It is a real pain when our hands don’t cooperate as we would like. Ideally, we would just float through our ukulele journey without any issues. But for some, that is unrealistic. Hand conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis can sneak up on a player and halt their progress. I’ve learned through my own experience with hand pain and surgeries, that your playing routine can quickly come to a stop. It doesn’t have to put the brakes on your progress though. I will outline 5 ways you can use your downtime to your advantage and keep advancing as a ukulele player. Let’s jump right in!
Get to Know the Greats
If you do need to take some time off from playing, exercise your ears as you listen to other ukulele players. Watch videos of performances. These are not meant to be intimidating, but rather inspiring. Isn’t it incredible what’s possible on this little instrument?
This is your time to get to know some of the greatest players in the ukulele world! Most importantly, know when to give your hands a rest if they are very painful. This is when we have to listen to our bodies and pay attention to any disturbance. Be sure to seek the advice of a medical professional if you are experiencing hand pain and are unsure if you should keep playing.
Study Music Theory
Music theory is a fascinating area to study. Even if you have had no prior musical background, you can learn all about music theory and how chords work together. If you sign up for a ULTP membership, you can access courses that cover music theory and chord progressions. Even though you aren’t playing, you can soak up all the information and use that later when you’re able to play again.
Get Book Smart
There are so many great books available for ukulele players. The ULTP Store has a collection of books that are suitable for all levels of players. Take notes (carefully) on the information you’re gaining. You may think a songbook is just for playing, but they can be great study guides, too.
Look at how the chords are arranged. What kind of pattern does the melody follow? Absorb everything like a little sponge and when you return to playing, you’ll be amazed at how you can use the knowledge you’ve gained. I think you’ll be surprised at your progress!
Friends with the Fretboard
I know, this one can be tricky! Studying and even memorizing the fretboard will serve you well as a player. Learning how chords are structured is just one of the benefits you will gain. You can also breeze through your scales a little easier once you have this down. (Not to mention show off in front of your friends!) Knowing the fretboard can make you a much stronger solo ukulele player as well.
Once you begin studying music theory as mentioned above, you will understand more about how the fretboard is arranged and how you can use this knowledge to your advantage. If your hands are up for it, you can draw little diagrams and take notes, otherwise, you can do your best to memorize the notes for now.
Get those creative juices flowing. Perhaps you were recently inspired by one of the great ukulele players you listened to. Use that inspiration and create some lyrics for an original song. Listen to chord progression examples and see if you can compose a song or two! You might surprise yourself and learn more about your ukulele preferences, too.
Read more: The top 5 easiest ukulele songs you’ll see in a lot of songs
I know that hand pain and the thought of it putting a stop to your playing is tough. No one wants to give up what they love so much. By getting creative and focusing your attention on areas like studying music theory or learning the fretboard, you can still keep progressing as the great ukulele player you are. Looking at this as a temporary setback will help you stay positive and make lemonade out of all those lemons that just dropped down on you. Hmm, maybe that could be the subject of your first song!
Wonderful suggestions for pain induced downtime. Thank you. And for the references.
I gave up guitar due to arthritis just getting into playing uke and now my thumb is back in a splint!
Thank you for this excellent article. When I was about 12 years old, I had my left pinky finger smashed in a car door. It was a sports car, so it was cool. Unfortunately, these decades later, i developed osteoarthritis in the distal inter phalangeal joint. It no longer extends completely and WAS quite painful to play with. Over time, the joint has adapted to my needs and allows me to play to only slight pain. Moral of the story is stick with it.