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Thread: Are there advantages of strumming with thumb vs index (or other)?

  1. #1

    Default Are there advantages of strumming with thumb vs index (or other)?


    The title pretty much says it all (and I can tend to make long posts, so I'm going to try not to do that here). I've been playing uke for a few months now and strumming with my thumb has been what's felt most "natural" to me thus far. I've tried a bit with my index finger but have trouble getting as clear a sound. I've also played around with closing my hand a bit and using thumb and finger when I want to try something that's less straightforward than straight strumming which surprisingly felt more natural than I had expected.

    My question is this, are there advantages to strumming with thumb vs index, etc? I'm not so much talking for basic techniques (such as straight DU strumming), where it probably doesn't matter much either way but I'm wondering if it's better to strum with one or the other for building up to more advanced techniques later on. I just don't want to continue building muscle memory one way if I'll need to switch for some reason.

    I'd love to hear your thoughts on this so I can continue learning! Thanks so much in advance!

  2. #2


    I'm learning too, and I'm the opposite. Index finger feels better. My thumb feels like it gets hung up in the strings.

    Maybe because I want to do more finger picking than strumming

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
    Salt Lake City, UT


    I think whatever way feels most natural is best while you're learning so that you don't get discouraged from playing. But being open to trying new techniques and expand your options is important as well. Depending on the strum and the sound I'm going for, I often find myself strumming down with my index finger and up with my thumb. That way I can use the nail side of the finger in both directions, giving a different sound than using the fleshy part of the finger.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2017


    I play both ways, depending on what and where I’m playing. With a big group at a jam, in church band, playing a song that needs drive and volume like rock, then I’m using my index finger. Mellow, blues, chord melody, or anytime I want more tone control & articulation, then I use my thumb. Sometimes I’ll even use both within one song. Try both. Experiment with how it sounds and how you can control your sound. Have fun with it.
    My ukulele family.....
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Coachella Valley desert, California


    I've always had some arthritis in fingers and never felt comfortable with the classic index finger strum. As an ex-guitar player, I gravitated to picks and discovered the felt pick which I use exclusively for strumming. Am just learning finger-picking now.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Petaluma, CA


    A nice technique is to put your thumb and forefinger together and rock them back and forth at the wrist with the nails of each alternately caressing the strings at the 12th fret. This is very efficient as your elbow is stationary and the crook of your arm cradles the ukulele.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    East Midlands UK


    I agree will Bill1;I use all of my fingers and my
    thumb,depending what sound I want,which suits
    the tune I am playing etc. Stick with it, like when
    you learned to write, it felt clunky and unnatural
    at first,now you do it without thinking! The same
    will happen with your use of thumb/finger(s) given
    enough playing and enough time.
    All power and respect to you Concert,Tenor and Baritone players, but Soprano is what does it for me every time!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    FL, USA


    I use my thumb and first two fingers. Sort of the same way I type. LOL Middle finger tends to get better sound than my index (much more meat on it), but am working on technique to compensate for that.

    Haven't really found a need to develop the other two fingers. I feel like especially my pinky would just get in the way and hit the soundboard if I didn't keep it curled in. (I play fingerstyle, so don't "strum" per se.)

    Everyone's different. Maybe in a few years I will change my modus operandi. Who knows?

    A bunch of stringed instruments tuned in fifths. And a bunch of cats!

    "There are two refuges from the miseries of life: music and cats." - Albert Schweitzer

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  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Oop North in England


    I mostly strum down with finger nails, sometimes one, sometimes more and back up with my thumbnail. I hold my hand in a loose fist as if I was holding a pick but too loose to actually hold anything. I finger pick with thumb and forefinger using the fleshy part of both. That's mainly because my nails start to split if they get any length at all so I keep them short.

    Works for me but that doesn't mean it's right or wrong or it will work for someone else. You need to find what works for you.
    Geoff Walker

    I have several ukuleles in various sizes and am not planning on getting any more...

    at least, not yet.

    I also play some blowy things and a squeezy thing

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  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2015


    I am having the same dilemma with my new concert uke. For the last few years I have played a low-G tenor resting on one of my legs and I can strum this quite vigorously with my middle finger to accomplish a loud sound and also can switch easily into finger picking. However, the same approach with my re-entrant concert uke sounds just horrible! I tried many different positions and fingers for playing it, and what seems to work best so far is to cradle it high in my right arm and the strum with the thumb. This is a huge change and limits my technique (i.e. I can't do chucking or muting this way) and I am not sure if I should continue to practice and try to become better with this or just give up on re-entrant smaller sized ukes and sell it.

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