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Kahua
01-08-2017, 07:17 AM
Being new to playing the ukulele, and coming from a background of playing guitar many years ago, I am having difficulty with the strumming technique. When playing guitar, I either used a pick or just my thumb.

I know there are no hard fast rules in how one can or should play an instrument, but may I ask. Are there players that use picks or just their thumbs alone for playing? I'm comfortable using my thumb, or would you recommend that I learn the way most ukulele players strum. Perhaps a silly question, but I do want to be able to play it properly.

Thanks

DownUpDave
01-08-2017, 07:30 AM
I have taken workshops and classes from multiple ukulele musicians and they all seem to use their index finger. There is a great resource here for learning and Aldrine teaches that method as well. CLICK "Learn to play the Ukulele" on the title bar above.

That being said there is no "right" way and many people use their thumb and some use a pick. But the index finger does give a certain sound and the ability to do triplets and other complex strumming patterns.

Rllink
01-08-2017, 07:36 AM
Yes, unlike guitar, ukulele has a very complex strumming technique where the player takes his or her index finger, points it toward the strings, then runs the very tip of the finger up and down over them in some rhythmic pattern that fits with whatever music one is playing.:) There are however some people who are unable to master the technique, or prefer to have a more guitar like experience, and they sometimes resort to using picks much as guitar players use picks to strum guitars. As far as thumbs are concerned, I occasionally slip a thumb in there just for the fun of it.

cml
01-08-2017, 07:58 AM
There are tons of way to strum...

You can:
strum down with the fleshy side of your thumb, up with the thumb nail
strum down with the fleshy side of your thumb, up with the fleshy side of your index
strum down with your index nail, up with fleshy side
down index nail, up thumb nail
etc etc

Here's what I do, down long- and ringfinger nail, up thumb nail. That seems to work best for me. I really dont like the index nail side down, flesh up - which incidently is a very popular way to do it.

YorkSteve
01-08-2017, 09:09 AM
And for variety, I have just checked, and found that my index finger rarely touches the strings when I strum - nails on the middle 2 fingers on the way down, thumb nail on the way back up. (Ducks as uke teachers all over the world hurl rocks in my direction...;))

cml
01-08-2017, 09:22 AM
And for variety, I have just checked, and found that my index finger rarely touches the strings when I strum - nails on the middle 2 fingers on the way down, thumb nail on the way back up. (Ducks as uke teachers all over the world hurl rocks in my direction...;))
Yeah, that's what I do as well, forgot the ring finger .

Rllink
01-08-2017, 01:18 PM
And for variety, I have just checked, and found that my index finger rarely touches the strings when I strum - nails on the middle 2 fingers on the way down, thumb nail on the way back up. (Ducks as uke teachers all over the world hurl rocks in my direction...;))


Yeah, that's what I do as well, forgot the ring finger .Yep, there's always somebody who wants to show off. :)

PhilUSAFRet
01-08-2017, 02:26 PM
Check out videos of the many Hawaiian uke players that do magic with just their thumbs. Here's a tutorial on strumming with a little detail:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKtPE3HfL5c

cml
01-08-2017, 07:36 PM
Yep, there's always somebody who wants to show off. :)
:)
Ukuleletricks, where I started, recommends this and it just felt natural to me.

Louis0815
01-10-2017, 10:26 AM
In any case the strumming movement on ukulele is more a twisting of the wrist - unlike strumming on guitar where the movement originates more in the elbow (moving the entire forearm).
Playing a small instrument makes movement way more efficient ;)

Jim Yates
01-10-2017, 11:33 AM
It depends on the song/tune or the sound you want.
- I'll sometimes strum down with the nail of the bird finger and up with the index. This seems to be my default strum.
- I'll sometines pick a string with my thumb and down with bird, up with index. This helps add a counter melody. (Carter Scratch) (bum-diddy)
- Sometimes I use a clawhammer type of strum: Down with the bird nail on a single string, then down again as a strum and then the thumb pulls the 4th string.
This uses the bum-diddy rhythm too, but other notes can be added with slides, hammers, pulls and drop thumb.
- I'll sometimes use a finger picking pattern using thumb, index and bird fingers in different patterns.
- I sometimes pick a single string melody alternating thumb and index.

Kahua
01-10-2017, 12:06 PM
Hi Jim

Not too sure I get everything you are saying, but from what I have seen demoed on YouTube and what others are saying, I might take a few personal lessons for strumming. Not too worried about cording as I used to play guitar.

Thanks for your post Jim. I might just go over to one of the local music stores that give lessons. Even if I take a half dozen to get me started.

Mivo
01-10-2017, 02:55 PM
Picks are an option and they give you an additional tool to use. It will also make your ukulele sound twice as loud with greater clarity (not a felt pick, a regular guitar pick; 0.38 to 0.88mm gauge seems to work well for me, quite liking Dunlop's Tortex and Gator Grip ones as well as the celluloid picks by Catfish). I used to be in the "never use picks with ukes!" camp, but now that I'm actually learning how to use them, I quite enjoy the sound they produce. It was not uncommon to use picks with the ukulele at some point in the past, either, it just fell out of fashion. It's a different style, not better or worse than using fingers, just different. (I find using a pick well harder than using fingers.)

