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Can Ukuleles Use Picks?

Can Ukuleles Use Picks?

A pic, or plectrum, is a small piece of materials used to play a stringed instrument. People usually think of guitar picks but they are used on a wide range of instruments include non-western instruments like the Japanese Biwa. Considering the similarities between the ukulele and the guitar, it’s perhaps no wonder people ask “Can ukuleles Use Picks?”

The short answer to this question is yes, but there are a few more things you might want to know about Ukulele picks.

Can you strum a ukulele with a pick?

Yes, you can use a pick to strum a ukulele. It will give you a slightly brighter sound but your strumming technique will be similar to using a finger to strum.

Are ukulele and guitar picks the same?

While there are specific different plectrums made for the ukulele and guitar, in truth you can use either variety.

Typically, guitar picks are made from firmer materials like nylon, celluloid or even metal. Here are some examples of guitar picks from Jim Dunlop. In contrast, ukulele picks are usually made from felt like these Mahala picks. This makes them softer, more flexible and less harsh on the nylon strings of a ukulele (plectrums are more often used with steel string acoustic and electric guitars and not nylon string guitars).

While this reason remains true, there’s no reason you can’t choose to use a plectrum with a ukulele (apart from perhaps tradition) or with a nylon string guitar.

You may notice that your strings wear down faster and you may not get the same tone as some of your favorite ukulele players, but you may end up with a more unique sound and style.

A final thing to note is that using a pick can cause some wear on the body of your instrument. That’s why some guitars have pickguards to protect the wood.

Do guitar picks work on ukulele?

Yes, You can use a guitar pick on a ukulele but it is not the most common choice. It is more common to use a ukulele pick as they are softer and have less risk of breaking the soft nylon ukulele strings.

Why are ukulele picks felt?

Not all ukulele picks are made of felt, you can find some made from other soft materials including leather (but most are made of felt). Softer materials including felt are more common because ukuleles have strings made from nylon and not steel like most guitars. The softer plectrums help avoid damaging the ukuleles strings.

Why should I use a pick with a ukulele?

There are two basic reasons. Playing technique and sound. Some people find it easier to strum with a plectrum easier. That can be really helpful to make it easier to strum and sing on the ukulele. and it can be easier to play the same string repeatedly for fast picking.

In terms of sound, a plectrum tends to give a different sound than even strumming with your fingernail and is generally louder than using your fingers.

Why shouldn’t I use a pick with a ukulele?

When you play without a pick, you have more flexibility. You can use all of your fingers and thumb at once (well, not really on the Ukulele with its four strings!). You can also get different sounds by using different parts of your fingers. For example, more mellow tones from the flesh of your thumb, and more brittle sounds from your fingernail.

Can you use a plectrum on a ukulele?

Some people will tell you that you shouldn’t play with a plectrum. I disagree, it’s your choice. While it is more traditional to not use a pick to play the ukulele, if you want to, you can.

Of course, you can always switch between playing with and without a pick.

About The Author

Chris Wilson

I'm a ukulele fanatic who also happens to teach English as a foreign language in Krakow, Poland.

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