View Full Version : Strumming Hand... Which Fingers to Use when Fingerpicking.

08-11-2009, 07:13 PM
It appears that there must be lots of different playing styles using the strumming hand. My question is: Do some players use all their fingers like a classical guitarist when fingerpicking... One finger for each string. Do some players use only their thumb to pick and strum.... What about just using your thumb and one other finger..... I guess I don't know where to start on this.... I am thinking that I might be making a mistake by trying to learn one way and then finding out years later that it is much easier to do it another way... What would be the easiest in your opinion? Any comments appreciated.

Uncle Rod Higuchi
08-11-2009, 07:24 PM
I do not have classical guitar training so I never learned the thumb and 3 finger technique. I generally do my picking with my thumb for the 3rd and 4th strings and my index finger for the 1st and 2nd strings. This means I "pick" down with my thumb and "pick" up with my index finger.

I also generally strum with the nail of my thumb, the pad and nail of my index finger, and the nail of my pinky. Even when I do a roll I generally use just my pinky and my index finger.

Works for me. Hope this helps.

08-11-2009, 08:02 PM
Do some players use all their fingers like a classical guitarist when fingerpicking...
Yes, seeing as how I'm primarily a classical guitarist, I was used to using all those fingers to start with, so I use them all on the uke, too. :p

08-11-2009, 09:11 PM
I usually just use one or two fingers. Thumb, index and middle. I get the ring finger in there sometimes...

I've seen people like Bosko from Bosko and Honey play the ukulele flamenco style and use multiple fingers for the same string.

It's really just what's most comfortable for you.

08-11-2009, 10:05 PM
as an advanced beginner - playing since 9 months - first stringed instrument - and as left-handed playing standard ukes

i'm asking my self from time to time the same question.
Both is working and i try to use all but i recognized that i'm faster with thumb and index finger only when it comes to repeating patterns.

Check this fingerpicking tutorial:

You will see that the recommanded fingers for each pattern fits the best to gain an impressive speed

08-11-2009, 10:36 PM
i agree with seeso. What ever is comfortable with you.
I also use only my thumb, pointer and middle for all types of picking.

Ukulele JJ
08-12-2009, 02:41 AM
Yeah, I'm mstly a thumb-index-middle guy myself. More of a folky/country technique than classical, I guess.


08-12-2009, 03:12 AM
Good summary from Seeso: "What's most comfortable for you".

Good link from Cali. There are many techniques, some of which lend themselves particularly to certain picking pattern. It may be productive to learn to pick with at least thumb and 1st, 2nd and 3rd fingers, just so you have all options available to you if you encounter a complex pattern later on.

A good starter exercise is simply to play ascending and descending arpeggios using one digit per string: thumb for G, pointer for C, middle for E and ring for A.

As a practical pattern for songs in re-entrant tuning this is probably best used with chord shapes that avoid playing the same note twice in the same octave - which is what happens in a lot of simple uke chords - but it's a good basic dexterity exercise.

That said, good players can work wonders with just thumb and pointer finger. I love this video by Gordon Mark (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ua09ck2lWQY). He gives a great demo of thumb/pointer technique.

Personally, I usually either use an inferior version of that thumb/pointer approach, or I use mostly one digit per string with thumb and 1st, 2nd, 3rd fingers.

08-12-2009, 04:52 AM
Check out this video from Coveywood. I have used my thumb and pointer finger for picking (kinda self-taught) and am getting pretty comfortable with it.


08-12-2009, 08:18 AM
I prefer to use just my thumb and pointer finger. But lately my teacher is getting me to start using all my fingers. It's been difficult but it's starting to come along. Personally, I'm with Seeso -- whatever works. I've seen videos of extremely talented musicians who play with fingers flying and they use only thumb and pointer. Not to start anything, but it's kinda like the old pick vs. fingers "argument". As always, there is no right way or wrong way.

08-12-2009, 09:13 AM
[...]Not to start anything, but it's kinda like the old pick vs. fingers "argument". As always, there is no right way or wrong way.

FINGERS! Fingers is the right way!!! :D

See what you started?

08-12-2009, 10:15 AM
All of these comments are EXCELLENT! Exactly what I was looking for and some good links too. Thanks to all for taking time. I will start with my thumb and pointer finger and as I become more experienced I will add another finger (now that sounds strange....) :)

08-12-2009, 10:40 AM
(now that sounds strange....) :)

Haven't you figured out yet that in Uke-Speak there are lots of strange things to say? G-string and nut being 2 I can think of off the top of my head.

Oh, back on topic -- sounds like a good decision.

Buddhu, Buddhu, Buddhu...but I agree with you completely.

Jason Paul
08-13-2009, 11:27 AM
I've been thinking about this myself lately as well, as I'd like to learn some solos rather than just strumming.

I have Mark Nelson's Fingerpicking book. It's good, and his recommendation seems to be to assign one string for each finger (except pinkie). I've tried this and it's not bad, but I'm only getting a weak tone from my ring finger, and sometimes the middle. I've grown those nails out a bit, but it just doesn't sound right.

Another thing I can't quite get right is the roll, where you roll all the fingers in succession. The effect sounds like a strum, but you're actually picking each string individually.

So, I've been watching videos on YouTube. There are some great players who use this 4-finger approach, and there's something to be said about their efficiency of movement.

However, I've seen quite a few impressive players who use the thumb, index, and middle. So, I think I'm going to give that a try for a while.


08-13-2009, 12:11 PM
FINGERS! Fingers is the right way!!! :D

See what you started?

No! Fingers is WRONG! Knuckles are only right way!

*big scarey eyes*

it is even more fun if you take an absurd position

08-13-2009, 12:59 PM
Forget fingers, picks, knuckles... FEET! Feet is the ONLY way! :rock: