View Full Version : New to Ukulele's, Are felt picks worth it?

04-19-2012, 05:56 AM
Hello everyone. Pretty new ukulele owner here, but I'm liking the learning process so far.

Saying that, I really am used to strumming on a guitar with a pick. I heard that felt picks were the right ones for ukuleles, as normal picks would ruin the strings quicker.

My question is, are felt picks worth it, or does strumming with my hand provide better benefits?

04-19-2012, 06:07 AM
This is just my opinion of course, but one of the things I like about playing the ukulele over the guitar is that I don't have to use a pick. I don't have to worry about that extra piece of equipment, I don't have to worry about losing it, I don't have to worry about it slipping in my fingers and having to reposition it. I'd advise you to try and learn the ukulele without a pick. It's going to seem odd at first but I think the transition will come pretty quickly to where it will feel very natural to play without it. Also, I think you'd find that a small minority of people use a pick when playing a uke. Everyone is going to do what works best for them but I'd recommend having a go at it without the pick. I think it gives a feeling of more connection to the instrument.

04-19-2012, 06:07 AM
Felt picks are a matter of taste. Based on my own experience, not that many people use them. I have tried soft picks made from felt, rubber, and leather, and felt came in a distant third; I like leather the best, followed by rubber. In the end, though, I almost never use a pick. I really feel the uke is an instrument meant to be played with the bare hand, and a lot of uke technique is built around that.

His Sinfulness
04-19-2012, 07:34 AM
Give your bare fingers a chance. I played guitar first as well, and I felt kind of naked without a pick. After a few days, however, I began to feel that I actually had more control over my strum, and the ability to create more sounds with my bare fingers than with a pick. I never miss it now - I tried a pick about a month ago and it felt alien to me.

04-19-2012, 08:36 AM
+1 on His Sinfulness: I came from playing guitar (badly) with a pick. Bare hands felt weird at first, but it's way more versatile and you actually get a lot more meat out of a strum with multiple fingernails doing your bidding.

That said I haven't tried the felt/rubber/leather pick thing. Maybe for surf music vibrato?

04-19-2012, 09:20 AM
No. They're like trying to butter toast with a phone book.

If you must use picks, then try various guitar picks. I prefer thin, flexible ones, myself, but your mileage may vary.

04-19-2012, 09:22 AM
I've never cared for the sound or feel of strumming with a pick on a ukulele, felt or otherwise. But I am a recent convert to using a thumbpick when fingerpicking.

Pete Beardsley
04-19-2012, 10:23 AM
I tend to use picks because my strumming sucks! Felt are good for me, but give a mellower, almost muted sound. Leather is tops for my tastes but does soften very quickly so they don't last long. The only reason I don't like plastic guitar picks much is because of the "clacking" sound you tend to get when they hit the strings.

04-19-2012, 11:30 AM
I have a very experimental style and some of my songs have a lot of extreme dynamic contrast.
At the loud points if there's a lot of downstrumming I do reach for a plec, and I use a very thin nylon plastic guitar plec.
I had looked into felt picks but I never went for it, I'm happy with the sound I get with my plastic one.
I would quite like to hear a felt pick being used though, does anyone have any videos or sound clips?

Ukulele JJ
04-19-2012, 12:39 PM
I've always likened using a pick on a ukulele as being like using drumsticks on bongos. (So I guess felt picks would be like using mallets on bongos?)


04-19-2012, 01:40 PM
It's all about the sound color you're trying to get. Not using a pick opens up your sound palette to a greater variety of tones. A pick, not so much! Experiment with different types of music and playing styles.

I like the fact that with my hand I can use the nails (they are longer than usual), fingertips, fleshy part of the thumb, and knuckles depending how I want to attack the phrase.

I've used this technique in over 40 years of finger style guitar and bass and it's the best bag of tricks I own.

04-19-2012, 02:23 PM
I bought and tried several felt and felt covered picks......have no idea where they are now. I just prefer the bare finger sound and all the variety you can get from them.

04-19-2012, 04:52 PM
I have three picks... my thumb and first two fingers. My cats made off with my felt picks a long time ago...

Ken Middleton
04-19-2012, 05:32 PM
Using a felt pick is like playing with gloves on, using just one finger. Why restrict yourself?

You have 5 fingers on your right and you can use them all for playing the ukulele. I use my pinky finger a lot, for instance.

Your nail and fleshy parts together give you a very wide variety of textures and much more control.

If I went back to playing guitar (no plans to do so), I would not use a pick, I would play with fingers.

04-21-2012, 02:42 AM
Being a felt pick maker, I suppose I carry a little bias. Typically, when I play I use my fingers, but occasionally, something might call for a pick. Depends on what you're going for. Of course, if you'd like to try some out, I'd encourage you to check out my store. :)

For playing ska or if you're doing any amount of palm muting, a pick is nice to have handy. Or if you're trying to play a solo or lead part over the top of someone else, it's nice to have one around to cut through the mix a bit. Just treat it like it's another tool of trade...don't become dependent on it, but don't be afraid to use it when the job calls for it.

04-21-2012, 04:50 AM
Playing with any type of pick restricts yourself to strumming and picking one note at a time. I play "Finger Style" which I love as you can strum, play chord/melody where you are playing the melody as you are struming chords, thus having a ton of versatilitity. When I first started playing a year ago, I ordered some felt picks and the funny thing is they smelled horrible and thus I threw them out. Never ordered them again. I think playing with your fingers opens up every possibility of every style of playing. You can even learn interesting picking patterns to get a banjo sound (if you like that) and a million other sounds. Something you can't do with a pick.
Again, everything is preference but you should give yourself a chance and play with your fingers for a while. Have fun!

04-21-2012, 07:28 AM
I generally prefer the expression and flexibility of playing with my fingers. However, I use "3.1 mm soft" Wedgie rubber picks on occasion for a couple of reasons. Firstly, for a handful of hard strumming rock songs it it easier (for me) to play rapid strum patterns with the pick. Secondly, when I injured my strumming finger it allowed me to keep playing. I have experimented with other picks and find the Wedgies are much closer to the feeling and sound I get with my fingers than felt and longer lasting, are more readily available and cheaper than leather picks.

04-21-2012, 08:09 AM
I started with a pick because, like you, I was a guitarist first. But I eventually came to a place where the ukulele was a different instrument to me, and required a different approach. Now I have a very traditional strum with my fingers and do a lot of fingerpicking on the uke, and never reach for a pick anymore. Don't let other people's "shoulds" get in the way of falling in love with the instrument. If a pick feels more natural now, use it while you experiment with other techniques.