Many players always sit when they are playing their ukuleles. While this is fine when doing this for your own pleasure or at ukulele group sessions, it is not ideal in a performance situation and it is better for you physically to stand.
We are repeatedly being told by health care professionals that sitting around for long periods is bad for our health and that it is important to keep moving. Sitting for a long time can make you feel more tired than when doing some physical activity. Playing the ukulele standing up allows your body to move easily in time to the music and is a fun way to lessen sedentary behavior. In addition, it is more difficult to sing strongly in a sitting position because this can constrict the diaphragm. When standing up you can take deeper breaths and it is easier to sing and maintain breath control, something that is also good for the health.
In a performance situation it is usually necessary to stand, especially when playing with a large group that takes up the whole stage or where there are several players on a small stage. Often there is not enough room for everyone to sit, or a supply of chairs to make this possible. If there is no stage at all or one that is low, standing puts the players above the audience and makes it possible to connect with those beyond the front row. It is easier when standing to share music stands amongst several people if needed. This also allows different song leaders on a set list to change positions on stage without any fuss.
Some people find it difficult to play standing up, often because they find it hard to hold their ukulele without resting it on their seated body. It can be tricky balancing your uke without any support, especially the larger sizes, so the obvious solution is to buy a strap. If you have a strap button at the base of the uke, you can use the kind that is a smaller version of a guitar strap and tie the top end under the strings above the neck. Also smaller Mandolin straps are sometimes suitable.
If there is no button on your ukulele it is not recommended that you have one attached, as there might by no internal support into which you can drill the hole. Doing so might cause damage to the body of the ukulele and rather than taking this risk it is better to use the kind of strap that hangs around your neck with an end that hooks into the sound hole to hold the uke. Various types of ukulele straps can be purchased from the same music stores that sell ukuleles, or you can choose from the vast assortment to be found online. Having a strap will allow you to learn to play the ukulele in the standing position and contribute to your enjoyment and performances.
You can build up your stamina by standing for short periods, then increasing the length of time as you get used to this position. Once you can play the ukulele while standing, you will find it is much more fun to be able to move around with the uke, and you will feel more energetic and healthier as a result.
Note: If you need to sit for health reasons make sure that you have frequent breaks from playing and move around.
Kat & Zilla
Bayside Ukes members
Arthritis is a problem for many older players of the ukulele and other stringed instruments as it limits flexibility. This should not be seen as an obstacle to playing the ukulele. It does not really matter how you position your hand or form chords as long as you can play them. You do not have to play the ukulele with a perfect technique, although it is good to strive for this even with physical limitations.
I have osteoarthritis in the first and second fingers of my left hand and I am unable to bend these fingers tightly to make a fist. This lack of flexibility makes it difficult to form certain chords on my concert ukulele. The arthritis has caused the joints of these fingers to become enlarged and bent, so reducing the stretch between my second and third fingers. This makes it difficult for two or more fingers to be positioned on the same fret as in the G, D, D7 (Hawaiian) chords.
Instead of positioning my fingers across the fret-board I often hold my hand with the fingers pointing down the fret-board. Unfortunately this does not look very elegant. With my hand in this position I am unable to make a chord transition in the usual way but it is easier to make the transition between D, D7 and G. The disadvantage of this position is when I move my fingers up to the first fret and my hand gets caught up with the headstock. Some chords are also difficult to play using the correct fingering as I have limited stretch between my finger-tips when my fingers are bent. When I play the Gm chord my third finger is unable to make the stretch to the third fret and I must substitute it with my little finger. These are just some of the modifications I make to my technique.
In order to learn a song I must plan all my chord changes to allow for the restricted movement in my left hand. I practice individual chord formations then the transitions between chords so they become smooth and fast. It may take longer to learn a song but I know I shall not be placing undue strain on my finger joints.
With arthritis it is important to be flexible with my approach to chord formation and transitions because there are always exceptions to the rule. What may work for one song, may not work for another. If the transition between chords is really just too hard I find another chord as a substitute or just leave the difficult chord out.
If you also have arthritis do not get disheartened. The important thing to remember is that you need to find out what works for you, persevere with practice and don’t give up. Playing the ukulele will not only strengthen your fingers, improve flexibility and help your arthritis, but more importantly you will have fun while you are doing it.
Ukulele Mike has some exercises that may help improve your flexibility. Dexterity Exercises
Bayside Ukes Member
Bayside Ukes will return to the Hampton Community Centre next week on Tuesday 2nd February at 7pm. Please be on time as members will need to register for the year. The session will begin at 7:15 sharp and remember to bring your copy of The Ukulele Club Songbook. This year the Hampton Community Centre has increased their Fee to $6.00 a person per session.
We hope everyone had a fabulous holiday break. If you have not picked up your ukulele because of too much holiday cheer, now is the time to start practising.
We look forward to seeing you at our first session. New members are welcome to join our friendly group of ukulele players.
Check out this ukulele version of Welcome Back.
You want to learn to play the ukulele and a little voice in your head says, “It’s too hard” or “I’ll never be able to play it perfectly.” A critical family member or friend may say that you are not musical or you can’t sing so “stop that awful noise.” Well don’t let your inner Demon of Perfectionism or anyone else deny you the pleasure you will gain from playing this fantastic little instrument.
The ukulele is an instrument that you can take up at any age. Even a child can do it. As US performer Amanda Palmer says in her Ukulele Anthem:
“You can play the ukulele too, It is painfully simple,
Play your ukulele badly, Play your ukulele loudly,…….
Limit yourself to three chords, And do not practice daily.”
It is meant to be fun, not a chore. You can be as casual or as serious as you like.
You don’t need to be a musical virtuoso to play the ukulele, as it is primarily a rhythmic and percussive instrument that contributes to the beat of a song. It is easy to sing along with simple chord strums on the ukulele. If you don’t want to sing you can concentrate on fingerpicking the melodies beginning with simple ones. You will get better if you set yourself small goals and will be surprised at how far you can progress.
As for the cost, a basic ukulele is relatively cheap and highly portable. You can take it anywhere to practice. There are also plenty of free resources on-line to help you to learn to play basic chords (see the Links on this website).
Joining a local ukulele group will help you to improve and is a lot of fun. There is no need to feel isolated.
So do yourself a favor and jump into the wonderful world of the Uke!
Bayside Ukes Member
Happy New Year to all our members and Welcome to our new website.
It was wonderful to finish 2015 with the group and solo performances at our end of year party, and to see so many individual members entertain everyone with some new songs.
We look forward to many great ukulele sessions in 2016.
Term Dates For The First Half of 2016
Term 1: Tuesday 2nd February – Tuesday 22 March.
Term 2: Tuesday 12th April – Tuesday 21st June