View Full Version : Thumb or first finger for C string?

06-30-2014, 07:47 PM
Hello everybody! =]
Which finger would you prefer to control the 3rd string (C string), thumb or first finger?
Coz someone told me to use the thumb to control the G and C string, first finger for E and middle finger for A string.
But some books said to use thumb, first, middle and ring finger to control the G,C,E,A string respectively.
I am so confused about that. Can you guys give me some suggestions or comments about that?
Thank you very much! ^^

06-30-2014, 08:14 PM
Both methods will work. It comes down to personal preference and what piece you're playing. I feel most comfortable most of the time using three fingers with the thumb on the G-string, but some styles work better with the thumb alternating between the G and C strings. I've been working through Aaron Keim's fingerstyle book and he teaches this method. Most of his transcriptions have the thumb constantly alternate between the third and fourth strings on each quarter note while you pluck out the melody over this with your index and middle fingers. It takes a little concentration at first to maintain the steady alternating pattern with the thumb, but it sounds great.

06-30-2014, 08:49 PM
Both methods will work. It comes down to personal preference and what piece you're playing. ... agreed, but I do feel it's worth while practicing both styles as some transcriptions (tabs) are written one way and others can be different, so if you can use both styles you'll not have to edit your tabs before playing them ;)

Even switching between one style and another during the course of one tune, for verse then chorus for instance, can help add variation and interest to a performance :)

07-01-2014, 02:57 AM
Ukulele Aerobics has me using the thumb for both the C and the G strings. I don't know if they will switch it up later or not, but for now that is how I'm learning.

07-01-2014, 02:59 AM
depends on the picking style. Kimo's two finger method, 4 finger, etc. You get to decide. Lots of tutorials both here and on YouTube.

07-01-2014, 04:48 AM
Good question! I get asked to defend my preference for the thumb alternating between 3rd and 4th strings a lot. So, here it goes!

Most of the music I listen to is American folk/roots music of some sort. From 78rpm records to modern Americana rock stars. This includes a great deal of black American music such as blues/jazz/gospel and even some Hawaiian music. So, the arrangements I make on the uke are heavily influenced by the way the guitar/banjo/bass sound in these styles. Most of the time, these instruments have some sort of alternating "bass" line going with the thumb. Think of bluegrass banjo with the thumb jumping all around, folksy finger picking on the guitar for vocal back up, Travis style electric guitar picking, the upright bass on a Hank Williams record, Piedmont ragtime guitar, slack key from the islands, etc...

Yes, there are exceptions. I am not saying that every American record has alternating bass. But, it is foundational to the sound of American rural music. Also, most arrangements have places where the alternating stops in order to fit something else in. It doesn't have to be that strict.

Many of my students who are used to another system or play other styles of music have told me that they appreciate my approach for expanding their horizons. I happen to think its a good system for beginners, but I don't mind if somebody decides it's not for them. Just pick your style and pick it!

For those of you who would like to see what I am talking about

Here is the tab for that piece: http://tinyurl.com/q97ylf3


07-01-2014, 06:18 AM
If you are feeling confused or overwhelmed, I'd suggest starting with one style and adding the other when you feel ready.

Four fingers, four strings (well, OK, 3 fingers and and a thumb) just came easier to me when I started fingerpicking melodies, so that's what I decided to use. I've been playing that way for a while, but I recently came across a tutorial for a song I like, and it used the 3-finger (aka 2 finger + thumb) method Aaron demonstrates above. I felt ready to try the new style, and I like it with that song, and now I will use it elsewhere.

07-01-2014, 07:06 AM
Ukulele Aerobics starts you out with just the thumb on one string, the index and middle fingers on one string each as well. They start out with a very simple pattern that takes just a few times through to catch onto. Then each week it builds from that. I've found that it isn't near as hard as I thought it was going to be using their lessons. I know I'm sounding like a Ukulele Aerobics advertisement, but I really feel like it suits my learning style better than anything else I've come across.

07-01-2014, 07:17 AM
That's fascinating, Aaron. Appreciate your explanation and sample on the video and the tab.

It's interesting to me that it is with low G preferred. I thought the entire old-timey charm was from a bass line created from the re-entrant top string, like on a banjo?

I'll have to try that one.

07-01-2014, 07:26 AM
His fingerstyle book applies the same principles to both reentrant and linear tunings. I can recommend it highly. It has great explanations of his techniques and lots of fun tabs to play. There's even some open tunings and duets. Unless you despise folk music, there's something for everybody in it.

07-01-2014, 07:34 AM
Hello everybody! =]
someone told me to use the thumb to control the G and C string, first finger for E and middle finger for A string.

When I first started playing as a little kid, this is what I was taught was "correct." Then I stopped playing for a million years, but oddly enough, when I picked up the uke as an adult, this was so deeply ingrained that it felt comfortable from the start.

However - I've come to realize that sticking to a rigid system like that can sometimes make things harder, particularly when it comes to speed. I think the more independent use you have of your fingers, the better - if it feels right to hit that 4th string with your index finger, then do it! And if you can get your ring finger in on the act, that should only give you more freedom.

07-01-2014, 12:10 PM
I'd just like to post my appreciation of Aaron's free pdf tab sheet. As both a fan of Pete Seeger and owning a ukulele strung with a low-G that doesn't get nearly enough use, this'll give me a reason to get it out and pick :)

07-01-2014, 12:15 PM
Right now, I feel more comfortable using only three fingers, with the thumb working on both G and C. That may change. I'm still a very novice finger picker. I really don't even have the swing of it yet.

07-01-2014, 03:24 PM
In my opinion, it's not really a "preference" issue. It all comes down to what you've learned. So, I think you have to pick one and learn everything that way. Down the road, you will have your "preference". (there will be times you will break your own rule, but that's a subject for another thread)

I use the thumb for strings #3 and #4. Not because it's better for one reason or another. It's the way I first heard it was supposed to be done, so that's the way I have taught myself. No other reason. If I had learned to pick with thumb and three fingers from the start, that's how I'd be doing it.

07-03-2014, 12:42 AM
Thanks for all your opinions. That really helps!
I personally prefer to use the thumb for both C and G strings, coz i watched in-to-out picking teaching video (uke minutes 11) and i saw Aldrine using his thumb for the top two strings. But i may try another style later on. Many thanks anyway =]=]=]