Ukulele Blues Fingerpicking Lesson for Beginners: Pattern #1

This is the second post (and video lesson) of a three part ukulele fingerpicking blues lesson series. For the first lesson, I introduced the structure of the 12-bar blues. Get that lesson here. Once you’re ready, go to part 3.

Now that we’ve learned the 12-bar blues on ukulele, it’s time to learn a couple fingerpicking patterns that we can use with this form. These fingerpicking patterns are great if you are a beginner to fingerpicking, but they are just as useful if you want to get some new ideas.

Video Lesson: Blues Fingerpicking Pattern #1

This is a video for this lesson showing you how to play the fingerpicking pattern in the 12-bar blues form as described below.

Ukulele Fingerpicking Technique

There are two common ways to fingerpick on the ukulele.

The first way uses your thumb, index, and middle finger. Your thumb plucks either of the top two strings, your index finger plucks the second to bottom string, and your middle finger plucks the bottom string.

The second way uses your thumb, index, middle, and ring finger. Your thumb plucks the top string, your index finger plucks the second to top string, your middle finger plucks the second to bottom string, and your ring finger plucks the bottom string.

One technique is not necessarily better than the other. For example, I like to use the first way when I am doing patterns that have an alternating bass feel to them. For other patterns, I like to use the second way because each finger is assigned to a string. My thought is that I can do a lot more if I’m using four of my fingers versus three. I recommend practicing both ways.

For this lesson, we’ll be learning a fingerpicking pattern that uses the first way.

Ukulele Blues Fingerpicking Pattern #1

For this picking pattern, we are going to be playing to a count of four. The chord we will be playing over is an A7 chord (click to see the fingering).

On the first beat, we are going to use our thumb to pluck the C string on the 1st fret. On the “&” of the first beat, we are going to use our middle finger to pluck the bottom A string.

On the second beat, we are going to use our thumb again and pluck the top G string. On the “&” of the second beat, we are going to use our index finger to pluck the E string.

That’s our pattern. We repeat the pattern all the way through the third and fourth beats.

Blues Fingerpicking Pattern #1: A7 chord

-     T   M   T   I   T   M   T   I
a |-------0---------------0----------
e |---------------0---------------0--
c |---1---------------1--------------
g |-----------0---------------0------
-     1   &   2   &   3   &   4   &

We can play this pattern over any chord. Let’s practice it over a D7 chord.

Blues Fingerpicking Pattern #1: D7 chord

-     T   M   T   I   T   M   T   I
a |-------3---------------3----------
e |---------------2---------------2--
c |---2---------------2--------------
g |-----------2---------------2------
-     1   &   2   &   3   &   4   &

For our 12-bar blues progression, we also need to be able to play this pattern over an E7 chord.

Blues Fingerpicking Pattern #1: E7 chord

-     T   M   T   I   T   M   T   I
a |-------2---------------2----------
e |---------------0---------------0--
c |---2---------------2--------------
g |-----------1---------------1------
-     1   &   2   &   3   &   4   &

Be sure to watch the video lesson above to hear how this fingerpicking pattern is played.

Let’s Fingerpick the 12-Bar Blues

We can take this fingerpicking pattern and these chords and play the 12-bar blues progression. In the example of me playing in the video, I use this variation of the 12-bar blues:

Blues Lick & Turn Around

If you watched the video lesson above, you’ll notice that I add a blues lick on the second to last measure of the 12-bar phrase. It’s really easy to play.

On the first beat of the measure, I do a down strum on an A7 chord. On the second beat, I start into the lick. I count the lick in triplets through the second, third, and fourth beat.

For the second beat, with my thumb, I pluck the 2nd fret on the C string but quickly slide up to the 4th fret. On the “trip” of two, I pluck the 4th fret of the bottom A string with my middle finger, and on the “let” of the beat, I pluck the 4th fret of the C string with my thumb again.

I repeat this pattern for the third and fourth beats by walking down the frets. Be sure to watch the video lesson above to see and hear how I play this lick.

-         T   M      T    T   M      T    T   M      T
a |---0-------4---------------3---------------2----------
e |---0--------------------------------------------------
c |---1---2/4--------4----3----------3----2----------2---
g |---0--------------------------------------------------
-     1   2   trip - let  3   trip - let  4   trip - let

It’s Your Turn to Give It a Try

The best thing to do is to start off practicing this fingerpicking pattern over only one chord. If you’ve never fingerpicked before, it will take some practice to get your fingers used to the motion of fingerpicking. Go slow at first, and try to keep your timing as consistent and steady as possible.

As I mentioned in the video, you might want to plant the pinky of your fingerpicking hand on the top of the ukulele to stabilize your hand. Remember to be as relaxed as possible.

Once you get used to the pattern, try adding a chord change. Then, once you’re comfortable with that, you’re ready to play the 12-bar blues!

How’s the fingerpicking going for you? Do you have any questions? What tips do you have for those who are learning how to fingerpick?

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101 Comments

  1. shari

    Thank you for this lesson
    you are a wonderful teacher. I bought your series of lessons book etc but it is your on-line lessons that really ROCK!