When using fingers, I mostly use a loose index finger, sometimes the middle and ring finger in addition for a different sound. Being relaxed is important.

Kahua
01-13-2017, 04:19 AM
You can use a pick on your ukulele, just like your guitar. However, you need to be careful with your technique as the ukulele wont usually have a pick guard. You can gouge a hole in the top of a ukulele easily in a three minutes if you use a thick pick and a wild technique. Thankfully, you can get a good sound with a thinner pick and it is not hard to control your strumming.
You can also get rubber and felt picks.
All the picks have a different sound so it pays to keep a selection if you like using them.
Fancy strums are a feature of ukulele playing, I call them the 1000 strums, you can spend a lot of time learning them and they look impressive, but in the end they are a rhythmic strum and you can do a lot more with a ukulele than the 1000 strums. It is worth trying a few out as a new player to see if it is something you like to do, but you can do other stuff as well.

I never thought about that. Perhaps there is no pick guard because it wasn't designed to use with a pick?

I watched a YouTube video showing different types of picks that can be used. I wish I remember the viseo now because he cut out a piece of a yogurt container for use as a soft pick. I thought that interesting. Might try that myself.

ukatee
01-13-2017, 05:31 AM
I cut a piece off an old leather belt - a fairly thick, stiff one - and it works quite well.

PTOEguy
01-13-2017, 06:47 AM
There are different strumming techniques for a variety of different styles. Google Formby style sometime to see one that I enjoy messing around with (but don't often get to use).

JackLuis
01-14-2017, 04:47 AM
I've seen Jake and his triple strum, but I can't do it. I've only been playing a short while but I beginning to learn to control my up-down strum to select one-two or three bottom strings to get different sounds. I have learned to trill and a couple of other techniques as long as I don't watch my hand but "just play for sound".

phil hague
01-14-2017, 05:45 AM
I'm not the best at these fancy strum patterns, but I use the index finger most of the time and it works for me. Thumb strum I find almost impossible. But you can fingerpick a ukulele and get great results.

Rrgramps
01-14-2017, 11:17 AM
It depends on the song/tune or the sound you want.
- I'll sometimes strum down with the nail of the bird finger and up with the index. This seems to be my default strum.
- I'll sometines pick a string with my thumb and down with bird, up with index. This helps add a counter melody. (Carter Scratch) (bum-diddy)
- Sometimes I use a clawhammer type of strum: Down with the bird nail on a single string, then down again as a strum and then the thumb pulls the 4th string.
This uses the bum-diddy rhythm too, but other notes can be added with slides, hammers, pulls and drop thumb.
- I'll sometimes use a finger picking pattern using thumb, index and bird fingers in different patterns.
- I sometimes pick a single string melody alternating thumb and index.
Yep, I'm sorta the same way, coming from guitar/bass. In 1963, I used a pick mostly, always for guitar, and a lot of the time for bass. 1970's found me playing bass with my index finger. 1980's, snap and pop bass with low string thumb down stoke, and a finger to up stoke (pop) a higher string. A little later, I found that supplementing a pick with my middle finger worked for some songs on guitar. The 1990's were fingers style, with combination of two or three fingers and thumb. Less use of only playing with picks. I still thought ukuleles were for tots; didn't know better. LOL. Dang was I ever the ignorant one.

I played my first ukulele on April of last year, and was pretty well playing with Jim's style right off the bat. Had to get used to the feel, and the higher key of the ukulele though, and it took a few weeks to ween me off the guitar concept.

When strumming only though, I use the flesh part of my index finger quit often. But I do play a lot with two fingers and thumb. That is, melody lines with fingers combined with chords with either an index finger or thumb -- it depends.

In bands I've always tried not to play in another band member's space, stay in the groove, not play too busy, not play the same simultaneous chord of another band member, and that less can be more. That's when playing (usually blues and rock) in a band. I've never played in a Uke festivity or club though, and realize that the concept in those groups is probably of many people (including me?) playing chords in the same pendulum motion.

I'll be learning that experience soon though, and will give ya a report back to see if I hold back and use different strums or just hail a rhythmic pattern and strum in the same fashion as the rest. This is going to be fun for both the playing, and of the added social environment.

70sSanO
01-14-2017, 07:57 PM
I usually fingerpick and when I strum I primarily use my index finger. My wife is learning and she uses a pick. I have tried one and it does produce more volume and a clearer sound. The pick that seems to work well is a Dunlop nylon (gray) .60mm.

You do need to be careful not to scratch the finish, it will probably happen a little, but it is not uncommon for some guitars to not have pickguards, PRS comes to mind. I would refrain from windmilling.

John