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Thread: Why not strum w/thumb?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2018
    Posts
    10

    Smile Why not strum w/thumb?

    I'm a novice player. Mostly I strum simple arrangements of songs that I like, and sing along when no one is around.

    I've been strumming w/my thumb. It feels natural and it produces a pleasing sound. I've noticed in videos that just about NO ONE strums w/the thumb, and some instructional materials warn against it.

    I'm working on learning how to strum in the recommended ways.

    BUT, thumb strumming produces a dramatically richer sound for me than the recommended ways. Strumming w/the tops and/or side of my finger(s) does not sound nearly as nice to my ears. Clickety-click, thin sound, lack of control, etc.

    It's quite possible that I need a LOT more practice with recommended strumming methods to produce a rich, mellow sound. I sense that thumb strumming is a bad habit to develop. If that really is so, I should switch before it's too late.

    Before I tell myself, "I'm playing for myself alone, so I can feel free to strum however I like," I'd love to hear why thumb strumming is unpopular.

    Many thanks.
    June

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Location
    Upper Hale, Surrey/Hants border, UK.
    Posts
    4,906

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    I use my thumb, picking melodies, & when I occasionally strum & croak in the Seasons, most say it's not the way because they play re entrant, but it depends on how you want to play - there are no hard & fast rules - we just want to make music.

    I use thumb down, & index finger up, if I'm going both ways - or just brush my finger tips down over the strings - depends how I feel.
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Location
    Near Lake Okeechobee, Florida
    Posts
    233

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    June,

    You'll develop a richer tone with your other fingers as you play more, but it might never match the richness of the thumb (especially as your thumb gains more experience).

    There's a place for different finger designations for strumming. Plenty of jazz musicians use their thumb for downstrokes to take advantage of its meatier tone (John Lawlor on tenor guitar, Abe Lagrimas Jr. on 'ukulele, etc.). On the other hand, certain strum patterns, such as ones that use an alternating thumb pattern, are easier to accomplish with the use of at least one other finger.

    In short, there are myriad right hand approaches to the 'ukulele. Which ones you use will be determined in the long run and will likely be informed by your repertoire.
    Last edited by bacchettadavid; 05-05-2018 at 08:21 AM.
    "Who hears music, feels his solitude Peopled at once -- for how count heart-beats plain / Unless a company, with hearts which beat, / Come close to the musician, seen or no?" - Robert Browning, "Balaustion's Adventure"

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Posts
    20

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    There are five sticky outy things at the end of your arm. You are permitted to use any or all of them to strum your uke. You can make lots of different sounds that way. But you need to record and listen back to be sure it is the sound you are trying for. And there are all kinds of picks and plectrums, each with a different sound.

    A big difference is thumb is usually pad down, nail up while a finger is the reverse. Lately, I have been learning to use my thumb because I have worn down the nail on my index and forefinger.

  5. #5

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    have a look, he is playing with the thumb :

    http://www.ukulelemag.com/stories/uk...-casey-macgill

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    Twin Cities Area, Minnesota
    Posts
    1,537

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    If you like using the thumb..use it. You get additional freedom for different strums with other fingers...and I’d also wager that you can strum faster and more control with your index finger versus your thumb.

    But there are no steadfast rules in ukulele...and if anyone says there are, keep away from them. There are best practices but no iron clad rules.
    Playing ukulele since January 2016.

    Have you participated in the thread, "How the Ukulele Found You?" If not, please consider adding your story--they are just fun to read.

    http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/...lele-found-you

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Arizona, USA
    Posts
    3,119

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    I am one that wishes I could use my thumb comfortably at times. It feels awkward for me. Probably cause I'm a lefty that plays righty.

    I know there are rules/guidelines that are out there about how to correctly play, but I think sometimes your way is the right way. If you like the tone and it feels comfortable to you I wouldn't get too hung up about it. As you move along you will find yourself falling naturally into your pattern. However, trying new things opens you up to abilities and pushes you further. I think you do you and all is good!
    Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Posts
    168

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    June, I know what you mean, and I sometimes think I might keep working with that thumb strum until I get good with it, because it does indeed seem to produce a very "elegant" tone and texture which can be perfect with the right kind of songs. James Hill has a video out there that features him playing a slow jazzy tune ("After You've Gone") with just the pad of his thumb; it's awesome. Now..... we need to get you doing simple arrangements of songs that you like, and singing along when others ARE around!
    Last edited by Bill Sheehan; 05-05-2018 at 11:57 AM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Posts
    168

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    Quote Originally Posted by Domiuke View Post
    have a look, he is playing with the thumb :

    http://www.ukulelemag.com/stories/uk...-casey-macgill
    Thanks for that video link, Domiuke, it's excellent and inspiring!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Posts
    341

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    Here's my perspective as a more advanced beginner: you need everything....eventually.

    what I mean by that is I recently saw an "ethnic" strum pattern I liked; it had five elements:

    1. downstroke with index
    2. downstroke with thumb
    3. upstroke with something (I use the knuckle of my thumb)
    4. a muted downstroke
    5. an upstroke

    My intention isn't to intimidate you. I merely want to show you that there's a lot of strokes that you need. Therefore, focus and develop your thumb stroke. Then, when the need arises, inculcate and incorporate a new strum. Over time you'll have several tools in your strum toolbox and then you can do some various and varied things with the same chords.

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