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Mastering Ukulele Fingerpicking: Techniques and Tips

Introduction to Ukulele Fingerpicking

Ukulele is a beautiful instrument that is fun to play and easy to learn. As a beginner, you might have already mastered the basic strumming patterns and chords.

However, there is something missing in your playing that can take your musical journey to the next level. That missing element is fingerpicking.

In this article, we will explore the benefits of fingerpicking on ukulele and dispel some of the misconceptions surrounding this technique. We will also introduce you to the

PIMA fingerpicking system and guide you through some of the essential fingerpicking patterns.

What is missing in basic ukulele playing? When you are first learning how to play the ukulele, you likely start with basic chords and strumming patterns.

While these are essential skills to develop, focusing solely on them can limit the sound quality you can achieve on the instrument. Strumming patterns are great for creating a rhythm, but they only scratch the surface of the nuances and tonal possibilities of the instrument that fingerpicking can bring.

Benefits of fingerpicking on ukulele

Fingerpicking on ukulele allows for a more dynamic and versatile sound quality. It enables you to achieve greater clarity and tone for individual notes and simultaneously play basslines, harmonies, and melodies.

Beyond the enhanced sound, fingerpicking also provides comfort for your fingers. While strumming puts pressure on your fingertips over time, plucking strings with your fingers uses less force.

Fingerpicking patterns allow you to create a well-rounded sound that encompasses all of the possibilities of the uke.

Misconceptions about fingerpicking

One of the most common misconceptions about fingerpicking is that it is complicated and only for seasoned professionals. While there are advanced techniques that require years of practice, getting started with fingerpicking is easier than you might think.

As long as you focus on proper finger allocation, practice consistently, and start with simple patterns, anyone can improve their playing experience through fingerpicking.

PIMA fingerpicking system

The PIMA system is a popular finger allocation technique that is commonly used in fingerstyle guitar playing and is applicable to the ukulele. PIMA refers to the thumb (P), index finger (I), middle finger (M), and ring finger (A).

Each of these fingers is allocated to handle a specific group of strings, as explained in the table below:

Right-Hand Fingers | String Allocation


Thumb (P) | G-string (4th)

Index Finger (I) | A-string (3rd)

Middle Finger (M) | E-string (2nd)

Ring Finger (A) | C-string (1st)

As you practice, its important that you get used to using each finger for the strings allocated to them. One finger per string vs.

thumb and two fingers method

There are two methods of finger allocation that you can use with the PIMA system: one finger per string or the thumb and two fingers method. The one finger per string method is easier to learn and allows you to develop more control with individual fingers.

The thumb and two fingers method is more complex but allows you to play more intricate patterns and rhythms.

Ukulele Fingerpicking Patterns

Starting with simple patterns

As with any instrument, it is always a good idea to start with simple patterns and then progress to more complex ones. Fingerpicking is no different.

It is best to start with simple patterns, which build the muscle memory and finger coordination needed to execute more complex arrangements. Pattern 1: Plucking individual strings

This pattern is the most straightforward picking technique.

It involves plucking each string individually in succession. Example:

G-string pluck with the thumb (P)

A-string pluck with the index finger (I)

E-string pluck with the middle finger (M)

C-string pluck with the ring finger (A)

Pattern 2: I-M-I-M sequential pattern

The I-M-I-M pattern is a sequential plucking pattern that alternates between your index and middle fingers.


G-string pluck with the index finger (I)

E-string pluck with the middle finger (M)

A-string pluck with the index finger (I)

C-string pluck with the middle finger (M)

Pattern 3: I-M-A-A sequential pattern

This pattern involves plucking the strings in a sequential order using your index, middle, and ring fingers. Example:

G-string pluck with the index finger (I)

E-string pluck with the middle finger (M)

A-string pluck with the ring finger (A)

C-string pluck with the ring finger (A)

Pattern 4: C-G-A-A-G-C pattern

This pattern employs a C bass note while picking the strings in sequential order.


