UD#102 Happy Hands!

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UD#102 Happy Hands!
from Ukulele in the Dark with Guido Heistek

When playing bar chords, all uke players, at one time or another, experience “dead notes.” This is when one string does not sound clearly because we haven’t managed to get it down onto the fret.

In my casual survey of students, I found that their general approach to this problem is to squeeze like crazy until all the notes sound clearly, or until they give up in frustration.

For some time I’ve been meaning to create a lesson with some practical information about the workings of the hand and fingers as it relates to barring. Here goes. Hope it is helpful.

Your fingers may be longer than you think.

There are three finger joints.

When you first look at the diagram above, it might seem like some of the arrows are in the wrong place. If you gently palpate and explore your finger, you will discover that the joints are roughly in the same place as this diagram indicates.

Number 3, the base of the finger, is usually the biggest surprise. Many people think it’s farther from the wrist but it’s not. This was a surprise to me when I learned it!

Try this…

Place a book at the base of your fingers. Like this.

Gently allow your fingers to drop on to the book. You can experience moving the fingers from their base. This is a very healthy movement for the fingers and hand! If you repeat it a few times you may notice a release in your arm and shoulder.

It’s also an important movement for barring.

More Clear Notes and Less Squeezing

The joints allow the fingers to articulate. Often, the barring finger is more like a snake then a capo. Not straight but curvy!

In the picture above, note how the thumb rests on the back of the neck to provide leverage and opposition.

The articulation of the finger also has a big role!

Depending on how we manipulate our finger, we can apply more pressure on one string than another. This means that, if we are getting dead notes, we don’t necessarily need to apply more pressure GLOBALLY. We can adjust our finger to apply more pressure to where it is actually needed.

This requires us to have some awareness of which string is not sounding and how we can apply pressure to THAT string. Not all the strings.

I’ve come up with a little exercise that helps build this type of  awareness. Here is a video of me demonstrating the exercise. Give it a try, and please let me know how it goes.

Hope you enjoyed today’s lesson.

All for now!


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