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How to Fingerpick the Up Pattern on Your Ukulele

Even with just four strings to use, the ukulele provides a huge variety of fingerpicking patterns to play. The simplest pattern of all goes up through the strings one at a time, as shown in this tab pattern:

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This example uses a simple C chord all the way through, so that you can concentrate on the picking. Each string is picked (or plucked) in turn (first the g-string with your thumb, then the C-string with your index finger, and so on). Make sure that you let the notes ring into each other so that by the time you’ve picked all the notes a full C chord is ringing.

To start off with, play the notes as slowly as you can. The important thing is to keep the tempo as even as possible. When you’re comfortable playing it, increase the speed a little at a time.

At the start of the phrase, all the fingers are touching the strings: This position gives you plenty of time to get each finger positioned. When you get the hang of the pattern, try changing chords while playing it.

Picking and changing chords can feel a bit like trying to rub your stomach and pat your head at the same time: the coordination can be tricky at first. But after some practice it starts to come more naturally. Combining the simplicity of the up pattern with interesting chords can make it sound very intricate. The re-entrant string can be used to make the pattern sound like the notes are skipping all over the place, as in this up-pattern song with some unusual chords:

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To get the hang of this pattern, listen to this audio clip of up-pattern picking. It starts with a simple up-pattern progression, moves into chord changes between C, F, and G7 chords, then demonstrates how the up pattern can sound quite complex.

The last part of the audio clip contains a neat little trick. The chord variation right before a chord change introduces a note from the chord that’s coming up next. For example, at the end of bar 4, an open g-string is added to the F chord to transition into the G chord. This technique is a nice way to lead from one chord into the next, and you can do it with strumming as well as with picking.

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