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View Full Version : My extremely noobie question...



beginnerukeman143
10-16-2011, 09:24 PM
so im a horrible nail biter (yeah i know... crazy :D), and i was just wondering whether or not you had to have nails to strum... i can do a nice down stroke with my index finger (I'm left handed btw) but its the upstroke that sounds really.... I don't exactly know how to explain it, but it just doesnt give a very good sound... so any help would be appreciated :)

zacht
10-16-2011, 10:21 PM
I have the same 'hobby', but managed to keep one nail out of the clear this month, the nail I strum with. But I use it only on downstrumming, for upstrumming I use the other side of my finger. I'm a noob as well, so I'm not sure this is the right technique, if there is one right technique that is.

Lalz
10-17-2011, 01:24 AM
I don't really think you need nails on the right hand to strum. Sometimes I cut my nails short and it sounds just fine. Matter of taste I guess.
But if you really want the type of sound you get from strumming with your nails and don't have the nails for it, I recommend Alaska fingerpicks. I use them on my banjo ukulele sometimes. They're quite cheap and come in three different sizes. You might want to adjust their length to your fingers by using a nail-cutter.
Happy strumming!

mascompro
10-17-2011, 06:36 AM
I don't use my nails at all to strum, down stroke-flesh of thumb, upstroke-flesh of index finger.

PoiDog
10-17-2011, 06:46 AM
The so-called "proper" strumming technique is to downstrum using the nail of the index finger, and upstrum with the pad.

I say "so-called" because ultimately, whatever works for you is the best way to go. Then again, there is something to the idea that if all the experts, long-time players, and professionals recommend you do something a certain way, there is a reason for it.

I've found that my strums sound more clear when using the nail than some other way. No doubt it has to do with the fact that the nail is a hard material, which produces a more percussive and faster strike on the strings than flesh.

FlyedPiper
10-17-2011, 08:36 AM
I try and grow my nails out on my strumming hand, with mixed results. Eventually I can't stand it anymore and have to trim them down. FWIW my uncle has zero nails whatsoever and strums the uke fine, although for fingerpicking he usually uses a pick.

I don't think having long nails is a necessity for playing the uke, your playing style will adapt itself.

OldePhart
10-17-2011, 02:14 PM
The only "real" rule is that you get a sound that pleases you. That said, I've found that strumming down with the nail of the index and second fingers, and up with the nail of my thumb, works very nicely for me on most songs. My real regret is that I can't keep the fingernails on my fingers just a little longer - I play bass in a band and long nails on the index and second fingers really screw up that tone. Plus, I tend to tear those nails up. I have a nice long pretty nail on my thumb, though. :)

I also use clear nail polish to harden the nails (yeah, I'm the fifty-something fat guy you see in the nail section at Wal Mart). Harder nails give a more crisp tone.


John

kwkak37
10-17-2011, 02:25 PM
Thank goodness, I thought I was doing something wrong when I strum with my thumb and middle finger together, as if I am holding a guitar pick.
As for nails, I think the nails contribute to making a larger sound, and clipped nails lead to a softer sound. But that's just me.

beginnerukeman143
10-17-2011, 04:03 PM
I don't use my nails at all to strum, down stroke-flesh of thumb, upstroke-flesh of index finger.

Wow. because when ever i do that i don't get a crisp tone... but that could be my lack of calluses on my right hand finngers


I don't really think you need nails on the right hand to strum. Sometimes I cut my nails short and it sounds just fine. Matter of taste I guess.
But if you really want the type of sound you get from strumming with your nails and don't have the nails for it, I recommend Alaska fingerpicks. I use them on my banjo ukulele sometimes. They're quite cheap and come in three different sizes. You might want to adjust their length to your fingers by using a nail-cutter.
Happy strumming!

hmm.. i have looked for a actual Ukulele pick (they are different because they are made from like felt or something) but i cant seem to find those.. even at the big Ukulele shop here on the Island. But at the moment the Guitar pick i am using seems to work fine :)

But thanks for the insight

savethecheerleader
10-17-2011, 05:38 PM
I'm also of the belief that you gotta go with what works best for you.

I generally keep a little bit of nail length just because I find it easier to fingerpick that way. If my nails are all the way down on my picking hand, I don't like the tone, and I feel like I have less control. But as for strumming, I don't notice a lot (or any) difference whether my nails are short or long.

vanflynn
10-17-2011, 06:39 PM
The only "real" rule is that you get a sound that pleases you.
John

Second that OldePhart. The side of my thumb is all I use. It doesn't scare the dog as much.

OldePhart
10-18-2011, 01:21 PM
Thank goodness, I thought I was doing something wrong when I strum with my thumb and middle finger together, as if I am holding a guitar pick.
As for nails, I think the nails contribute to making a larger sound, and clipped nails lead to a softer sound. But that's just me.

It's kind of funny, for the longest time I had troubles getting a smooth, coordinated down/up with the index fingernail and thumbnail. Then, one night I was strumming softly while watching TV and I suddenly realized that I was pinching thumb and finger together as if holding a pick and strumming just as naturally as could be, "rolling" my finger and thumb against each other slightly each time I changed direction so as to be leading with the nail.

