So many people happen to know a thing or two about ukulele. However, a whole lot of people find it extremely difficult to do ukulele fingerpicking. The truth is that there is really nothing complicated about it. All you need is a little time and devotion. As long as you’ve learned the basics, you’ll be able to build your skills accordingly.
I decided to take some time and round up a few easy tips that can help you master the art of ukulele fingerpicking. It all starts with understanding what is required.
This is your complete guide to understanding and mastering the art of fingerpicking ukulele.
Ukulele Fingerpicking for Beginners
The art ukulele fingerpicking is the technique of playing the ukulele which involves plucking the strings with your fingernails, or even picks attached to fingers, as in opposed to flat picking which involves plucking individual notes with a single plectrum. The term “finger is more of a misnomer because it is present in various genres and styles of music.
Music for fingerpicking include; chords, arpeggios, and some other elements.
As a fingerpicking expert, I infuse percussive tapping along with the melody, baseline and the chords. This enables me to provide all of the essential song elements and also accompany myself.
Some of the advantages of ukulele fingerpicking
● You don’t have to carry a plectrum. Your fingernails would be maintained at the perfect length and would be in good condition.
● You can comfortably play multiple nonadjacent strings simultaneously. This enables you to adapt to playing a very low bass note as well as a high treble note all at once.
● Fingerpicking is suitable for playing double stops such as; a fifth, a sixth, an octave, or any other interval that suits the harmony.
● Fingerpicking is an excellent option for playing polyphonically with independent musical lines, bass parts, and separate harmony. This makes it suitable for unaccompanied solo playing and even very small ensembles such as duos when you decide to accompany a singer.
● You have the privilege of having four or even five surfaces striking your ukulele strings or any other part independently.
● Arpeggios playing becomes very easy and even more fun. However, the methods for tremolo and melody are more complex than plectrum.
● You can play chords properly without any repagination as up to five strings can be plucked concurrently.
● You have less need for fretting hand damping when playing chords because only the strings require plucking.
● A vast variation of strokes is possible with finger picking, allowing greater expressiveness in dynamics and timbre.
● You can expose yourself to a variety of strums and even rasgueados without limit.
● You need less energy to fingerpick than you do to flat-pick.
There are typically two ways you can fingerpick on the ukulele.
The first way has to do with using your index thumb and middle finger. While your thumbs pluck any of the top two strings, the index finger plucks the second to bottom string, and your middle finger should pluck the lower string.
The second way is to use your thumb, middle finger, index, and even your ring finger. As the thumb plucks the top line, your index finger should pluck the second to the top string, while your middle finger should pluck the second to bottom line, and the ring finger should pluck out the bottom string.
Keep in mind that one technique is not in any way better than the other. It all really depends on which you want to use. For instance, I honestly like to utilize the very first method when I am playing patterns that usually have a rotating bass feel. For any other pattern, I prefer to use the second technique because each of the fingers are assigned to a string.
My opinion is that you can do much more when you are using four of your fingers versus three of your fingers. Notwithstanding, I’ll say you try and practice it both ways.
How you can learn to fingerpicking on your uke
I’m going to try as much as possible to keep this simple. It’s important that you start by sticking with just one pattern; using your middle finger, index finger, and your thumb. Let’s consider no chord fingerpicking;
Practice No chord, fingerpicking
First of all, we are not going to make use of our fretting hand so try and get it to relax; I want you to remove all your focus from that finger. Assuming you are to play the sequence of G E A repeatedly, your thumb will play G, while your index finger will play the E. Your middle finger, on the other hand, plays the A major role.
Don’t worry; it’s nothing tricky. If you have your ukulele with you, please pick it up and try and teach yourself practically as you read.
To secure your hand into the best position, place your fingers and your thumb onto those strings that you would play. After that, lift them off a bit. This will give you a perfect starting position. Now play slowly for a start. As I you play, aim for a steady tempo that would keep the spacing you leave between notes equal. You should only increase your speed as soon as you feel comfortable with it.
Don’t worry if you don’t get it right at once. Try again from the start until you get it. Remember that giving up will not make you learn automatically.
