There are people who can’t play the ukulele without strumming or fingerpicking. Many of my friends are in this category and trust me, it is so enjoyable.
Shortly, we shall be looking at the ukulele fingerpicking styles together. You can learn one or more fingerpicking styles even though you are not a professional player yet.
Know The Basics
Using the thumb to pick the ukulele string is one of the common basic forms of ukulele fingerpicking. It is basically referred to as the thumb-style picking.
Most people already used to either strumming or fingerpicking with their thumb. Well, there is not much difference. The only major difference there is that instead of you strumming the entire strings, your thumb will only strike particular strings.
Another great way is for you to strike the string in a random order but that isn’t going to sound appealing musically. Below, we are going to discuss a couple of patterns you can practice. And the interesting thing is that you don’t need to hold any chord down at the start.
The strings we are going to be using are the bottom three, which are the G, C and E strings (C major chord). Remember to also try these patterns using the thumb only.
So let’s start immediate.
1. The Quarter Note Arpeggio
You need to practice this pattern until you are more familiar with it. Once you become familiar, try to play some chords you already know. But as you change chords, don’t stop plucking these strings (GCEG).
2. Full Ukulele Arpeggio
In this pattern, you have to start with the open ukulele then as you continue playing, work on changing chords too.
3. Quarter Note – Eighth-Note Mix
On the G, begin with a quarter note; play eight notes on C & E strings a couple of times for beats 2 and 3, then return back to the G string. It will be something like this: G (quarter) C E C E (eight notes) G. Another thing is to repeat as much as you can.
Repeating it consistently will enable you to master the patterns. Once your thumb masters these patterns, then progress by trying them with other fingers.
For me, I would suggest you try the patterns with your entire four fingers, then, come back again with the two, three as well as four finger styles.
Finger Control: Best Ways to Control
The Two Finger Style.
We are going to see what the first pattern (pattern 1) would look like with this style. To begin with, let your thumb control the G and C strings and at the same time, your first finger should control strings E and A.
In pattern 1, you would have something like this: G C E G where G (thumb) C (thumb) E (your first finger) G (thumb). Also remember to repeat as often as you can.
In this two finger style, your thumb can also be used to control the first three strings while your first finger controls the top string. In pattern 2, you would have something like this: G C E A whereby G (thumb), C (thumb), E (thumb), A (your first finger). Also remember to repeat as often as you can.
If you want to get a Spanish guitar sound, then alternate between the first finger and thumb. You will have something like this: G A C A E A A A. Just have a look at the illustration on the tab. You will see that the first finger is controlling the A string, so we have something like; thumb, finger, thumb, finger.
The Three Finger Style
If you are learning fingerpicking techniques, know that this style can be a little bit tricky. If you are familiar with how the banjo fingerpicking is been done, then this pattern will be a bit easy.
Just mimic the banjo fingerpicking style. A legend, Earl Scruggs often make use of his thumb to move back and forth between the high and low string of the banjo.
You can also do the same thing with your thumb. In the strings G and C, move it back and forth between them. Your first finger should control the E string while your middle finger should control the A string.
The Four Finger Style
There is no major difference between the four and three finger style. The only thing that is different between the two styles is that every string is controlled by a separate finger. G (the thumb) C (the first finger) E (middle finger) and the A (the ring finger) so this is the only notable difference.
Continue practicing till you master the styles and know the one that works best for you. Once you have mastered the styles, try the ukulele picking patterns.
Ukulele Fingerpicking Patterns
1. The Forward Banjo Roll
If you want to give these notes a banjo-roll feel, then use a triplet on each of them.
2. Reverse Banjo Roll
It is same as the pattern above but this time backwards.
3. Forward-Reverse Roll
The technique used should be the same as the first two rolls, but reverse direction when you reach the top.
4. Reverse Four-Finger Roll
Songs for Ukulele Fingerpicking
There are many songs you can choose to start fingerpicking on the ukulele. You can start with songs like “Hotel California” by the Eagles, “Vincent” by Don Mclean, and “Sounds of Silence.” Get more songs or ask your teacher to help you choose nice songs to fingerpick.
Practice makes perfect they say. So in order to be perfect, you need to practice consistently. I always tell beginners to practice in segments. Do not practice 10 hours for a single day or two and not do anything for the rest of the week. Practice daily even if it is 30 minutes to 1 hour a day.
Remember to practice the tips listed here and get more help from your teacher.