How to Fingerpick Your Ukulele - dummies

How to Fingerpick Your Ukulele

By Alistair Wood

To fingerpick your ukulele, instead of strumming your fingers along the strings, you pluck the strings individually. Each of the fingers of your picking hand (the right if you’re right-handed) is allocated to a specific string:

  • Thumb — g-string

  • Index finger — C-string

  • Middle finger — E-string

  • Ring finger — A-string


Curl your fingers around so that they’re slightly underneath the string, with the string running over the fingertip. Try to keep your hand as relaxed as possible.

You can do one of two things with your little finger. Proper technique dictates that you lift it up off the body of the uke, which allows you to switch quickly between picking and strumming and means that you’re not dampening the soundboard of the ukulele at all. You can, however, use your little finger to anchor your hand to the ukulele’s face, which gives your picking hand more stability.

A downside of sticking your little finger in the air is that, after a while, it tends to fall into that position naturally. Chugging a beer with your little finger delicately raised in the air may provoke a comment or two!

You pluck the string by curling your finger further round to slightly lift then release the string. This action doesn’t need much force. If you pluck too hard, the string may vibrate against the frets and cause buzzing.

Letters are used to illustrate fingerpicking in tablature, and the fingers of the picking hand are referred to as follows:

  • T = Thumb

  • I = Index/pointer finger

  • M = Middle finger

  • A = Ring finger

If you’re wondering why ‘A’ is used for the ring finger, the names come from the Latin (indice, medius, annular). In keeping with this, you’ll sometimes see the thumb referred to with a P for pulgar, but you can just think of it as the pinkie.

These finger names appear directly beneath each note. Where two notes are picked at the same time, they appear one on top of the other in the same configuration as the tab.