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Thread: Where Do You Attack?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2021
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    Default Where Do You Attack?

    When I'm thumb strumming and thumb picking and double strumming, and doing pretty much any kind of attack on my strings, I am always aiming for where the body meets the neck, which on my tenor is probably around fret 14-15. I do this because I've understood that this the preferred place to attack the uke strings as it's a kind of sweet spot.

    I was just watching a couple Honoka and Azita videos and I noticed that they both thumb pick much closer to the soundhole, with their thumbs just about at the sound hole. This is a difference of a few inches from where I'm typically thumb-picking.

    I also notice that they return to the area that I understand to be the sweet spot when they thumb strum. And it seems like the decision is strategic.

    I was also watching a James Hill video of where he performs Here Comes the Rain Again, and there were obvious strategies at play for how far up the scale his attack hand hit the strings. For example he thumb strummed in the sweet spot, but he did a downward strumb attacking with his nails over and over so far up the scale that his hand looked like it was hovering over the bridge.

    Also watched an Ohta San video and he's thumb strumming like directly over the sound hole the whole time.

    So I'm wondering what kind of strategies everybody has for attacking the strings in different ways. Are their some attacks you always perform directly over the soundhole or something? Why?
    Last edited by donboody; 05-22-2021 at 04:24 PM.

  2. #2

    Default

    It's not fixed. Different points give different tone. That's why you see different people use different styles.
    It's common to pluck between 14th fret and sound hole.

  3. #3
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    Default

    Yep, it varies. I find that in general I pick more over the sound hole and strum more at the 14th fret. But it depends on the tenor I'm playing some sound better at slightly different spots. Some sound better at the sound hole. Some closer to the 13th fret. It depends on the uke and the strings and how you are attacking.
    There is a subtle yet profound difference between the learning of something and the knowing of that thing.
    You can learn by reading, but you don't begin to know until you begin to try to do.

    --Lou Churchill, Plane & Pilot Magazine

  4. #4
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    Feb 2017
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    Default

    I've never given it any thought, but I noticed that I strum right at the top of the soundhole. Why? That's just where I happen to strum. If you listen to the ukulele police who tell you what you should or shouldn't do, they'll say to play sul tasto. However, the whole point is what sound do you want? Play sul tasto. Then play ponticello. Then strum at different points between the fret board and the bridge. When you find the sound you like, make that your place of attack. And you should be fluid and move to whatever place of attack that suits you at a particular time.

    Now that I think of it, I think I play toward the top of the sound hole because I always use a strap and the ukulele hangs in a certain way and attacking the strings atop the sound hole is just comfortable for me. It really isn't more complex than that.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2020
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    Default

    To answer your question, strumming and picking at different spots on the ukulele can give you different timbre or tone color, warm or bright. Depends on where you’re playing, for example near the bridge, sul ponticello (string instruments technique), will give you a bright and metallic sound, as well as thin and harsh. Over the fingerboard, you will find the sound to be warm and mellow. Playing at the normal spot, between soundhole and fretboard, will give you a normal combination of warm and bright. I play jazz solo ukulele, so I used my thumb and index most of the time. When I’m playing with my thumb and index, I prefer playing at the soundhole or behind the soundhole toward the bridge. When I’m playing with my thumb only, no nails, I play at the fingerboard. Your nails can also give you the tone colors. By plugging behind the strings, you’ll get a really bright and thin sound. When you pluck the string out, you’ll get a warm sound, etc. I used different techniques and tone colors on different songs, to express the theme of a piece of music.
    Benjamin Bui
    theukulelerock@gmail.com
    Mahalo!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2019
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    Finland
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    Default

    At Verdun, come dawn.

    Seriously though, I have a slightly different view than the previous responses. I've always thought that the reason you fingerpick at or around the sound hole is because you have more room for your fingers since then the fretboard won't be in the way. This would be particularly true if the action is very low towards the saddle. Since I often play chord melody I tend to both strum and fingerpick at around the 12th fret because moving my hand to the sound hole every time I'd have to play a single note is a bit cumbersome for me. But if I'm playing on a uke that has an action below 2.5mm at the 12th fret fingerpicking gets a bit tricky, so in that case I tend to fingerpick closer to the sound hole where the fretboard isn't in the way. If I'm doing pluck strumming then I definitely need to play past the fretboard in order to get that proper purchase when plucking the string. Whether or not the position you fingerpick affects the sound that much, I'm not sure. I'd say the way you fingerpick has more of an effect on the sound. I think you notice it much more when strumming.

    In fact, I'm fairly certain the reason you're taught to strum at around where the neck meets the body is because the "sweet spot" for strumming, i.e., where you can apply the biggest amount of force to the strings, is at the mid point of the string, i.e., the 12th fret. It just so happens that for most ukuleles the mid point is - or at least used to be - where the neck meets the body. These days, only sopranos mostly have the neck join the body at the 12th fret, although you can sometimes find such concerts and tenors as well, but they're mostly joined to the body at the 14th fret. So in that regard, the "sweet spot" specifically is actually at the 12th fret and not necessarily where the neck meets the body, although of course that's close enough. And of course again the "sweet spot" is just the position where you can apply the most amount of force to the strings. If you strum at a different position you'll get a different sound which - depending on what you're trying to accomplish - might very well be the sound you're specifically looking for. Basically, there are no rules for ukulele.
    Last edited by Dohle; 05-23-2021 at 02:22 AM.

  7. #7
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    Briarcliff, TX - Fabulous Hill Country home to Willie Nelson, and me!
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    I find my hand wanders a bit while I play. I use finger picks a lot, and every now and then I'll hear them "clicking" on the fretboard, letting me know that I'm too high up. Without the picks, I'll sometimes get up around the 12th fret. I don't notice a lot of difference in sound between the sound hole and the 12th fret. I've messed around with a steel string guitar, and know that it has a lot more variation in tone as you move your picking hand around. I'm thinking that it's the nylon (other than steel) strings that make the difference. But, it could also be the overall length of the strings. Anyway, I really don't worry about the right hand position while playing the Uke. As long as I'm not getting any unwanted noises, I'm good!
    "The sole cause of all human misery is the inability of people
    to sit quietly in their rooms." - Blaise Pascal, 1670

  8. #8
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    Honoka'a, HI
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    Default

    It can help if you think of where you attack along the string as a percentage of the ringing length. If 25% is over the back edge of the soundhole and it gets you a good picking tone when playing open strings, try to move your picking location to 25% of the length as you fret up the fretboard. This generally keeps the tone pretty consistent.
    Brad Bordessa

    6th Sense Course - Learn to play Hawaiian-style, 6th harmonies

    Listen to my ʻukulele podcast!

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