This week I had a request from a friend about how to finger pick properly. So i figured I would post a simple Ukulele finger-picking technique along with some tips and tricks to make your picking faster and sound better too.
The beautiful thing about the Ukulele is that it only has four strings. This makes it really easy to begin playing, and although it can make some difficult progressions on guitar nearly impossible on the ukulele, for the most part, four strings is a good thing. Especially if your trying to learn how to pick.
The Simple Pattern
The pattern your going to learn is the 1-4-2-3 pattern, and the simplicity of this one is going to blow your mind. But first things first. You're going to want to drop your right hand (assuming your right handed) down directly above the sound hole. This is really where it should be anyways, but many Ukulele players tend to strum higher up on the fret board because of the small size of the instrument. This will help you pick at the strings more easily because the strings are farther away from the ukulele here. Your left hand will be making chords of course, just like it would be if you were strumming.
The thing to remember with the Ukulele is that the strings are numbered from the bottom up, so the smallest (bottom) string is number 1, the next largest is number 2, and so on.
With the 1-4-2-3 pattern you will pluck the strings in the order of the pattern to complete it.
This is the case with all picking patterns and learning this now will help you a lot if you ever want to read and play Ukulele tabs in the future.
For most picking patterns you will only need your first three fingers and as a general rule, your thumb owns the top two (G and C), your pointer finger will pick the next one down (E), and your middle finger will pick the bottom string (A). I usually float my ring finger in the air and let it wiggle around how it likes while I pick, and my pinky finger tends to push down against my uke for support, but this is really just my personal preference and you may do it however it is comfortable.
If your playing the 1-4-2-3 pattern properly while the ukulele is open (no chord is being made) you should be playing the strings in this order A-G-E-C. This wont sound pretty without a chord to pick, so a simple C chord is fine for learning. Once the pattern is complete you just repeat it to sound the chord. To pick the chords of a normal song, you would change the chords of the song just like if you were strumming, and maintain the picking pattern with your fingers.
Put very simply, To play the 1-4-2-3 pattern, start by plucking the bottom string with your middle finger, then pluck the top string with your thumb, pluck the second string from the bottom with your pointer, and finish by plucking the third string from the bottom with your thumb to end it. Repeat as necessary
Okay, I know your not going to want to hear this, but the most important thing to need to remember in order to get good at picking is to practice, practice, practice. Simply picking slowly while you watch some TV, or setting aside twenty minutes or so for practicing a day will help your speed tremendously, and if you get frustrated, just play something else, and come back to it later.
If your have any questions leave a comment below, and I'll help you out.