While strumming the ukulele with fingers is favored by the majority of the players, using a pick on the ukulele is considered a great option as well. In case of the latter, you can either go for a regular guitar pick or a soft nylon pick specifically meant to be used on a ukulele. The trick is to not hold the pick too tightly. Rather, it should be held firmly between your thumb and index finger in a way that it doesn’t cause pain in your hand.
The pick can be used to strum up or down on the strings of the musical instrument. What’s great about opting for a pick instead of your fingers is that when you’re strumming with a pick you don’t have to worry about what to do with your fingers because the entire focus is on the pick to just strum up or down.
Also Read: Holding A Ukulele Properly
You should hold the pick between the pad of your thumb and the side of your first finger (index finger). While some people prefer holding it between the thumb and the tip of the index finger, the side definitely provides the most comfort. With that being said, no matter however you hold among the possible options, make sure both the fingers aren’t too tight against the pick. The ideal way to hold it is in a relaxed manner.
Moving on to the picking motion, a lot of beginners use the elbow as the point of motion. However, that’s wrong because it would exhaust your strumming arm really quickly. The picking motion should come from your wrist. While you’re strumming, focus on moving your wrist and move the pick only to the necessary amount. It won’t be easy at first because you’re not used to multi-task to create sounds (if you are a beginner). However, with consistent practice, you should get there. Place the underside of your hand on the bridge of the ukulele so that there’s as little as possible friction between your hand and the strings. Keep in mind that if you need to strum faster, you do not need to move your wrist quicker. Instead, you should concentrate on plucking the string with short yet quick movements.
When To Use A Pick On Ukulele
1. Tremolo Picking For Increased Strength
In general, all types of ukuleles lack in sustain. However, you can recreate that by re-picking in a constant rhythm as long as the note lasts. This is quite common for mandolin players. Since it’s hard to get a strong sound out of a soprano, you can utilize picks instead of strumming with your fingers for strength.
In tremolo strum, one line is eighth note picking while two lines is sixteenth note picking. But you may alter this depending on how you choose to strum. All you need to remember is to perform tremolo picking, fret the note followed by alternate picking of the string for the length of the note.
2. Alternate Picking For Increased Speed
Some songs require multiple notes to be played in which case using a pick for strumming is a better option than strumming with your fingers. Since speed is a requirement, in this case, you should use your pick for alternate picking which means follow a pattern of downstroke, upstroke, downstroke, upstroke, and so on.
However, keep in mind that this way is suitable when you’re playing one string. When it comes to utilizing multiple strings, it’s a whole another story. For example, if you play a downstroke on the C-string and an upstroke on the G-string you have to be really quick to continue alternate picking which isn’t ideal if you want to maintain the rhythm. Alternate picking is meant for creating more defined notes but if you practice that on multiple strings it will just defeat the purpose.
3. Bashing The Strings For An Edge
The sound produced by using a pick on a ukulele is harsher than that of finger-strumming. You can utilize this advantage when you want to have an edge over a group of strummers because the sound created by your ukulele will cut through the other similar ukulele sounds. As using a pick produces a piercing tone you even use it in songs where you’d require to create that at some point in the song.
Is It Necessary To Use A Pick On Ukulele?
The simple answer to that question would be “No”. It is not necessary to use a pick on the ukulele because when it was created by the Hawaiians they used their fingers to strum the strings and not any separate object. But since its global popularity of ukuleles, the banjo ukulele was more commonly found than the standard ukulele. A lot of musicians used picks on their ukuleles then instead of finger-strumming.
Now, a lot of players use picks on the ukulele especially if the song demands it. Since ukuleles have nylon strings, you do not need to use thick, heavy picks to strum them. A felt pick should suffice no matter what kind of sounds you desire to produce on the ukulele.
With that being said, irrespective of the pick you choose, you should know how to hold it properly. Once you got that right, you can experiment with the pick and see how it differs in comparison to strumming with your fingers.
Using a pick on a ukulele is simply about the player’s preference. However, if you’re someone who’s used to playing other stringed musical instruments with a pick it’s ideal to do the same even in the case of a ukulele. Some people may not be okay with strain on all the fingers while playing stringed musical instruments; using a pick is suitable in that case.