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I'm very new to learning any instrument, so the uke is my first foray into anything musical. My question is, the standard placement of fingers for a G chord is not what I learned originally and I'm having a hard time retraining myself.

This is what I mean:

alternative g fingering

Is much easier for my fingers to fall to naturally than this:

regular g fingering

Is there an argument in favor of reteaching myself the "correct" way? I'm not the fastest at switching chords so I have no way of knowing yet if I'm screwing myself over by taking this "shortcut".

  • For what it's worth, I am no expert at the ukulele or frankly any fretted instruments, but I learned the second way and that's how I've always done it. – General Nuisance Jun 30 '18 at 16:14
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With all fretted instruments, there are several ways of fingering certain chords. The criteria are where you've come from and where you're going to. The fingering may well vary and you'll maybe have two or three different ways to play the exact same chord shape, considering the criteria. So, any fingering will be o.k., but think about these variables.

  • While it's of course true than often there is more than one reasonable way to arrange your fingers for a given shape, there are many bad ways to finger guitar chords that beginner self-taught guitarists can end up stumbling into that then later on cause problems. The general principle you're advocating is correct. You're getting upvoted for the general idea that "the most common way isn't necessarily right, if it feels good, do it" And while I agree with you in general, in this specific example I think this is a bad fingering. – Some_Guy Nov 28 '16 at 0:40
  • In your answer you mentioned the "variables" of what chords precede and follow the chord in fingering choice, but I would advocate that you also factor in the effect of a choice of the left hand position, and the pressure required to keep the hand in that position. There's a reason An E shape is fingered 2,3,1 not 3,2,1 and if a beginner thinks that maybe they want to play it 3,2,1, they should be advised against that. – Some_Guy Nov 28 '16 at 0:48
  • @Some_Guy - this shape is the same as a D chord on the guitar. I've said it before - there are twelve different ways to finger that shape. All effective, some easier than others, some suiting one better than another player. Also, helping by being more convenient after a certain chord shape, or before another chord. I tend to use three different shapes, dependant on what I'm doing. So, it's fair to suggest options are found and used. If a particular fingering suits only one person, it's not wrong, just different. Django didn't have many options, but seemed to do more than just get by... – Tim Feb 27 '18 at 17:48
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TL;DR: you should probably play it the standard way, not the way you're playing it, because it promotes a poor left hand position. You should never have a higher finger coming in "under" a lower finger.

(all this advice would apply to playing a D chord on a guitar too, since they're the same fingering, 0 2 3 2. (on a guitar, x x 0 2 3 2) )

I would say that, while there is no solid reason you absolutely have to play any chord with any specific fingering, with a good left hand position some fingerings stand out as better than others.

Firstly, for "comfortable" chords (not "spider" chords that require you to stretch out in both directions) your fingers should naturally fall tilted towards the fretboard (with your knuckle pointed towards the headstock), or at the very most 90 degrees, but never the other way.

this is a guitar but applies equally to uke. If you were to tilt your fingers the other way, you would have to over-rotate your left hand counter clockwise, and your G fingering forces this. In your picture you can see that in one position, only the right side of your left hand is touching the neck, rather than the left. This implies an unnatural wrist rotation. If you play with the uke headstock significantly raised it might not be as obviously uncomfortable as with it lower, but the problem, while reduced, will be still present.

This will effect your ability to quickly change between chords, as you will have change your entire left hand position to play a G chord (coming from, say an E minor chord 0 4 3 2)

You want to choose a position where your fingers are the most free and flexible possible, as this will aid you in changing to and from chords (and later on in adding ornaments to chords and passing notes between chords).

One last thing, you might find cutting your nails allows you to adopt a more natural left hand position, with your fingers pointing more into the neck.

More general tips for a beginner ukelelist wrapping their hands around chords for the first time: try fingering a chord, taking your hand off the neck (even shaking it around a little), then fingering it again, not one string at a time but all strings simultaneously. This will give you a) a good clue as to what hand positions feel more natural as this will be more difficult with contorted left hand positions and b) is a good exercise to help with learning quick changes between chords. Fingering chords by putting down each finger string by string is a habit you should try your best get out of immediately after learning a new chord, you want to try and build a muscle memory of the overall shape by putting down all fingers simultaneously.