How to introduce chords in ukulele fingerpicking
As soon as you’ll are comfortable with the pattern, and you notice that your hand is doing what it is expected to do you can move to the next level and introduce a few ukulele chords.
I’ll say we should start with the most promising- C chord (the third finger of the third fret on the first string) practicing the same pattern. This should not be difficult for you, but repeat the process for absolute consistency.
As soon as you’ve mastered the C chord, you should try the F chord. Now let us try to add an F chord in. I still don’t believe this should be difficult for you if you are comfortable with their pattern. As soon as you’ve got this part rock solid, try and continuously alternate between C and F.
Make sure you play through the pattern for C and then instantly switch to the F and play the F pattern. Continue to alternate between the two. You will most likely find that at first, you stumble a little at the very point of your chord change. To fight this, try and slow down. Revert to the speed you know you can comfortably play. Keys that don’t slow you down when you change. After that gradually increase your speed.
Make an attempt to fingerpick some songs
Now that you have got an uncomplicated ukulele fingerpicking pattern, it’s time to try and apply it to songs. Go for songs you know work well for this chords. Don’t try to be smart, start fingerpicking some easy songs that use between 3-4 chords for a start. Pluck them rather than just strum them. You can fingerpick properly with the patterns you have just read.
Nursery rhythms are perfect for practicing fingerpicking. With time, you can advance to more complex songs.
Three songs you can practice ukulele fingerpicking with
In my opinion, I’ll say the songs below are fantastic to learn especially if you have just started building your fingerpicking skills, or maybe you have been fingerpicking, but you want to add more songs to your music arsenal.
1. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
This first song and my personal favorite, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” may most likely be the easiest song for you to play out of all three in the bunch efficiently. This is because it uses an uncomplicated quarter note rhythm and also uses a whole lot of open strings.
2. MacDonald Had a Farm
This one is pretty familiar. The fact that you may know this song very well makes it a great song for your fingerpicking lessons. It is a bit more challenging because there are a few faster eighth note passages. You will have to make sure that you practice counting out loud and gradually slowing it down, so you would be able to get those hard parts perfectly.
Give your fingers time to get really comfortable when you pluck the strings. If it does not come quickly, do not be too hard on yourself.
As you practice with time and with your full devotion, you’ll become a professional.
It’s imperative to count out loud and also tap your foot. It is possible that you may need to break down the rhythm into parts of the songs. Counting out loud would allow you to do this with greater ease. At first, you might need to slow some of these songs down to play them. Speed will come with time so just be patient.
You might even have to split the song into four-bar sections and focus on learning and playing each of those sections separately.
3. Diddle the Cat & the Fiddle
If you ask me, this song is one of the coolest out of the bunch of three. I feel it is important to note that unlike the first two songs, the third song is to be counted in three and not four. Some amazing quick eighth notes are excellent when played with an alternating fingerpicking method.
Final point about ukulele fingerpicking
You may have wondered, “Why can’t I use my ring finger as well? If I were to do this; place each finger (index, thumb, middle, and ring finger) all on a string?”
Although it’s a good question and it shows that you reason logically. The truth is that assigning all of your four playing fingers to pluck one of the four strings each on the ukulele is not really an absolutely bad way to go for certain songs.
Notwithstanding, fingerpicking in this manner can feel weird certain players. This method doesn’t necessarily require that you use your thumb to pluck the lowest strand. This is because you’re dealing with a standard re-entrant tuning which means that the lowest string on your ukulele is, in reality, the second to top string. I find that it is more intuitive and even more natural to assign my thumb to pluck the lowest string.
That’s your guide to mastering ukulele fingerpicking. One thing I always tell myself and others close to me is that nothing is impossible. Nothing is top involved. As long as you open your mind to it, you can learn whatever you want. It’s never too late to learn more so don’t allow the fear of failing to keep you from trying.
When you already know how to play ukulele then learning how to fingerpick is just a bonus. Start practice today and never be afraid to ask others. Seeking some help from professionals would be very helpful.