Proper Fretting Hand Placement

Efficiency is the key to proper fretting hand technique.

Published: 24 Jan 2013 Updated: 07 Feb 2020Visits: 470Code: UL08

INSTRUMENTS: Basics Main: Ukulele Others: Ukulele Guitar Bass Banjo Mandolin
Subjects: Beginner • Technique

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Proper Fretting Hand Placement

Efficiency is the Key to Proper Technique.

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Ukulele or Guitar

These technique tips apply to guitar as well as ukulele.

Four fingers can span four frets, one finger per fret. Start by placing your index finger on string four, fret one. Then on the same string, add finger two to fret two, finger three to fret three, and finally finger four to fret four. The thumb should be positioned flat and right behind fingers one and two. In this position, only the fingertips and the thumbprint touch the instrument. Each finger is arched proportionally to its length relative to the other fingers. The fourth finger will not be as arched as the other fingers because of its size and relative reach.

Your thumb should be flat against the back of the neck, approximately right behind the first and second fingers. The exact position varies with your thumb, the instrument neck profile, and your particular hand size. The thumb's main job is to apply opposite and equal pressure from the fingers.

The No. 2 Pencil

The old standby No. 2 pencil is a handy tool to show proper finger and thumb placement. I often substitute a "Carpenter's Pencil" to make it a bit easier to demonstrate.

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Proper Fretting Hand Placement…

  • Place fingers (fingertips) on the pencil's Painted Body and your thumb should naturally go into the position of support right behind your index and middle finger.
  • That's it — I do typically replace the No. 2 pencil with a flat Carpenter Pencil , as it's a little easier to balance and has more of an area on its Ferrule — it's flat. Student's have more success with this type of pencil when doing this demo.

Standard, Yellow Carpenter's Pencil

I'll place the carpenters pencil on a flat surface, often the back of my ukulele held horizontally, and have the student pick the pencil up with their fretting hand. Pretty much their thumbs will go as in the picture above.

Alternately, you can place all four fingers on string four, the string closest to your nose, of your ukulele on frets (1), (2), (3), and stretch your pinky to fret (5). This should place your thumb in the proposition of supporting the fingers, just as the above pencil demonstrations do.

Your thumb needs to supply equal and opposite pressure to the fingers pressing on the strings.

I often see, even in pro players, the thumb moving around as much as their fingers.

The bottom line is – unless there is an overwhelming musical reason for the thumb to venture out of its support role. Keep it in its primary support role.

Download the PDF file for the latest, complete, and most up-to-date version. As well as additional information not presented on-line.

End of Lesson - Thanks, Hope You Enjoyed It!

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Proper Fretting Hand Placement

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