I don't typically use the "holding a pick" shape any more (mostly because my thumbnail is now significantly longer than my fingernail), but it sure helped me to get to a place where I could get smooth down/up strumming with index/thumb.

Waterguy
10-18-2011, 03:45 PM
I strum with just the index at a right angle to the uke. My job keeps my finger nails short.

Works for me.

Tootler
10-19-2011, 09:21 AM
I strum down with the back of my index and middle finger - it's mostly middle finger I think, and up with the thumbnail. I hold my hand in a "pickgrip" described by OldePharte but it's very loose and relaxed. A pick would fall out of my hand before I even applied it to the strings. I did buy a felt pick - cost me all of one GB Pound but I didn't really like it. Too loud so it dominated my singing and also I tended to hold it too loosely so it kept falling out of my hand.

For quiet practice, I find strumming up and down with the fleshy side of my thumb useful.

But as others say; it's whatever works for you. That was what I was told by the tutor at a Uke workshop at Saltburn Folk Festival this summer.

TheJoelasaurus
10-20-2011, 12:09 PM
hmm.. i have looked for a actual Ukulele pick (they are different because they are made from like felt or something) but i cant seem to find those.. even at the big Ukulele shop here on the Island. But at the moment the Guitar pick i am using seems to work fine :)

If I were you I would try to get a felt pick soon, or at least a very thin guitar pick, the nylon strings can (apparently) get damaged by a thicker one! If you can't find one then I've seen people make their own, just a thought...

But whatever works and sounds best to you is best at the end of the day :) I naturally use my index finger to strum, going down on the nail and up on the fleshy tip bit. I find that you get a different tone on the up and down strums which emphasises strumming patterns.

OldePhart
10-20-2011, 12:41 PM
Actually, on those very rare occasions when I use a pick (usually when I've managed to destroy my nails) I love the very thin, flexible Dunlop nylon guitar picks - the white one - don't seem to have one handy at the moment or I'd tell you what thickness it is. It might do a number on the coated Nylgut strings I don't know - I mostly use fluorocarbon strings and they laugh at the thought of being damaged by wimpy Dunlop nylon picks. LOL

John

ukuleleforbeginners
10-25-2011, 06:37 PM
I keep my nails very very short and don't have any problems. I know a lot of guitar players keep a long nail for picking though.

mm stan
10-25-2011, 09:42 PM
Find what works for you and concentrate on your basic strumming initially...as for finger pick, the type that attaches to you fingertips..when I first started I thought they were the hardest
to get used to...then all of a sudden one day it came....think of consistant even light stroke first...but I have nails as they give a louder cleaner tone..and the length and shape of your nails matters too..hope it helps...good luck...

psy
10-26-2011, 11:26 PM
I'm really glad to hear you don't need nails to play as I'm a biter & mine as short as you can get. Funny how you mention the holding the invisible plectrum OldePhart, I've noticed that's what I naturally do when playing (too much guitar playing perhaps).

Ambient Doughnut
10-27-2011, 12:27 AM
I'm an inveterate nail biter - 43 now and started as a kid. I stop about two years ago, there were two things that really helped.

1) Inositol - Google it. It's used to treat compulsive disorders like skin picking or hair pulling - nail biting comes under the same heading. I bought some online and self medicined with it. Basically I just added a teaspoon to some green tea a couple of times a day. Maybe placebo, maybe not. I found it helped curb the behaviour.
2) Playing ukulele - duh!
3) making sure I always have a nail file handy. There's nothing worse than a jagged edge to set you off again. Keep them super neat and smooth and there's less temptation to 'groom' them with your teath.

I still give in occasionally and nibble a left hand nail a bit. But only a bit and never the strumming hand.


One other point - non nail biters saying they keep their nails short may not realise just how short a nail biters nails can be. Even a short well trimmed nail affects the tone produced. It's a completely different thing to a nail that's been bitten right down.

Shastastan
10-27-2011, 09:20 AM
Wow. because when ever i do that i don't get a crisp tone... but that could be my lack of calluses on my right hand finngers



hmm.. i have looked for a actual Ukulele pick (they are different because they are made from like felt or something) but i cant seem to find those.. even at the big Ukulele shop here on the Island. But at the moment the Guitar pick i am using seems to work fine :)

But thanks for the insight

I bought some leather pics on ebay. They are a little larger than guitar picks. I think they are called "Kiwaya"? The leather is soft producing a less harsh sound than plastic pics....I'm not saying anything against plastic pics though.

wolfybau
10-27-2011, 05:32 PM
you could always try some Lee Press-ON nails :p

beginnerukeman143
10-28-2011, 12:15 AM
Actually, on those very rare occasions when I use a pick (usually when I've managed to destroy my nails) I love the very thin, flexible Dunlop nylon guitar picks - the white one - don't seem to have one handy at the moment or I'd tell you what thickness it is. It might do a number on the coated Nylgut strings I don't know - I mostly use fluorocarbon strings and they laugh at the thought of being damaged by wimpy Dunlop nylon picks. LOL

John

the one I have been using is a Dunlop .60 seems to work pretty well without damaging the nylon strings i have on mine right now