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jodanchudan
12-02-2012, 10:44 AM
How do you get decent tone when you're playing single notes? Is there a particular part of the finger or thumb you should play with? Should you use your nails or not? And where's the best place to pick the string? Lots of questions there, but being new to this, I want to avoid bad habits.

Henry Chinaski
12-02-2012, 11:24 AM
I'm wondering the same thing. Hard to get a clean sound when plucking single notes.. It always slaps... twangs.. hell I don't know how to describe the sound.. but it ain't right! :P

OldePhart
12-02-2012, 11:34 AM
Are you maybe asking too much of the instrument? You will never get the same kind of notes that you do from a guitar, especially a steel-string guitar. The ukulele has a small soundboard, short scale, and low-tension nylon strings. Because of this when you play single notes they don't sustain for very long, even when the uke is fairly loud. So, if you're picking a melody that has long held notes you need to use some "tricks" (grace notes, passing notes, tremolo, etc.) to fill in the space more than you do on guitar.

@Henry - if you are getting "slappy" or "snappy" sound you may need to go to heavier strings (or just pick more lightly and not expect much volume). When you pick loose strings hard you get what I call a "snappy" tone.

John

jodanchudan
12-02-2012, 11:41 AM
Thanks, but it's not that I want a guitar-type sustain from it - I just wondered whether there's a particular, established technique to use when playing single notes. It seems like I'm using my nails a lot, for instance, but might that lead to a thinner tone?

Henry Chinaski
12-02-2012, 12:32 PM
@Henry - if you are getting "slappy" or "snappy" sound you may need to go to heavier strings (or just pick more lightly and not expect much volume). When you pick loose strings hard you get what I call a "snappy" tone.

Have new Aquila Nylgut strings.. Just starting to stay in tune. I'm a complete beginner- My guess would be technique. I pluck up with the pads of my fingers.

TheOnlyUkeThatMatters
12-02-2012, 01:14 PM
The great ukulele masters Herb Ohta, James Hill, and May Singhi Breen all recommend using the thumb to pick out single notes. (I do, too.)

Everything about your playing affects your uke's tone. A great place to start trying to get control of your instrument's sound is volume. Varying volume as you play will give you a good feel for when your uke sounds best. Choose a short melody you know and love, repeat it a few times---playing first at your natural volume, then playing very softly, then at your natural volume again, then very loudly, then somewhat softly, then a little loudly, etc. Soon you'll have control of how much sound is coming off those strings.

Lalz
12-02-2012, 01:58 PM
When picking a single note at a time, using the flesh of the finger makes a softer sound than using the nail, just like when strumming. I don't think there is a right or wrong technique, you just use whichever depending on what sound you want to get, and you practice it over and over again to get that sound in a consistent way so you're more in control. Personally, I like picking with the flesh of the thumb when playing something a bit jazzy and smooth, then picking with the nail if I want a more precise or more aggressive sound, and often I mix the two and use the index finger as well (I never use my middle and pinky finger, maybe I should?). From what I've read on this board, how you shape your nails when you cut them changes the sound as well, but I'm not taking it that far. Keeping my nails short on my left hand is enough of a manucure aesthetics trauma for me as it is lol
A lot of people strum or pick the strings where the fretboard meets the body of the uke or higher up. I tend to do it lower but I have no idea why I do it this way and whether it makes a difference or not. Then there's how rigid your finger is when you pick, what movement you do with your wrist, what angle you pick the strings at etc, all of this changes the sound too. Quite hard to explain by text and not sure I've gotten it right so...
I remember Aldrine had Uke Minutes about how to pick strings in different ways to get different sounds, maybe have a look at the video in the archives to get a better sense of what I'm on about?

OldePhart
12-02-2012, 03:43 PM
Have new Aquila Nylgut strings.. Just starting to stay in tune. I'm a complete beginner- My guess would be technique. I pluck up with the pads of my fingers.

Then I would make sure that you are brushing parallel to the fretboard. If you pull up on the string, or push down on it, it will vibrate more in the vertical plane and sometimes that causes them to snap against the fretboard or to buzz on the frets.

Also, don't "hold" the string too long with your finger - if you stretch it out it will snap back with kind of a slappy tone. You want to lift your finger from the string as you brush it - if it feels like your fingers are getting "tangled" in the strings then move your finger up so just the tip of your pad or nail touches the string.

John

Harold O.
12-02-2012, 05:02 PM
A lot of folks strum where the neck meets the body then move over the sound hole when picking. There's a little more depth over the sound hole because the fretboard doesn't reach that far.

Some players grow out their finger nails, others (Ukulele Bartt for one) go so far as getting acrylic nails to help with picking.

I'm just a strummer. But my guess says that enough practice (there's that word again!) will settle the issue. There is no single way to do it.