View Full Version : Fingers picking style discussion

08-30-2016, 02:32 AM
I notice Korean, Japanese uke players use thumb pick while most of us use all four fingers.

I started using thumb pick and found my picking is more even and louder. I can even express myself a little better.

Just wondering if thumb pick is the traditional ukulele picking style?

Here is a good example of a really good Japanese player. Some songs he uses his pinky to strum upward like a fan. Very pretty! I selected a tune that is familiar to most of us to watch as sample.


08-30-2016, 02:54 AM
Ohta-san plays thumb picking. He published ukulele books very early and influenced Japanese ukulele players a lot. I think that is one of the biggest reason that many of us play thumb picking style in Japan. Almost all of the books recommend thumb picking in Japan. He explains that thumb is stronger than fingers and he takes this advantage for picking. Ohta-san plays soprano without strap, he can hold ukulele with his fingers during thumb picking. This may be anther advantage of thumb picking. I use index finger for picking with strap on my ukulele.

Croaky Keith
08-30-2016, 04:58 AM
As above, I thumb pick melody lines, whilst holding up the uke with my fingers, I do down strums this way as well, though I have been able to also do up strums, as long as the strumming isn't fast, in which case I will change to using my fingers, (also fingers for arpeggios). N.B. I am only a 'beginner' strummer. :)

Edit: Just to be clear, I don't use a plastic pick, just my thumb. ;)

08-30-2016, 06:35 AM
Coming to ukulele from classical guitar, it was natural for me to use 4 fingers in P-I-M-A for both strumming and fingerpicking:



For my own songs that I've written that are inspired by both Flamenco and Campanella, a thumb simply will not work as a single finger does not allow for the agility necessary for these styles...

For most of the 'Seasons Of The Ukulele' videos I've made, the DOWN-strum is with the nail of the middle-finger, and the UP-strum is with the nail of the thumb. Also, for ALL fingerpicking I use my natural nails and zero flesh of the finger pads since I have greater control over the dynamics and articulation, and a much improved sound to my ear.

08-30-2016, 09:11 AM
I must add that only certain songs I am able to use thumb pick.
Yes some do require four fingers !
thank you for the history of why Japanese and Korean use thumb pick! Very interesting !

08-30-2016, 09:36 AM
I've always been too clumsy for regular or finger picks. Like Booli I'm closer to PIMA than anything else. Thumb nail for up strum, but index nail for down.

08-30-2016, 12:02 PM
I don't think I really have an established style yet. I started out using mostly thumb, index, and middle finger, and then I added the ring finger when I worked through Bruce Emery's baritone books. Strengthening the ring finger took a while, but I found PIMA to be really efficient and intuitive for the four strings of the ukulele. (I've been looking into five-finger picking techniques (http://www.charlespostlewate.com/techwork.html) lately and grabbed up a book for it, but that is an idea for the guitarlele, and I'm not sure I can pull this off. I wonder if anyone uses the pinky finger when playing ukulele.)

I also practice a bit of picking with just the thumb because I see it in videos of some excellent players. Quite surprised how much can be done with it. Working a bit on shaping my thumb nail for just that purpose, and growing it out more than the finger nails (keeping those at 1.5-2mm of white when looking at from the top). Some have giant thumb nails, so I doubt I'll go for that, but I want to try it just so I have experienced it. I also saw really good stuff from players who use only thumb and index (Gordon Mark, etc.).

08-30-2016, 02:46 PM
Just fingers and thumb for me. Been playing that way so long, it just feels more natural and easier for me, than a thumb pick. Unless, of course, I break or rip a thumbnail. Normally I use the pima approach, but depending on picking pattern I sometimes just use 2 or 3 fingers.

09-01-2016, 08:51 AM
Fingers and thumbs for me. I tried a thumb pick but didn't feel right. Normal pick makes thing brighter but you lose the flexibility of finger picking and different strum pattern. I found the Toda sound sample very bright and clear and can see this technique of picking with thumb with a longer NAIL does that. I'm too far down the road to change how I play now but interesting to see a different approach.