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Thread: Beginner problems, Chords

  1. #1

    Default Beginner problems, Chords

    My 73-year-old mom has had her Luna Tribal Tenor uke (1-3/8—-35 mm nut width) for a couple of months now, practicing twice daily. She STILL can’t play the F or G7 chord. In fact, I think she can only play one-finger chords. She’s very discouraged. I’ve tried to help by suggesting she start with Am then just put her index finger down to make the F. Even after I adjusted her thumb position (she was cradling the neck) she could barely do F. I then had her stay in the F position and keep strumming and adjusting her chord fingers until she got a clear sound, which she did but she couldn’t keep holding her fingers in position as they tired so quickly. She says her fingers are too short. Her fingers are short but not freakishly so. I’ve seen tiny little kids playing.

    I sent her some Ukulele Mike finger exercises, which she’s going to start.

    Does anyone have any other suggestions? Anyone had this problem?
    Last edited by Ukulammy; 03-19-2018 at 04:43 PM.

  2. #2


    First off, awesome job trying to coach your grandmother on playing the uke. Honestly, with her age, it’s understandable that she’ll get finger fatigue, especially if she’s never done anything like this. It’s really about keeping at it until she develops the finger strength to hold down the chords.

    A tenor uke will inherently have higher string tension than a soprano or concert, making it more difficult to fret the strings. Maybe give her a soprano or concert to work with until she develops the finger strength.

    As always, make sure the uke is properly setup. String height can make all the difference.

    You can also try putting concert strings onto her uke to decrease the string tension.
    Last edited by NoyBoy98; 03-19-2018 at 05:29 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Twin Cities Area, Minnesota


    Two thoughts, one that echoes the above:

    1) Get her a Makala Dolphin/Shark Concert, set up by Mim or Uke Republic. The tenor scale might be too big for her.

    2) If all else fails, get a soprano (again, suggested purchase from the above dealers) and then buy a Uke Chord Changer. I bought some of these for a few special education students that could not play chords and while things were not perfect, these devices made the process more enjoyable for them. Would it be great for your mom to be able to play F and G7 “normally”? Sure. Does it matter if she uses another device to make it happen? Not in my book.
    Playing ukulele since January 2016.

    Have you participated in the thread, "How the Ukulele Found You?" If not, please consider adding your story--they are just fun to read.

  4. #4


    Thank you both! I’ll try your suggestions and hopefully she can make some progress. Would the Martin M600 fluorocarbon strings work for this? What strings would be easy on her fingers?
    Last edited by Ukulammy; 03-19-2018 at 07:19 PM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Davison, MI


    had a similar problem when i had neck pain that caused my left pinky and ring finger to be numb for about 3 months. It took plenty of practice to get back to using 3 and 4 finger chords. As you stated the problem is going from F to G7, is she keeping her index on the F note on the E string when doing the transfer? Is she strumming a simple up down club strum very slowly to allow for that dexterity to develop? gl to you both.
    Youtube channel
    Ukulele start date: November 1st, 2013
    Cordoba 15CM concert uke

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Upper Hale, Surrey/Hants border, UK.


    Maybe she should use a strap, it will support the uke, one less thing to cope with.

    Concert fluorocarbon strings will alleviate the pressure necessary to hold down the chords.

    A tenor may not be the best size for learning on, I always suggest a concert.
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    The Netherlands


    I Holland there is a guy who made a one-finger ukulele song book.
    I'm not sure if they ship outside of NL, but if you are interested, here is the link :
    If your uke is too loud, your neighbours are wrong.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
    Northen California


    Might have her try hand strengthening exercises, using one of those rubber eggs or like device.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Ames, Iowa/San Juan, Puerto Rico


    So I just want to throw this out there, how bad does your mother want to play the ukulele? Is she doing it because you want her to, or does she really want to learn? I say this because I have found myself in this same type of situation, not with the ukulele.
    I don't want to live in a world that is linear.

  10. #10


    Thank you all for your suggestions! I’ll let her read this thread.

    Ohmless, she can’t make those chords let alone transition. What little strumming she does is very slow as she has to pause to position her fingers. Thank you!

    Croaky Keith, I’m going to get her some fluorocarbons. I might try some myself. NOW I hear a tenor isn’t best to learn on!! I just bought a cute little soprano and can even do bar chords on it, so I’m going to let her use it for awhile.

    Sven, thank you, I’ll see if it’s available here.

    Uke Don, good idea, I’ll suggest that.

    Rllink, it’s a lifelong dream of hers to play music. She loves the uke. I’m impressed she’s kept at it this long with so little progress. I think I’d have given up by now.

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