Finger Exercises and Warm-Ups for Ukulele Players
By NAfME Associate Member Mark Woodburn
Regular practice is important for beginning ukulele players. Before you get fretting and strumming however, it would be good if your fingers are warmed and loosened up first so you avoid feeling like you have bear claws instead of hands when practicing ukulele chords.
Finger exercises and warm-up routines are also great for developing hand speed, dexterity, and finger strength, allowing you to play better with less effort. Here are some fun finger exercises for you to incorporate into your ukulele practice sessions.
Hand and Finger Stretches
Hand and finger stretches let your muscles know that you’re about to undertake a rigorous physical activity. Stretching before playing the ukulele helps you avoid being sore and also decreases your risk of developing the painful condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome. Here’s how to do hand and finger stretches:
Hold your left arm out in front of you. Keep it straight, with your fingers pointing toward the ceiling. Imagine you’re telling someone in front of you to stop. With your right hand, pull the tops of your left-hand fingers toward you until you feel the muscles in your left wrist and the bottom of your forearm stretch. Hold this position for 20 seconds. Avoid stretching too much; it becomes painful.
Release your left arm, and give it a little shake, then hold it out in front of you again. This time, make a thumbs-up—like you’ve just told the imaginary person in front of you it’s OK to move now. Use the fingers of your right hand to pull the tip of your left thumb toward you. You’ll feel the stretch at the thumb’s base. Hold this position for 20 seconds, then release.
Do the same on the right arm.
Next, hold out your left arm again, but this time with your left hand folding down toward the ground. Use your right hand to push the fingers of your left hand toward your body. You’ll feel the stretch in the back of the wrist and the upper forearm. Hold this stretch for 20 seconds, and repeat on the right arm.
Here are some finger exercises to do to build dexterity and fretting-picking synchronization.
Starting on the G string, use your index or pointer finger to fret the string on the first fret, then your middle one on the next fret, your third finger on the third fret, and your little finger on the fourth fret. Do the same on the C, E, and A strings. After putting a finger down, keep it there as the next finger moves in position.
Once you’re done, do the same but in reverse—you can start on the A string and move your pinky finger down first, with your index finger going last. If you like, you can even do this all the way up the fretboard—the key is to get those fingers all warmed up. Go slowly at first until you get the movements down, and you don’t miss a note; then gradually increase your speed. You can use a metronome help you keep time.
When doing this exercise, pluck the string or strum the ukulele. Get a steady rhythm going until it all comes naturally. You can do this for 10 to 15 minutes; then you’re ready for your practice session!
About the author:
NAfME Associate Member Mark Woodburn is a seasoned blogger principally for Know Your Instrument. He writes regularly about themes related to music, with a particular focus on playing the guitar and ukulele. One of Mark’s favorite writing themes is how to overcome learning plateaus, especially for intermediate-level players of both the guitar and ukulele. When he is not writing, Mark enjoys traveling to new and less-explored places in Africa and South America – usually with an instrument at his side, so he can knock a few tunes out along the way. He recently visited Machu Picchu in Peru and spent four days hiking along the Inca Trail.
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