C-string pluck with the ring finger (A)

G-string pluck with the index finger (I)

A-string pluck with the middle finger (M)

A-string pluck with the ring finger (A)

G-string pluck with the index finger (I)

C-string pluck with the ring finger (A)

Pattern 5: C-G-A-I-M-A-I-M pattern

This pattern is an eight-note sequence that requires the use of your thumb and two fingers. Example:

C-string pluck with the thumb (P)

G-string pluck with the index finger (I)

A-string pluck with the middle finger (M)

I(high) string pluck with the index finger (I)

M(high) string pluck with the middle finger (M)

A-string pluck with the middle finger (M)

I(high) string pluck with the index finger (I)

M(high) string pluck with the middle finger (M)

Importance of focusing on picking hand

When learning to fingerpick, it is easy to focus on the fretting hand and neglect the picking hand. However, it is critical to keep your picking hand steady and focused on the open strings, which are used to produce your basslines and keep a steady rhythm.

Relax your hand while keeping your fingers firm enough to pluck the strings without hitting adjacent strings.

Final Thoughts

Fingerpicking is an exciting way to enhance your ukulele playing. By allocating your hand fingers using the PIMA system, starting with simple isolated patterns and progressing to more intricate ones, practicing consistently, and focusing on the picking hand, you can add a new dimension to your playing experience.

Fingerpicking can be an enjoyable and rewarding way to expand the possibilities of your ukulele playing.

Tips for Improving Technique

Improving your fingerpicking technique on the ukulele requires consistent practice and attention to detail. In this section, we will discuss some tips that will help you take your fingerpicking abilities to the next level.

Resting non-picking fingers on the ukulele

When fingerpicking the ukulele, it’s essential to keep your non-picking fingers rested on the body of the instrument. This technique not only stabilizes your hand but also helps you develop better finger placement.

Keeping your non-picking fingers grounded on the instrument provides extra support and stability that will improve your accuracy and decrease tension in your wrist and hand.

Importance of practice

One of the most important tips for improving your fingerpicking technique is to practice consistently. Repetition is key to mastering any skill, and fingerpicking on the ukulele is no exception.

Incorporating fingerpicking exercises into your daily practice routine will help you develop muscle memory and finger coordination. It’s not recommended to spend all your practice time working on one particular pattern.

Instead, try to balance them with some scale exercises or even a new song to keep your practice routine varied.

Practicing patterns with chords

When you want to incorporate your fingerpicking skills into a song, it’s essential to know how to fingerpick with chord changes. Practicing fingerpicking patterns with chords using different chord positions improves your finger placement and sound quality.

For example, if you try to fingerpick C, F, and G7 chords on a song in pattern 5, you’ll notice that your muscle memory improves with each chord change. You will also have a good idea of where your fingers need to go to pick them accurately.

Singing while fingerpicking

Fingerpicking can be used as an accompaniment to vocals, but it can be challenging to develop the necessary skills to sing while playing the uke. A useful tip to help you improve both your fingerpicking and singing abilities is to use a metronome.

First, set the metronome at a slower tempo and practice strumming along to the click track while singing in your head. Once you’re comfortable with the rhythm, switch to fingerpicking and continue singing along.

The metronome will help you keep a steady rhythm, allowing you to focus on your singing and playing.

Using a metronome

When practicing with a metronome, you develop your inner rhythm, which will benefit your overall technique. Practice patterns and songs at a slow tempo and work up to the recommended speed.

The idea is to play each pattern impeccably before you move on to the next faster tempo. Moving too quickly means sacrificing accuracy, and incorporating bad habits into your fingerpicking that will be hard to correct later on.

Using a metronome will help you develop precision and control over your fingerpicking patterns.

Final Thoughts

Improving your fingerpicking technique on the ukulele requires a lot of patience and consistent practice. You need to be willing to put in the effort if you want to master this technique.

Resting your non-picking fingers on the instrument, practice repetition, practicing patterns with chords, singing while fingerpicking, and using a metronome are essential tips that will help you improve your fingerpicking technique. Incorporate these tips into your practice routine, and you will notice significant improvement in your fingerpicking abilities.

In conclusion, fingerpicking is a crucial element of ukulele playing that can add a new dimension to your music. It enhances the sound quality while providing comfort to your fingers.

Through the use of

PIMA fingerpicking systems, starting with simple patterns, and focusing on picking hands, you can master fingerpicking patterns and increase your proficiency. Additionally, finger placement, regular practice, exercising patterns with chords while singing, and practicing with a metronome are valuable tips for improving your fingerpicking technique.

By applying these tips, you can enhance your fingerpicking ability to produce beautiful and dynamic sounds. Remember, practice is essential, and repetition leads to mastery.

Make fingerpicking part of your daily practice routine, and you will notice significant improvements in your playing.

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