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Thread: Sore Bendable Left Thumb

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
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    15

    Default Sore Bendable Left Thumb

    Too much practice and the next day my left thumb is sore at the first joint. It's because it bends back when I need some force for bar chords. I have a little mild arthritis and this is a problem that needs a solution. Any thoughts/help would be appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Sunny Jersey - where the cows come from!
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    1,228

    Default

    You shouldn't be needing anything like that level of force to play your instrument!

    I'd guess the action on your ukulele is way too high if you need to squeeze that hard.

    If you're not using a strap to support the instrument you may well be expending more effort than you realise just to hold it in place.

    From one arthritic player to another, don't try to "play through" the pain, it'll only get worse. As soon as your thumb starts to hurt, STOP IMMEDIATELY! Take medical advice if you haven't already, some treatment can be effective in some circumstances, but what's good for me may not help you, so I'll make no other recommendations.

    Good luck
    There are those who will wax lyrical about the ability to play a double shuffle with a split fan and a tight G-string ...
    it just makes me walk funny!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Whidbey Island, WA
    Posts
    259

    Default

    Bar chords can be played without excessive thumb pressure. Here are a couple videos that discuss bar chord technique:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJEY26RUPzo
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hM_3Sb-xfXk

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
    Posts
    15

    Default

    Yep, seen the videos, read the bar chord pressure thread here and am doing my best to not overdue it. Mim did a nice setup for me which is a slight bit lower than usual, so I don't think that's the problem.
    Since I'm a beginner, I can practice many things without needing much, if any, thumb pressure (scales, open chords, etc). I haven't used a strap, so that may be next to try. Do some straps hold the ukulele more solidly in place than others?
    Thanks for the replies.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2018
    Location
    NorCal
    Posts
    349

    Default

    Consider a "squeeze ball" to strengthen the hand by exercising it. An old tennis ball is a good place to start (better than a new ball cuz of the resistance).

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Location
    Denmark
    Posts
    811

    Default

    I am fortunate enough to be relatively young and have no problems with arthritis. Still my left thumb can get sore when playing.

    I find that two things can make it worse.

    When I have to press and release the strings to mute strings to shorten the duration of the notes. The pumpning action is hard on the thumb.

    When I move the barre chord shape up and down the fretboard, but forget to move the thumb along. This can happen if I am playing a thicker neck than I am used to, or one with gloss finish, which can be stickier than the satin I am used to. When I forget to move it, the angle of the thumb becomes uncomfortableand puts more stress on the thumb. I really must pay more attention to this.

    Anyone else catch themselve doing this?
    Ohana SK30M mahogany super-soprano, Cort UKEBWCOP Blackwood concert, Anuenue African Mahogany Tenor, Fluke Koa Tenor, Hora M1176 spruce Tenor

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
    Posts
    15

    Default

    I have for the most part solved my bendable thumb problem by:
    1. Strengthening the thumb as suggested by some of you. That's both with a ball and just practicing but not overdoing.
    2. Paying a lot of attention to not bending it! I work with this as much as any other exercise.
    3. Using the idea of squeezing behind the barred finger like it is a clothespin (when possible).
    3. Most importantly, and what made the other steps above work, was to keep the ukulele straight up and down as possible. Yes, I was playing with it not straight up so I could see the frets better and this caused much of the bending problem.
    Thanks again to everyone.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    Springfield, IL
    Posts
    1,145

    Default

    Ed, are those four points hard and fast, or just rules of thumb?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
    Posts
    15

    Default

    Nah, I can bend them when I want to.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2019
    Location
    In the hills, France
    Posts
    28

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    Here’s an exercise for you guys:

    Play a full chord, for example a full C major (all four strings are fretted -5433) as you would normally play it.
    Now play the C major WITHOUT your thumb.
    I use very little left thumb pressure. It’s your right forearm than pulls the uke towards your body while your left fingers pull onto the fret board. Think of a swing that pivots on your waist/chest, and with the strap you should be able to take you left hand away and the uke will stay there in the same position.

    Play full chords without your thumb for five minutes. Pressure on the fretboard, pressure on your right forearm. Now play individual notes, the C scale, NO left thumb.
    It gets easier and in time you’ll wonder why you ever let that thumb slow you down.

    -and get a strap on that ukulele and think about your whole body, hold that uke like you’re ready to do something!

    oh and remember that this is just an exercise, as long as you can do the exercise you can go and play however you like afterwards.
    Good luck.
    Last edited by AtSunrise; 09-25-2019 at 09:18 AM.

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