Happy ukeleling!

  • On guitar,(uke) at the last count, there are actually 12 different fingerings for that open D (G) chord, so not sure what the standard way would be. It's a personal thing, and whilst I maybe wouldn't use perhaps half of those options, - I tend to use 3 different shapes - others could and possibly do. – Tim Nov 26 '16 at 12:39
  • @Tim There are not 12 different fingerings for that d shape that aare in any way useful. There are 3: (starting in the bass): 1st 3rd 2nd ; 2nd 4th 3rd ; and with a partial barre on the 2nd fret. While 2nd 3rd 1st and 3rd 4th 2nd are physically possible they are a bad idea, requiring you to position your right hand in a way that restricts movement. 3rd 4th 1st for example is technically doable. But you of course would never actually use it. – Some_Guy Nov 28 '16 at 1:00
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Just to add to @Tim's answer, one other important factor to consider how to finger chords, is comfortability. How flexible your fingers are and the length of your fingers plays an important role is fingering chords. One's hand needs to be comfortable with the chord you are currently fingering.

I've never played an ukulele, but on guitar, I can finger a G chord with my 2nd, 3rd and 4th finger (apart from playing it with 4 fingers) because my fingers are really long. Guys with short fingers usually prefer to play the G chord using their 1st, 2nd and 3rd fingers due to the length and stretch of the middle finger.

It is as stated by @Tim, context is important, from which chord you are coming from and where you are going to, so you need to work around that and find what works best in which context. If you have difficulty with fingering certain chords, like G in this context, and you are comfortable with your how you are fingering the chord now, try and see if you can't find alternative fingering for the preceding chord and the chord following that G. Experiment and see what works best for you.

Remember one thing, chord books and teachers are just basic guidelines, and not the alpha and omega. There is no correct way or wrong way to finger any chord. Create your own unique style which works best for you and work on that.

Just for interest sake and to conclude, when it comes to unique fingering, have a look at how uniquely the late Kurt Cobain fingered his open A chord and open E5 chord, haven't seen these fingerings in any chord book or online source

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    just a note, a G chord on a uke is a D major shape from a guitar (0 2 3 2) – Some_Guy Nov 21 '16 at 9:03
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There's not going to be a huge difference in the quality of your playing just from fingering that chord in a weird way. In fact, that makes for a very easy transition to a particular voicing of an Am chord (0-3-5-4), and it could be useful. The trouble is, this looks like it's possibly going to injure you. I don't know, and in no way am I qualified to give medical advice, but I've tried that fingering, and it involves your left elbow bending over towards the body of the ukulele. Compare that to all the accepted fingerings for chords on the ukulele, where your elbow points outwards to your left. Having your elbow in that position looks awkward, if not painful, and swinging it around on almost every feasible chord transition would just be awkward. I get that it's hard to learn new fingerings for chords, but it really seems like that's rather inefficient, given that there are so many different ways to play a G chord that don't involve that. In addition, putting vibrato on that chord is going to be weird. I must advise that you avoid this practice, as, though I have no medical evidence, it is such a contrast from every other chord fingering that I have doubts about its safety. Feel free to disregard me, though.

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I learned the second image first, but find it hard to use the finger position, so I changed it and find the position on the first image more comfortable for me during progressions. I think it does not matter so long as you're comfortable while playing.

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I would be very careful with this. It might be a right moment to consult a teacher and take a few lessons to get some help with something more fundamental - the hand position. It's hard to judge by the pictures but I suspect you might need to correct something when it comes to hand position.

Also think about it this way - you still need to learn lots of chords and fingerings, and a lot of them would feel uncomfortable and awkward at first. So there is no harm learning this chord both ways and finding out which fingering "wins" in the longer term.

You might for example notice down the line that lots of typically used chord ornamentations and little embellishments (like eg. going between G and Gsus4 and Gsus2) work much better with the second fingering. From that point of view it always makes sense to follow the canon when you starting, to make following and learning from other good players easier.

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