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I’m in about 6 months in attempting to learn the ukulele. I know my basic chords but cannot, at this point, bring all two or three fingers down at the same time on an f chord or g chord (for example). One finger hits then the others follow in a slower methodical pattern. Is there any way to correct this or practice the correct technique?

Not sure if the fact that I am 75 and have never played any instrument in my life or the fact that I was forced to change from being born a lefty to using my right hand at about four years old causes any of this.

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It’s most likely down to the fact that you’ve never played an instrument before, and it’s a question of practice to get your hand muscles working the way you want them to.

I’m assuming of course you have no underlying hand problems, because I am not a doctor.

The good news is that there are lots of exercises you can do just about anywhere (driving, watching TV, etc). A Google search for hand dexterity exercises will turn up loads, but one really good musicians one I was taught in a flute workshop follows.

Try putting your hand flat on a flat surface, then raise fingers 1 and 3 (index and ring) a short distance keeping 2 and 4 (middle and little) flat, then bring them down together. Concentrate on making sure they really are coming down together as a single unit, which they won’t at first. Repeat that a few times, then try it with raising fingers 2 and 4, then 1 and 2, then 3 and 4.

Stop once it starts to ache, but do it again later. And again and again and again. Slowly the dexterity and accuracy will build up, and so will your ability to hit the chord shapes in a single movement. Flute players benefit from doing this on both hands of course!

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It's the same sort of idea as learning to play chords on guitar. Make sure all the strings are pressed down for a chord. Play it to make sure. Then lift all the fingers, but only as far as they're not pressing down, but still touching the strings. Press down again. keep doing that until you can lift off and then press down accurately. Keep taking them off higher and higher, until you can actually hammer them down together onto the chord - which you'll hear without strumming.

Something else that will help is to try to get the fingers to touch each other, so they feel where they are comparable to each other. Experiment with different fingering for each chord. Just because someone says xyz is the best fingering doesn't mean it will be for you.

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Slow motion practice, with a metronome.

Practice making the chords in very, very slow motion, such that you can make it the way you want (cleanly, each finger down at the same time). You will be going very, very slowly at first. For example, it might take you 10 seconds to make the chord cleanly, very slowly moving the fingers, paying attention that each finger is doing the right thing. Don't worry about the speed now. It's more important for your movement to be right than it is to be fast. Fast is going to come with practice.

Alternate between not making the chord, with your fingers off of the instrument and your hand relaxed, and making the chord. Very slowly, very perfectly. Each time you've made the chord, pluck the strings to make sure you've got a clean sound. This checks for finger placement and pressure. When you're not making the chord, remove your fingers from the shape they were in.

Now that you can make the chord cleanly, we're going to work on speed. Put on the metronome and make the chord, and remove the chord, to the ticking of the metronome.

When you can do it effortlessly at a given speed, then speed up a bit. When a speed gives you trouble, slow it down.

You'll repeat this in each practice session. Don't stay on one chord for too long during each practice session--there are diminishing returns. It's better to do this exercise for, say, 10 minutes over four practice sessions in a day, than it is to do it for 40 minutes in one practice session.

This exercise also work for changing from one chord to another. For example, the key of C is very common in ukulele, and in the key of C, you'll use the F and G chords also. So you might practice changing from C to F to G to C (or other sequences of these chords) using the same technique. Go very, very slowly, get it right, then slowly speed up.

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Not being able to press all fingers down at the same time when making a chord is a common issue when learning a new chord. It seems to be something to do with how the brain learns - a sequence is easier to learn than all at once. The solution is to use a technique called air changes. When practising the chord:

  1. Move all fingers to just above the string position where they should be.
  2. Press down fingers simultaneously

It will slow your chord changes down initially. But you’re training your brain that step 1 is the required position and step 2 logically comes after. Practice a chord-to-chord change during a single minute and record how many changes you can make in that time. Over a period of daily practice, you’ll see your speed start to improve again and the steps will merge together. Until one day you’ll be playing at an acceptable speed and with all fingers striking at exactly the same time.

Justin Sandercoe (Justin Guitar) has a great video on air changes

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As a child we had to learn to differentiate the movement of our fingers. When you learn playing Guitar or Ukulele you see a chord pattern and you put the fingers 1 ... 2 .... 3 on the strings. This is the wrong way. You’ll have to make a print of the pattern and put the fingers (123) en block as it were one single finger in the right position: as described, get a feeling for the pattern, touch the strings, lift the finger, try again all together, with closed eyes, control, mind the changed chord, have a copy in your mind, look the pattern of the fingers, put them as one on the strings, listen to the chord ... feel how they feel when touching each other.

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