Play uke also with pick?


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Nov 12, 2023
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Hello everyone! I would like to know your point of view on playing not only with finger strumming or fingerpicking, but also with the pick.
Some people say it's not natural, and I can understand that. However, when volume is needed, or to make bass passages stand out better, etc., it can be very useful to play with the plectrum.
Some purists also claim that the strings would be damaged. But how would they get ruined?
I use a thumb pick for chord melody/fingerstyle playing (and use my thumb for all the strings). My playing level does not warrant any attention from purists... and it is none of their business.

Herb Ohta, Jr. uses a thumb pick along with his fingers. You can find him easily on youtube.
I don't know if they will ruin the strings, but they will ruin my opinion of you. Just kidding. Do what you want. Experiment. If they ruin your strings, buy another set, they're not too expensive. Be careful not to scratch your soundboard with the pick though, if that bothers you. Best thing is, have fun and play the way that makes you happy, and/or play the way that sounds good to you.
I use a big, thick, fairly limp felt pick. I got them from the original Ukulele World. It's gone and so are the picks. He had them specially made in England, called them Talina Grays. I can't find a good substitute, everything is too small and stiff.

I'm glad I bought a lot of them, but they won't last forever. .. :(
If you see a situation where it helps, and/or you enjoy playing with a pick, do it. Enjoy the journey of finding what works best for you. No right way to play and no need to always follow the masses. The nice thing about strings, they are meant to be changed. Have fun!
Sacrilege. Nah...what ever floats your boat. I sometimes use a pick on recordings for leads to make them more prominent, but would probably NEVER use them to strum like on a guitar. I can actually play faster with a finger than holding a pick for instance. And of course the Uke chucking, chunking, muting technique I feel a pick would actually complicate. Then there is the issue of being able to flawlessly change between finger picking and strumming styles multiple times during a song. Uke and classical nylon string guitar techniques are very similar and one would rarely see those guys use a pick. Having said that, if you want to rock out, maybe a pick could be a good thing. Just my .02 Probably like a lot of us, techniques we find challenging at first might become part of the norm later on. Bottom line.. try everything and find your own style that fits your particular needs . Whatever works and sounds good to you basically.
@Uke with Smitty did a nice video about picks for ukes that you might find interesting:

I think picks for strumming are kind of silly if you don't have a physical problem that requires them. For fingerstyle playing, I have seen some really good players use them effectively. Picking with picks can be faster and clearer than picking with fingers, but you need very good technique to avoid the plasticky sound. In this video, Taimane explains why she uses a pick for one of her signature techniques. She usually takes off the pick when she is not using this technique, though.
For finger-style playing, I sometimes use a pick just for a nice change of pace (and sound). I also use one when my thumb is soft (from washing dishes, etc) — it gives me better volume and sustain. Picks are particularly helpful when I’m playing melody notes further up the neck, especially on the A string. And on those days when my tinnitus is threatening to take over. :)
I’m of the opinion that if someone tells you you shouldn’t do something, then you absolutely should*, at least to see if it works for you 👍

* (obviously this doesn’t apply in every case. Driving on snow and ice with bald tyres would be a very sensible “shouldn’t” for example 😊)
I personally don’t use a pick, as I think the 4 fingers combined have much greater utility and potential for expressive playing. However, from a teacher mindset, if you need it and you want it, whatever helps you achieve your playing goals, go for it!!!
fyi - Herb Ohta Jr, who Aldrine recently rated the #4 all time ukulele musician in terms of sound quality, has used a pick every time I've seen him play. On the other hand, I've never seen #1, #2, or #3 use picks, so maybe picks suck. This video is from the US Library of Congress.
As a newcomer to music/ukulele in general I've recently stumbled upon Herb Ohta Jr., this exact video (the sand castles song starting around 5 min is lovely) that lead me to google around for the same question: thumb pick or not?

My reasoning was that it looks like it allows your thumb and thus the whole hand be in a more natural position. I feel like I have to tilt my wrist to attack the G/C strings with my thumb.
I've decided against trying it out until later when I can play well without one and I can judge the pros/cons well.

Also this commented from 2009 claiming that Herb would rather not use it but it's a habit:
I think that most professional ukulele players who use picks got into that habit from playing guitar. Sometimes they switch between guitar and ukulele during a concert and just leave their fingerpicks on. Notice that Herb's buddy who appears at the end of the video doesn't use any picks and still sounds pretty good. Personally, I think picks have advantages and disadvantages so you need to experiment to see if they really work better for your playing style. One big disadvantage of picks (especially the hard plastic type) is that you need really good technique to avoid getting the hard plastic sound all the time while with fingertips you can hit the string with your flesh or your nail or both to get a lot of different sounds pretty easily (which is what Herb's buddy is doing).
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I used a pick a few times the first week when my thumb and fingers got sore.

I really am not a fan of the sound, if I need projection I just dig in (I've been doing this for maybe 3 weeks now and I'm sure what I'm saying is wrong. but I can sure make things louder when I need to)
I come from playing guitar, am heavily influence by Robert Fripp, and have attended several Guitar Craft course - so even on the uke, I mostly use a pick, with a style of cross picking. For pieces with multiple notes played simultaneously across not consecutive strings though, I'm forced to use my fingers instead.

I use Bluechip picks, which sound great on ukulele strings; no scratchy or clicky sounds. In comparison, I don't much like the sound that picking/plucking with fingers make, though it's not so noticeable when listening to someone else play.
I have never used a plectrum in my life and most likely never will. It seems like overkill to me--even on my steel string tenor guitar. that being said, I see absolutely nothing wrong with someone else using one.
As someone who teaches the ukulele for a living, one of the first things I like to get through to my students is that " There are no rules" I encourage my students to learn to play with their fingers. But I also let them know very early on that some people prefer to play with a pic. I've seen some really talented and professional ukulele performers use a pick. Brian Tolentino comes to mind:

Hopefully you can get comfortable with the idea that all the opinions out there about the right and wrong way to make music on the ukulele are just opinions. Find your way ~
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