 4th string.

    In other situations, like when playing an open Am7(0000) or when sliding my hand some distance on the neck between chords, I like to rest the bottom edge of the neck on the outside of the ball of my index finger for additional support. To do this, it is necessary to turn my wrist so the palm is facing somewhat more down the neck toward the body of the uke. This position makes playing certain shapes more difficult, but it helps me not to drop my uke

    In short, there are advantages to becoming comfortable with different wrist positions and discovering when each position works best for you.

    I think you should use thumb behind neck frethand position as a beginner. It is a fine position for maximizing control and dexterity for many transitions. Ultimately you will find it to be a useful tool to have at your command. But it is not "the one" answer.

  8. #8
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    I strongly disagree with thumb always behind the neck approach. Mopman maybe left some agreement that is not one answer.

    With ukulele as a strumming rythmic effects instrument, you will need be able to have a solid hold when tapping on top and other strumming techniques. Better hold than only your fingers on the fretboard!

    So learn both ways, as you should. Definately don't start with that approach. And only after what style music making you want make with your uke decide.

  9. #9
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    There’s a standard way to fret, as you recognize. But if you have physical limitations, then it’s OK to accommodate them. I have some hardware in my left wrist, leftover from a fracture that predates learning the uke. For a few years, barred chords drove me nuts. They still aren’t easy but they’re doable. It took a lot of practice and a lot of workarounds until I felt more comfortable playing them.

    But if it actually hurts to play using certain shapes, then don’t. Maybe you’ll get there eventually. Just have fun.
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  10. #10
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    Personally, I have learned a lot regarding holding and fretting from Matt Dahlberg. He is a great teacher and has done some free Webcam Sessions with Ukulele Underground. There are three in particular that should help you:

    Session 1: https://youtu.be/7jEXhiEaOtQ

    Session 2: https://youtu.be/wPQK5XOZVdI

    Session 41: https://youtu.be/SBftSrpNZJc

    All the sessions are great (there are 52) and I have learned a lot, but I think those 3 in particular should help.
    Main players:

    Soprano: Kiwaya KS-1 | Van Pelt sinker redwood/claro walnut

    Concert: Collings UC2 | Collings UC2K | Talsma Style 3 | 16" Ono | Ono Pineapple

    Tenor: Collings UT3SMB

    Baritone: LoPrinzi

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