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Fingerpicking: A Guide to Beautiful Ukulele Melodies

Introduction to Fingerpicking on Ukulele

Have you ever listened to Jake Shimabukuro’s Bohemian Rhapsody version played on the ukulele? The beautiful melody he creates is produced by fingerpicking.

The technique involves plucking strings with your fingers instead of using a pick. Fingerpicked ukulele can create soulful and intricate melodies that add depth to your music.

In this article, we will explore the benefits of fingerpicking, misconceptions about the technique, and the PIMA fingerpicking system. We will also discuss the different types of fingerpicking patterns, including single string plucking, alternating string plucking, basic arpeggio, 6-note sequence, and 8-note sequence, and their uses.

Benefits of Fingerpicking

Fingerpicking is a popular technique because of its ability to produce beautiful and intricate melodies that add soul to the music. Unlike strumming, fingerpicking can create different textures and dynamics that are not possible with a pick.

One of the key benefits of fingerpicking is the ability to pluck individual strings, which creates a clear and distinct sound. This technique is particularly useful when playing chord melodies or playing one note at a time.

Fingerpicking gives you better control over the loudness and softness of each note, allowing you to create a dynamic sound.

Misconceptions About Fingerpicking

Many people believe that fingerpicking is a complicated technique that requires years of training to master. However, this is far from the truth.

While it may take some time to become proficient, with practice, anyone can learn to fingerpick the ukulele. Another misconception is that fingerpicking is only suitable for slow and mellow songs.

While this technique is commonly associated with ballads, it can be used in any genre of music. Fingerpicking can produce various sounds that are suitable for different styles.

It largely depends on the specific patterns and techniques used.

PIMA Fingerpicking System

The PIMA fingerpicking system is a popular method used by many fingerstyle guitarists and ukulele players. It is an acronym for the Spanish abbreviations of the fingers used in the picking hand.

The thumb is represented by “P,” the index finger by “I,” the middle finger by “M,” and the little finger by “A.” The system teaches players to assign each finger to a specific string, making it easier to remember patterns and produce a consistent sound. When using the PIMA system, the thumb is typically used for the bass notes, and the other fingers pick out the remaining strings.

The little finger is not always used, but it can be handy when playing complex patterns. One Finger Per String vs.

Thumb and Two Fingers

One finger per string refers to the technique where each finger is assigned to a specific string. This technique is great for producing clear and distinct notes, but it can be challenging for beginners to learn.

Alternatively, the thumb and two-finger technique involves using the thumb and one or two fingers to pick out the notes. This method is simpler to learn and allows for faster playing.

However, notes may sound less clear with this technique compared to the one finger per string method.

Ukulele Picking Patterns

Now that we have covered the basics of fingerpicking, let’s dive into some common picking patterns used in ukulele music. Pattern 1: Single String Plucking

Single string plucking is a basic picking pattern that involves plucking one string at a time.

This technique is often used for picking out simple melodies or playing slow ballads. It is important to maintain a consistent rhythm while playing single string plucking, which can be achieved using a metronome.

Pattern 2: Alternating String Plucking

Alternating string plucking involves alternating between two strings using different fingers. This pattern is common in folk and bluegrass music and can create a fast and lively sound.

This technique can also be used for producing arpeggios. Pattern 3: Basic Arpeggio

An arpeggio is a picking pattern that involves playing the notes of a chord individually instead of strumming all the strings at once.

To play a basic arpeggio pattern, use your thumb to pick the bass note, followed by plucking the other notes with your fingers. Pattern 4: 6-Note Sequence

A 6-note sequence is a series of notes played in a repetitive six-note pattern.

This pattern can be played by alternating between two strings using the PIMA system. A common 6-note sequence is C-E-G-A-G-E, followed by a bass note on the C string.

Pattern 5: 8-Note Sequence

An 8-note sequence is similar to a 6-note sequence but involves eight notes played in a repetitive pattern. This pattern can be played by alternating between two strings using the PIMA system.

A common 8-note sequence is C-E-A-E-G-B-C-A.


In conclusion, fingerpicking is a popular technique used in ukulele music that produces beautiful and intricate melodies. It is a technique that anyone can learn with practice, and it comes with numerous benefits such as clear and distinct notes and dynamic sound.

By using the PIMA system and different picking patterns, you can take your fingerpicking to the next level and produce unique and soulful music.

Tips for Improving Fingerpicking Technique on Ukulele

Fingerpicking is a delightful technique that can produce intricate melodies on the ukulele. While it may seem challenging at first, mastering this technique requires focus, dedication, and a well-defined practice routine.

Here are a few tips that can help improve fingerpicking technique on the ukulele.

Hand Stabilization

Fingerpicking on the ukulele requires not only finger dexterity but also hand stabilization. The non-picking fingers should remain still and steady while the thumb and other fingers move from string to string.

This ensures that the strings that are not being played do not create any unwanted noise. To improve hand stabilization, try resting your thumb on the back of the ukulele neck while the rest of the fingers are positioned over the strings.

Start with slow and repetitive motions, gradually working your way up to faster tempos. This technique helps to develop stability and control over the picking hand.

Repetition and Practice

No technique can be mastered overnight, and fingerpicking is no exception. To improve fingerpicking on the ukulele, repetition and practice are essential.

Begin by practicing simple patterns, such as single string plucking, using open strings, and then move up to more complex patterns using chords. When practicing, try to focus on perfecting each movement and keeping a steady tempo.

Utilize a metronome and gradually increase the speed over time, making sure not to rush the process. Repetition and perseverance will help to build muscle memory and improve overall fingerpicking technique.

Combining Fingerpicking and Singing

Once you have improved your fingerpicking technique, an excellent way to further enhance your skills is to add singing while fingerpicking. This can be challenging, as you must hold a steady rhythm while singing, but with practice, it can be accomplished.

Begin by selecting a song where the fingerpicking pattern is relatively simple and matches the rhythm of the vocals. Start by playing the fingerpicking pattern until it becomes second nature.

Focus on hitting the notes consistently and keeping a steady tempo. Next, add the vocals, starting with humming or just reciting the lyrics.

Try to match your singing rhythm with the fingerpicking pattern, making sure to hold a consistent tempo. Gradually increase the level of difficulty by adding more complex fingerpicking patterns or adjusting the rhythm of the lyrics.

As your confidence increases, try speeding up the tempo of the song, as well as the difficulty of the fingerpicking pattern. With time and practice, combining fingerpicking and singing can become second nature on the ukulele.


Fingerpicking on the ukulele is a fantastic technique that can take your skills to the next level. By focusing on hand stabilization, repetition and practice, and combining fingerpicking and singing, you can improve your fingerpicking technique and create beautiful and intricate melodies.

Remember that mastering fingerpicking takes time and dedication, but with perseverance and patience, anyone can become an accomplished fingerstyle ukulele player. Fingerpicking on the ukulele is a technique that requires dedication, patience and a well-defined practice routine.

To improve your fingerpicking technique, you can follow the tips discussed in this article, including hand stabilization, repetition and practice, and combining fingerpicking and singing. The art of fingerpicking may seem daunting at first, but with perseverance and practice, it can be a rewarding experience.

Incorporating fingerpicking into your playing can add depth and soulfulness to your music, helping to create beautiful melodies that captivate listeners.

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