Ukulele Stiff Finger Warm-Ups, 5 Easy Exercises

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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Since we use our hands every day doing things texting and typing, we can develop some stiffness, and it creates a challenge when our fingers don’t cooperate or feel stiff while playing the ukulele. Take a brief five minute break and use these five easy exercises to warm up your fretting and strumming hands.

Stretch your hands first

Before doing the actual exercises, do a few finger and wrist stretches. Matthew W., a ukulele instructor from Music To Your Home, states:

Stretching first before playing is an excellent way to help get your blood flowing into the fingers before performing exercises to further strengthen them so that your fingers don’t have to work so hard.

Start by creating a fist that you slowly open and close, which will get the fingers moving. Then rotate your wrist in clockwise and counterclockwise directions on both hands. Feel free to use a squeeze ball or other accessory to squeeze and release. You will be surprised how much these little stretches help you get warmed up for the exercises.

Strumming Hand

1. Tempo strumming exercise

This tempo strumming exercise is excellent when you are just starting a ukulele playing session. Simple put your fingers on any fret, doesn’t have to be a specific chord. With your strumming hand, put your thumb and index finger together, like holding a plectrum, and just glide along the strings going down, then up.

Start with a slow tempo and gradually increase the speed as your strumming hand, fingers, and wrist get loose. Keep your hands as relaxed as possible while strumming.

2. Add dynamics to the strum

This next exercise is the same as the first, except now, you will consciously add some dynamics while you strum. Using the same position, start with doing the strumming as softly as you can while staying relaxed. Then try to gradually get louder and louder with each strum.

Try to stay as calm and relaxed as possible, even when your strum is getting louder. This way your fingers, hands and wrist will continue to loosen up and prepare you for playing.

Fretting Hand

3. Play the Chromatic scale

Now it’s time for your fretting fingers by going up the chromatic scale by half steps, playing each note individually, ascending, and then descending. Assign each of your four fretting hand fingers to each of the four frets while keeping your thumb firmly to the back neck of your ukelele.


Playing a chromatic scale this way makes it so that your index finger notes are all within the 1st fret, the middle finger notes for the 2nd fret, the ring finger notes for the 3rd fret, and the pinky notes on the 4th fret. You move from one string to the next, plucking each note with each finger. Play slowly so that it’s comfortable to transition between notes and strings without hesitation or pause.

4. Playing a Major scale

With your fret fingers, now you will start to play individual notes. First, pick any major scale that you are comfortable playing, such as C Major. Next, you should play the scale descending and ascending order. For example, if you use the C Major scale, you start with C and go D, E, F, G, A, B, and C.

     C  D  E  F     G  A  B  C     C  B  A  G     F  E  D  C

This exercise helps connect your mind to the notes you’ll be playing while helping your fingers connect to the notes. It’s a great exercise that you can make as complicated as you want, doing more major scale picking with your fingers, like jumping in thirds or doing fifths with the notes.

5. Now play some chords!

Now that your fingers are feeling more warmed up, you can start strumming and playing chord progressions. First, coordinate your fretting hand and strumming hand together in your mind with some simple and familiar chords. A typical pattern is C, G, Am, F.

C ukulele chord from UkuTabs
G ukulele chord from UkuTabs
Am ukulele chord from UkuTabs
F ukulele chord from UkuTabs

Then, you can pick any chord progression that you like that is easy for you to do.

Importance of warm-up exercises

The warm-up is a vital part of your practice time and you don’t have to spend more than a minute with each exercise to get you going. So it should only take you around five minutes or so to get through. Exercising your hands and fingers will relieve pain and stiffness so that you are ready to play your ukelele or your guitar.

If you have stiff or uncooperative fingers, don’t push yourself too hard during your practice time. “Listen” to your hands and your fingers, and only practice in short sessions, only fifteen minutes or so at a time. If your fingers are just too stiff to play, consider doing a longer warm-up, or just save it for tomorrow and take a break.

If you feel anything more than just stiffness, like tingling or numbness, be sure to ask your doctor about a possible evaluation. Stretching and warming up those fingers should help to alleviate and relieve any discomfort. Playing the ukelele can provide many health benefits as well, so start playing today!


Feel free to contact me whenever you need more information about stiff fingers or warm-up exercises.

Interested in the basic ukulele chords or how to read ukulele tablature as well?


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