Do You Need a Pick to Play Ukulele?

A common question that beginners will often ask is, do you need a pick to play ukulele? Most people don’t use one. If you watch videos of people playing the ukulele, they are most often not using a pick.

The answer to this question is no, you do not need a pick to play the ukulele. While picks can be helpful in some situations, they are not necessary for playing the ukulele. Most professional players will tell you to never use one as they only hinder your progress.

In this Killer Rig article, we’ll answer that question and provide some insight on when it’s ok to use one and when you should not.

Do You Need a Pick to Play Ukulele?

Most people don’t use a pick when playing the ukulele. In fact, many professionals will tell you that using one will hold you back, especially as a beginner.

They also don’t provide a natural ukulele sound when you strum.

You don’t need to use a pick to play the ukulele, and can strum with your fingers. But if you want to use one, you absolutely can! If you’re a guitar player and feel more comfortable using a pick as you learn the ukulele, then do what feels best.

Find out if ukulele is easier than guitar here!

What are Some of the Benefits of Using a Ukulele Pick?

There are a few reasons why you might want to use a pick.

  • If you’re just starting out, a pick can help with the dexterity of your fingers.
  • Picks can help create a fuller sound if you’re playing with other instruments.
  • If you’re strumming quickly, a pick can help prevent your fingers from getting sore.
  • Picks are helpful if you have long nails and are having trouble plucking the strings.

If you just don’t feel comfortable using your fingers, then a pick can help you enjoy playing the ukulele. We highly encourage you to use a pick in this case. Because you need to enjoy the experience to continue learning and remain motivated.

Disadvantages of Using a Pick

Using a pick to play ukulele does have some disadvantages. And while they are minor, they still have a negative effect.

For example, a pick will prevent you from obtaining a very technical play style. Using your fingers instead will allow you to play with a more complex picking pattern. Things like rolls and triplets. This can lead to a more interesting-sounding performance.

Learning how to strum on a ukulele might be more difficult when using a pick. Some people will likely find that it’s much harder to control the movement of the pick when strumming.

Then it is to use your fingers. This is because you are using two different muscle groups when strumming with a pick. When strumming with your fingers, you are only using the muscles in your hand and wrist.

And finally, you might damage your ukulele. If you strum rather aggressively with a pick. Then, making contact with the instrument could damage the finish.

When To Use a Pick With the Ukulele

So, when should you use a pick? For beginners, we recommend playing with your fingers. It will be easier to learn the proper strumming technique.

However, if you’re finding it difficult to pluck the strings with your fingers, then go ahead and use a pick.

If you’re an experienced player and want to experiment with different sounds, using a pick is a great way to do that. This is especially true with a baritone-style ukulele.

It can also be a great way to get more volume from the ukulele. This is handy if you are jamming with other louder instruments.

Relieve Chronic PainUsing a pick can help prevent chronic pain in some players.
Sore FingersWhen your fingers are sore, but you just need to play!
Preserve NailsIf you want to preserve the look of your nails.
Music StyleSome music styles require a certain sound that only a pick can provide.
Felt Ukulele Pick.

How to Choose the Right Ukulele Pick

There are a few things to consider when choosing a ukulele pick:

  1. You’ll want to choose a pick made from a soft material, such as nylon or felt. These materials will result in a softer sound when strumming. If you want a louder sound, you can choose a pick that is made from a harder material.
  2. The thicker the pick, the louder the sound will be. If you want a softer sound, you’ll want to choose a thinner one.
  3. Choosing a pick that is comfortable for you to hold is also important. If you have small hands, you might want to choose a smaller pick.
  4. The shape of the pick can also affect the sound. For example, a pick with a pointed tip will result in a sharper sound than one with a rounded one.

Picks come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and materials. The best way to find the right pick for you is to experiment with a few different ones. At least until you find the one that feels and sounds best.


Can you use a quarter as a ukulele pick?

No, we do not recommend using a quarter as a ukulele pick. While it may work in a pinch, it’s not the ideal material to use and can quickly damage your strings. It’s always best to have the right pick material and a few extras around, just in case.

Can I use my thumb instead of a pick?

While it’s fine to use your thumb when getting started. We suggest that you also practice with your fingers.

If you form bad habits by using only your thumb. You will not benefit from some of the more technical styles that make the ukulele a lot of fun.

Does strumming the ukulele hurt?

No, strumming the ukulele should not hurt. If you are having pain when you play, it’s likely due to incorrect technique. Or an issue with the instrument itself.

Try adjusting the way you are using your fingers. Strumming the ukulele is a fluid, soft motion, if you are too aggressive then it can result in sore fingers.

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Author: Don East

My name is Don East, I'm the editor for Killer Rig. I've been playing guitar for over 20 years and have designed and manufactured products like guitar amps, effects pedals, and more. Over the years I have played in many bands and have a deep love for quality gear. I am an electrical engineer and have a passion for music gear, and now want to share what I know with the community!