Strumming with the thumb

K-ukulele

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So this might be a dumb question, but here goes. If you are a student of the ukulele, is strumming with the thumb a core skill that you should master?
I'm approaching learning the ukulele like I would exercising: what are my core routines and what is my daily practice consist of.
For example squats, pushups, jumping jacks etc.... Not sure if this will be a successful model for learning the ukulele but i can at least wrap my head around it as a plan. As consequence, I see youtube videos with very talented players and it looks like they are playing with their thumbs/strumming.
I don't enjoy using my thumb. But I'm wondering should i just get over it and practice this technique?
 
I don't think that strumming with your thumb is considered a skill that people "should" know. I would venture to guess that there are fewer thumb strummers than finger strummers. For me, I don't like strumming with my thumb. It's uncomfortable and awkward to me and it's more difficult to get a consistent strum. (I strum with my index finger.) I recommend that you concentrate your efforts on what you like and what feels most natural and comfortable for you.
 
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Herb Ohta, perhaps the most popular and successful ukulele player of the 20th century, strums almost entirely with his thumb. Look for videos of him playing on YouTube (but don't confuse him with his son, Herb Ohta Jr). This is an excellent technique for many types of songs. One big advantage of thumb strumming is that I find my thumb much easier to control when I want emphasize the melody and strum only some of the strings. The thumb also creates a warmer sound than strumming with my index fingernail.
 
Many beginner videos that I have seen start out with thumb strumming. Then as limitations of this become apparent to the player index and other fingers be added. Not sure if thumb should be added later in the development as it is so essential to right hand technique.
 
when I use the thumb to strum, 99% of the time, I'm using it only for the downstroke. Down with the thumb and up with the index. When you use the flesh of these two fingers, you get a different sound than using your index only, which is the nail on the downstroke and the flesh on the upstroke. It's worthy to learn to control, but, I must say, I would never have a practice routine. I simply practice new songs and techniques until they sound like I want them to and the rest of the time, I play songs I like to play.
 
It is easiest to alternate picking/strumming strings #4 and #3 with the thumb.

You need the I, M, and sometimes R when brushing or pinching strings #3, #2, and #1.
 
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I too do not like using the thumb for downstrokes. It seems really awkward. I use a loose finger pistol when strumming. My index finger sticks out in case I need to pick individual notes and the middle and ring fingers strike the downstroke while the thumb, or even the knuckle of the thumb, take care of the upstroke. I didn't learn this from anyone; it is just something that seemed natural to me.
 
I can tell you that if you enroll in the ukulele way from James Hill, he encourages you to use only the thumb for the majority of the course
 
Another vote for strumming with the thumb. I think it is a good place to start when you are first start playing the ukulele. As others have said, you can add to that as you go along.
 
Herb Ohta's thumb strumming technique. Notice that he changes the angle of his thumb to get either a brighter sound with his thumbnail or a warmer sound with his fingertip.
 
I really love the way the forum answers so many questions! There are so many opinions, all valuable, that it really helps me study and learn new things every day. Thanks to all of you!
 
I'm gonna chime in with my usual "do what works for you". Thumb strumming works for me, but I have a lot of other non-standard technique, as well. If it gets the job done and sounds good to you, it's fine.
 
Returning to the central question of the thread: no, the thumb isn't essential. But what is essential is progressing. Once you learn something, the next thing is exponentially easier to learn. Therefore, do learn the thumb, then the index finger, then PIMA finger picking, then stretchy chords like the dom13, then scales, then triplets, then the fan strum, then flamenco rhythms.
 
Returning to the central question of the thread: no, the thumb isn't essential. But what is essential is progressing. Once you learn something, the next thing is exponentially easier to learn. Therefore, do learn the thumb, then the index finger, then PIMA finger picking, then stretchy chords like the dom13, then scales, then triplets, then the fan strum, then flamenco rhythms.
Thank you. That is a reasonable answer.
 
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