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Thread: Techniques for narrower fretboards

  1. #1

    Default Techniques for narrower fretboards

    It's amazing how much difference a few mm make to playablity. My fingers are clearly happier with wider fretboards (38mm at the nut) and I'm resigned to that. But with bigger hands and longer (although not too fat) fingers, I know that narrower fretboards are less forgiving for me.

    However, I have a baritone uke that I love with a narrower fretboard. Aside from the slightly cramped A (bari/guitar) chord, I find that the biggest issue is my finger slipping the E string off the fretboard. In general, but also when hammering on and off that string. (More rarely, I find it harder to get clean chords, with my fingers sometimes 'dampening' adjoining strings, if I'm not careful).

    I wondered if anyone had any suggestions about my technique that would help me to improve my playability on a narrower fretboard. So far I've been focussing on keeping my thumb pressed behind the fretboard and ensuring that I am using the tips of my fingers as much as possible, to avoid touching multiple strings and so on.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strumaround View Post
    It's amazing how much difference a few mm make to playablity. My fingers are clearly happier with wider fretboards (38mm at the nut) and I'm resigned to that. But with bigger hands and longer (although not too fat) fingers, I know that narrower fretboards are less forgiving for me.

    However, I have a baritone uke that I love with a narrower fretboard. Aside from the slightly cramped A (bari/guitar) chord, I find that the biggest issue is my finger slipping the E string off the fretboard. In general, but also when hammering on and off that string. (More rarely, I find it harder to get clean chords, with my fingers sometimes 'dampening' adjoining strings, if I'm not careful).

    I wondered if anyone had any suggestions about my technique that would help me to improve my playability on a narrower fretboard. So far I've been focussing on keeping my thumb pressed behind the fretboard and ensuring that I am using the tips of my fingers as much as possible, to avoid touching multiple strings and so on.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated.
    Yours is a difficulty that I believe is faced by many other players too. I will not knowingly buy a Uke with less than 35mm nut and prefer something a little bit wider than that. On one of my Ukes I replaced the nut and spaced the stings out (30mm overall), that change made a lot of difference to me.

    Somewhere I read about others managing the space issue, and the importance of both short finger nails and your fingers being perpendicular to the fretboard. Additional care with finger placement has helped me, though I feel that limited finger space is an aggravation that I don’t need and prefer the wider fretboard solution. I also read somewhere about covers that go over the ends of your fingers (Gorilla tips ?) and how they don’t snag adjacent strings, never tried them though.

    Practice is a boring and seemingly unhelpful suggestion, but having improved my technique on a Uke with wider spaced strings I have found it easier (than it once was) to play on a Uke with narrower spacings.
    Last edited by Graham Greenbag; 04-15-2019 at 03:34 AM.

  3. #3

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    Thanks Graham

    Yes, it's probably all about technique and practice, of course.

    I currently treat playing on my narrower uke as practice for wider nut ukes (kind of the reverse of what you do?).

  4. #4
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    I also prefer a wider fretboard and thicker neck. On my concert uke I feel that the D-shape that I prefer to play with three fingers is getting too crammed, so I use a guitar player approach of pressing down three strings with two fingers, which works surprisingly well. I have seen people do three strings with one finger, but I'm not built that way.

  5. #5
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    A little heavier gauge first string will help reduce pulling the first string off the fret. Technique wise you want the lightest left hand finger pressure coupled with a fast pull off. If you press too hard, the string tends to slide off the fret during the pull off. When recording, I use a wee bit of nose grease on the left hand fingertips for reduced friction pull-offs. But, yeah, I too prefer wider fingerboards.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Graham Greenbag View Post
    On one of my Ukes I replaced the nut and spaced the stings out (30mm overall)
    Something I've been contemplating with two of my ukes too, but I thinking that may potentially exacerbate his problem of the strings slipping off the edge.
    Glenn

    sopranino/sopranos/baritone/ubass

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    Quote Originally Posted by glennerd View Post
    Something I've been contemplating with two of my ukes too, but I thinking that may potentially exacerbate his problem of the strings slipping off the edge.
    I haven’t had any problems with strings slipping off but did take a lot of care fitting the nut and slots centrally and the necks were 35 mm Wide. My supply of nuts has dried up so future ones I’ll have to make from bone blanks - a bit time consuming but do-able. If you’re reasonable at DIY why not give it a go?

    @merlin 666. For the D chord I use three fingers but space them in a triangular formation (like G7 but all within one fret). 2225 with barre also gives a D.
    Last edited by Graham Greenbag; 04-16-2019 at 09:37 AM.

  8. #8
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    Strumaround,

    I used to have a tendency on my Kamaka to pull the first string off the fret board. I became more precise over time.

    As for the cramped hands, I have been doing something (for an entirely different reason) which might help. I have been playing chord progressions as high on the neck as possible. Now, that's cramped, but don't think of it as cramped; think of it as easier to make the dom7b9 chord without the stretch. If you can play up there, you can play anywhere.

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    Hi, Strumaround!

    There may be better way to fret like Jake (See the photo below). He use flexors in his fingers to fret. This power (red arrow) is very strong and we just need very light effort to push strings. I think your style may be same as bottom right figure. We need very strong power to push strings (blue arrow). And your finger is often slipping. The important point in this technique are the bend of the first joint and extension of the wrist (green circles).

    Beware the man who only has one gun. He probably knows how to use it!

  10. #10

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    Thanks for all those comments and suggestions. Food for thought.

    I've also noticed that, with my little finger, I need to focus on the direction of the pressure - sometimes even (very) slightly pushing upwards, to avoid the string slipping down. I think this compensates for my natural inclination with that finger to pull slightly down, compared to the other fingers. Hopefully muscle memory will take over eventually.
    Last edited by Strumaround; 04-17-2019 at 07:22 PM.

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