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Thread: I hate B flat

  1. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob-in-Alberta View Post
    I'd go with the nut holding the ukulele as its the same problem with a Mainland or a KoAloha. the constant to the problem is me.
    Well, in that case you are probably right. Mainlands and KoAlohas both tend to be set up quite well at the nut, though I tend to have to bring the bridge down on KoAlohas to get to my prefered action - but that's up the neck and doesn't affect the Bb chord.

    You've had some good advice so far but if anybody has mentioned doing the chord as a barre chord I missed it. Instead of trying to fret the E and A strings with the tip portion of your index finger try dropping the wrist a little and forming a barre all the way across all four strings with your index finger. Initially, it would seem like this is harder but it really isn't (especially since it's not important if you get the C and G strings all the way down). This way of fingering the chord has two advantages - first, you are using the stronger inner part of your index finger to fret the A and E strings and, second, this leaves the other fingers in a better position to fret the C and G strings.

    Now, for the really cool part. Since you are typically going to be playing a Bb with C and F chords (key of F) you can just move that whole shape up two frets for the C. For the F, just lift your index finger and slide down (toward the headstock) one position, fingering the E and G strings with your second and third fingers and letting your index finger hover above the nut.

    Now, initially you're probably thinking "that sure is a harder way to make the C and the F" - but when you are playing them with a Bb it's actually much easier and requires less "flip-flopping" of the fretting hand. Your hand is always in the same "shape" and you're just moving it up and down the fretboard and lifting or placing one or two fingers. Oh, and if there is a Dm (another common chord in F) you do the same thing - let the index finger hover over the nut and use your second and third fingers to fret the Dm (the third barres the C and G strings).

    Now, for the final cool thing. Need to play the same song but in Ab to match a singer's vocal range? - just move everything up the fretboard three frets (and, of course, use the index finger to barre for the "F" and "Dm" instead of leaving it hovering).

    The same principal applies (albeit with slight differences) if you are actually playing something that is in the key of Bb (chords of Bb, Eb, F)

    Get out of the habit of thinking of a song as a set of chords - a song is a set of chord transitions. If you have more than one fingering for most chords then you can look at a song and create a "map" in your head of what makes the most sense for each transition. Occasionally I'll even switch fingerings in the middle of a chord if it can be done fluidly and will "set up" for the next transition.

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  2. #22
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    I know this is for B flat but I'll start with E - Simple answer get a second Ukulele (usually a soprano) and give it the old a D F# B tuning this doesn't always work but a lot of songs that require E can be played quite easily using this tuning. (or transpose down 2 notes.

    B flat I use all for figures and don't try to barre, (dont know if this is good practice or not) I learned the chord by playing rounds repeatedly for the round I used Sweet Home Alabama but transposed down one note so C Bb F F it give you a rhythm to play along too for your round (and you can always sing along if your as tuneless as me)

    If all else fails you can always try Bb Major and see if you can get away with that?
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  3. #23
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    I started playing the uke in 2006. Bb took me a year to play with any proficiency. Stay with it it will get better. I agree that the barre form is easier. I agree with setting the action at the nut correctly - my test of a uke is to play a Bb, if the Bb is difficult the action is too high.

    I adjust my own actions and just bought a baritone the F chord (just like Bb on a soprano) is a bear. I am afraid to set the action as low as on my sopranos because I am afraid those big floppy strings will buzz. So I set it as low as I dare and I'm hoping the baritone will strengthen my fingers.

    E chord took four years for me to get. I either changed the key of the song, used the barre chord at the 4th fret or substituted E7. Stay with it!

  4. #24

    Lightbulb The Secret

    The problem with Bb is the same with any barre chord on the ukulele or guitar. I had been teaching guitar for years until I found the secret to all of them. Everybody on these responses have good advice about finger and wrist position, but the answer is in the elbow.

    First, try to play the chord as you have been. If you are an experienced player it probably sounds good, right? Now take your RIGHT elbow off the ukulele and try to do it again. You might still be able to make it sound good, but you'll feel extra pressure on your thumb compared to when you had your elbow in place. It's a killer when you try it with the F chord on the guitar.

    That's because with these barre chords it is crucial to have that counter-pressure with the elbow so you can pull with the left arm while the guitar neck remains in place. That takes some of the workload off your fingers and makes it easier to get the chord sounding good.

    Hence the phrase: As goes the elbow, so goes the world.

  5. #25
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    As several others have mentioned, keep working on it! For one thing, it's a really useful chord if you're playing in F, and more importantly, once you master that shape you can move it all over the place and use it for C, D (at the 5th fret), E (7th fret), etc. It's not necessarily the EASIEST way to play any of those chords, but having different places to play them is always a handy thing.
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  6. #26
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    Just remembered another tip for playing B flat: bring the elbow of your fretting hand closer to your body when you play B flat. It'll help your fingers line up with the frets better.
    -Ralf Youtz

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  7. #27
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    Bob, what size uke are you playing? Or do you have a problem with the Bb on more than one?

    Just wondering because I have a soprano and a bari and I struggled with different chord shapes on each.

  8. #28
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    Hi lovinforkful,

    I've got two ukes, one soprano and one concert but they basically have the same size neck. I've had the same problem with both but this thread has been full of great suggestions and I've already noticed an improvement. I think it all comes down to "Practice, practice, practice" which is something that I just need to do more of.
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    Everybody else does B flat. I do B phlat!!

  9. #29
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    Bob,

    Keep at it, you'll get there.

    Here are a few points I'd like to add to the fine advice given so far:

    1. Youtube exists. Watch videos of other people playing Bb, you may find a critical clue.
    2. I found this video quite enlightening:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hM_3Sb-xfXk
    3. Experiment with every part of your body, not just your fingertips. Posture, elbows, and feet can all have subtle but important effects.

  10. #30
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    Long ago, when I was taking guitar lessons, my teacher always had me focus on my music, resting on the stand in front of me, not looking at my fretting hand. This had the by-product of holding the instrument with the fretboard more vertical, which makes fretting easier (along with all the previous comments about elbow and wrist position).

    I find that most people who are learning to play LOOK at their fretting hand, which means the fretboard is not vertical, but tipped back at an angle, which makes fretting more challenging, especially barre chords.

    I found myself looking at the fingerboard A LOT when I was learning ukulele coming from a guitar background. Once I stopped looking at my fretting hand even the E chord - my nemesis - became easy. I am in the "I-never-had-a-problem-with-Bb" group but probably because I already had reasonable fretting technique from my years of guitar lessons. I will say though, fingertip pressure and hand/wrist position are key - stop looking at your fretting hand and you will probably do well to relax your grip a little - many people press much harder than necessary and that brings on early fatigue, in addition to preventing smooth changes.

    Practice. Don't give up. You'll get it!
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