View Full Version : Soprano, holding whilst fingerpicking.

Graham Greenbag
02-06-2018, 03:19 AM
This is a Ďrookieí type question and hence itís in the beginners section.

Iím trying to do a bit of finger picking and greatly enjoying it. I do sound a bit rubbish but arenít worrying about that, we all have to start somewhere and then work at improving. Whatís on my mind is the dedicated use of thumb and fingers on particular strings and more specifically why my fingers seen to glance off of the strings rather than pluck them. (Thumb on G/g, index on C, middle on E and ring on A)

I am currently holding the Soprano with a strap around my neck and in the same way that I would use it for strumming, but maybe thatís not best for picking? Iíve tried changing the angle of the Uke, so that itís a bit more towards the vertical, and my fingers pluck better as there is more like a 90 degree angle between then and the strings. What am I missing or not seeing: when Iíve watched good Soprano finger pickers in the past Iím so blown away with how good they sound that I donít notice their technique.

Croaky Keith
02-06-2018, 03:58 AM
Basically, you get your finger tip slightly under the string as you pluck them.
Holding the neck at around about a 45 degree angle will also help.

02-06-2018, 05:43 AM
If you take a look at many classical guitar players, they have their picking hand wrist arched to achieve a more perpendicular angle to strings. Have a look at Andres Segovia's right hand and you will see this image. When I was studying classical guitar, I found this to get achy after a while and my teacher had me relax the wrist angle a bit and all was good. The higher up you can get the headstock, the more this angle becomes more natural. Too bad we couldn't hold it like a cello :)

02-06-2018, 09:51 AM
When you fingerpick, you want to get your fingertips (or fingernails) underneath the strings and pluck them upward. You want to use the side of your thumb (or thumbnail) to pluck the strings downward.

This is a short YouTube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpE98mr3x8Y) on the technique. It is worth noting that there are other approaches... this is the basic classical technique for right hand. The instructor is using a guitar in the video, but it applies just the same to ukulele.

It will probably take a few weeks to feel comfortable with it, but keep it up and you'll get there in no time. After a little while you won't even think about it anymore and you can concentrate on other things.

Graham Greenbag
02-06-2018, 10:59 PM
Thank you all for your support and suggestions, they are a great help and are pointing me in the right direction.

I watched the video last night and picked up several points and reaffirmed others, all good. I really liked his comment about pupils and improvement: basically it’s seek progress not perfection, the aim is to become a little better each day.

With the Soprano being a physically small instrument I wonder whether it’s harder to hold it just right, to have your hands at the best angles etc., or putting it a different way do the larger instruments sit naturally or more readily in a better position for finger picking? Just wondering and looking for those overlooked details - often hidden in plain sight - that make all the difference. When I first started picking I used my thumb (only) on all four strings, now using thumb and fingers I find that there is some trade off in where the hand sits such that both thumb and fingers pick/pluck well, but I guess that that’s normal and all part of the exploring and learning process.

Thanks again for the help and suggestions, it is appreciated.

02-07-2018, 01:12 AM
Graham - Please have a look at both Samantha Muir and Rob MacKillop and their playing style. There are videos of both of them playing soprano sizes instruments (some videos with them playing Machete de Braga - which is even slightly smaller than the soprano). I remember reading that Samantha Muir commented that she felt uncomfortable at first switching from the guitar to the soprano ukulele and found a strap helped her. I also remember seeing Rob MacKillop using a strap with his machete in a video. Perhaps a strap can position the smaller soprano just right for you.