Fingerpicking can be a little bit daunting if you’re only used to strumming chords on your ukulele. Here’s my approach to get you started with ukulele fingerpicking the simple way. You’ll be up and running in no time. It’s easy when you know how…
Let’s get fingerpicking
For the purpose of this post and to keep it as simple as possible, we’re going to stick with just one pattern which uses your thumb, index and middle finger. I’ve created some simple ukulele tab below (if you don’t know how to read ukulele tab, head this way) for you to follow.
No chord, fingerpicking practice
To start with, we’re not going to use our fretting hand so just let it relax, I want you take all your focus away from that hand. The tab above shows the sequence of G E A and just repeats it. Your thumb will play the G, your index finger plays the E and your middle finger plays the A. If you need it, here’s my guide to help you know which string is which.
To get your hand into a good position, put your fingers and thumb on to the strings that they will be playing then just lift them off slightly. That will give you a good starting position. Play slowly to begin with, aiming for a steady tempo that keeps the spacing between notes equal. Only increase your speed once you’re completely comfortable.
Introducing chords into fingerpicking
Once you’re comfortable with the pattern and your picking hand is doing what it should you can start to introduce a few chords. Let’s start with the ever popular C chord (third finger of the third fret, first string) playing the same pattern as before. This should be easy for you, but again go for pure consistency.
Now let’s try and add an F chord in. Again this shouldn’t be any trouble for you if you’re comfortable with the pattern. Once you’ve got this solid, try and alternate between the C and the F. Play through the pattern above for C and then immediately switch to the F and play the pattern. Keep alternating between the two. You’ll probably find that initially you stutter a little at the point of the chord change. To combat this slow down to the speed that you can comfortably make the change and then speed the whole thing up as you get better.
Now try fingerpicking some songs!
Now you’ve got a simple ukulele fingerpicking pattern, apply it to some songs that you know the chords for. Pick some easy songs that use 3-4 chords to begin with and rather than strum them, fingerpick your way through using the pattern you’ve just learned. Here’s a good song to try your fingerpicking on.
If you want some further help with fingerpicking then I’d recommend taking a look at the ebook How To Play Classical Ukulele. There are 7 classical fingerstyle arrangements (varying degrees of difficulty) to get your teeth into that will really help you improve your skills. For just $7 I think it’s a a great book if you’re looking to get better quickly.