Perfect Finger Placement on Ukulele

In this lesson we’ll look at how to get perfect left-hand finger placement on ukulele. We’ll focus on using the least amount of pressure to get a good sound and not have to put a strain on your left hand as you play.

Place your fingers near the fret wire

And the simple point here is just to place your fingers near the fret wire instead of the beginning part of the fret. So the strips of metal that go through the fingerboard, these are the frets. And when you place any finger down with your left hand, there’s a tendency to put them in the middle or back part of the fret. But if you do that, you’re gonna get a buzzing sound there, even when you put a lot of pressure.

Instead, if you always make the point as much as possible just to move right up next to the fret wire—not on top of it, but right behind it—you’ll find that you get a really nice sound and you don’t need to use nearly as much pressure with a finger to get a good tone. If I play, let’s say, on the third fret with my first finger in the left hand, I keep my thumb low down the neck right in front of the first finger, right about where the second finger is. Place that finger right up next to the fret wire, put a little bit of pressure down, balancing it out with a thumb. Then you can try to play the note.

Gradual pressure to remove buzzes

To practice getting the right amount of pressure without getting a muffled sound, try this. First, place your finger on any note. Now release the pressure until you just get a muffled sound. Then gradually put a tiny bit of pressure. When you’re barely pressing it will buzz a little bit. Next, press a little bit more until you find the amount of pressure you need. You’ll get a clear note. Stop pressing. You might find that you’re pressing less than usual.

Thus, there’s a bit of nuance to do this. It takes some time to train the fingers to be relaxed as they play. But that’s the idea. If I play in the beginning part of the fret, even though I squeeze, I’m still getting that buzzing sound and I put a lot of pressure, it squeeze a whole lot, then it starts to sound clean. But you don’t need to work so hard. Get right up next to the fret wire and press less than you think you need to.

Next you could try to move around the fingerboard with any finger, on any string. It doesn’t matter what note you play, but just work on sort of target practice of hitting that place right near the fret wire.

Another great exercise you can try is to play a little chromatic scale: 1, 2, 3, 4. Each time you play, focus on placing the finger right near the fret. You can leave each finger down as you play, or you can go from one finger to the next and lift off in the left hand.

Thumb position

As you cross strings, you can allow the thumb to move with the fingers. Ideally place the thumb behind the second finger. And imagine there’s a magnet connecting the thumb to the second finger moving around. The thumb can come down lower in the neck towards pretty close to the bottom of the neck. So if you move up to the fourth string, your thumb can get higher. It might even sneak over the top a little bit. It’ll still be balanced and in place right in front of that index finger. As I move down to the other strings, I feel my thumb kind of moves down the neck and up with the fingers.


But, again, as I do that, try to be consistent and play right behind the fret wire. Then you can be really light on your fingers and get a nice tone. But with that finger placement going directly down towards the fret wire, I am able to get sound that comes out. And so you might also try maybe with one finger moving up and down one string.

Now you’ll notice as you get higher up the fingerboard, the frets are so small that it’s easier to have better placement. Lower on the fingerboard, in the first three frets, you’ll have to be more diligent about the placement.

Finally, as I place my fingers down, I like to play off the left hand side of the index finger, while playing right in the middle of the second and third finger, and off the right edge of the pinky. I get this little fan shape that happens where I play the outside edge of the outer two fingers and right in the middle of the second and third fingers.


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