    • Thanks for the compliments! Glad you are enjoying the lessons :)

  2. Peter

    Brett, this rocked. I can now play 12-bar blues on guitar and ukulele and I’m excited to try them together and see how they sound! The turnaround is sweet!

    • Sweet! I’m glad you liked it.

  3. Ross

    Love it, Brett!!!
    Very nice tutorial, indeed!!!

  4. Travis

    Just discovered these tutorials this morning and have so far wasted my entire day! Thanks so much, Brett. I’ll be back!

    • It makes me happy to know that Ukulele Tricks has been a time-waster for you. No better way to waste your time than playing ukulele :)

  5. David Guzek

    Brett,
    First, I have enjoyed your site and the blues lessons, it makes a beginner sound good. I have 2 questions. First, the #1 picking pattern and lick, can I use this pattern in any key or does the pattern/lick need to be modified?
    Second, I plan to enroll in your online lessons, for a NON singer who will focus on finger picking, will it still be helpful? Thanks.

    • Hey David,

      #1: You will need to modify this lick for different keys. For example, if you decided to play this in the key of C rather than A… that is three half steps up. This means you would have to modify the lick so you are playing it three frets up from where it is being played now. For more on understanding scales and the theory behind them, see this post.

      #2: The course will be helpful in the sense that you will become stronger with your rhythm and timing. This will inevitably help the rhythm of your fingerpicking, but you should know that the course is focused on strumming and there are no lessons on fingerpicking. The course is great though because I teach a lot of different songs, so once you learn how to play those with strumming, you could take those and modify them for fingerpicking. Just some things to think about…

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

      • David Guzek

        Brett, Thanks for your reply, it was very helpful.

  6. Thomas Thompson

    Definitely the best, easiest to follow, and most understandable instruction site that I have found. I’m not musically inclined, but can follow Brett’s instruction with ease. For those who have not purchased Brett’s online instruction courses, save yourself time and money and purchase it if you want to learn to play the ukulele.

    • Thanks for your kind words, Thomas! I’m glad to hear Ukulele Tricks has been helpful to you. :)

  7. Kelsey

    Brett,
    Thank you so much for this. I’ve been wanting to learn the uke for years and finally broke down and bought on yesterday and this was the first tutorial that I came across. It’s easy to follow and makes me feel like I actually learned something. Thank you for taking the time to make it and keep posting =]

    • Kelsey, thanks so much for your comment. This is great to hear! There are a lot of other lessons and videos on the website too, so be sure to click around. Welcome and enjoy :)

  8. J William Wellborn

    Do you have a work sheet for these lessons? It is a pain to copy and paste. Thanks. This is really fun!

    • Hey J, unfortunately, right now, I’m unable to provide worksheets for these free lessons. It’s a great idea, so maybe in the future. I do however offer hundreds of page of worksheets with my paid ukulele lesson course Ukulele Strumming Tricks.

  9. Fred

    I think you are the BEST online Ukulele Teacher. I just love how you take the time to make it clear to someone by describing it in more detail, relevant way.

    • Fred, that’s mighty nice of you to say. Thank you. I’m really glad that these videos are helpful to you!

  10. Judith

    thanks Brett for the strumming and finger picking lessons. I have made progress this afternoon and enjoyed the challenge supported by your excellent tuition

    • Judith, I appreciate your comment. It’s my pleasure. I’m glad you’ve found these lessons helpful. :)

  11. Pete

    Been learning the ukulele for a short time now mainly strumming.
    Thanks for the Blues finger picking lessons. Going to try them right now.

    Pete

    • My pleasure! Let me know how it goes for you.

  12. Lesley

    Been learning the blues chord progression and the finger-picking this afternoon – superb lessons, thank you! I’m not a complete beginner, but this stuff is new to me and is simply fantastic! The blues lick – wonderful! Thank you!

    • Lesley, I’m glad you’re enjoying the lessons! :)

  13. Geoff

    Dear Brett,

    I have only just found your site, WOW, it’s as if the door has been opened. I have struggled with finger picking for the last 12 months and thought it just was not for me.

    I now know I’ll crack it.

    Thanks

    • This is great to hear! Thanks for your comment, Geoff, and best of luck to you!

  14. Hi Brett, I’m a Brazilian girl who has just discovered Ukelelê….in fact I’m a violinist and recently have found an exemplar of uke, without expacting…..I fell in love with the instrument since then….his size and simplicity whit charm and efficienty….jus happy whit your realy good lesson of blus in ukelele! NOw it’s 3:15 a.m. here and I’ll not make ”loud sound whit my uke, but tomorrow your lesson will be the first!!! sea!!! kss!
    Flora

    • Hey Flora, welcome to Ukulele Tricks! It sounds like you are having a great time learning the ukulele. It’s a fun and joyful instrument. Enjoy!

  15. Sue Jay

    Susieq
    Thanks a lot Brett for your great lessons. Easily the best value in town. One question. When I play my soprano Lanakai I get a buzzing sound on some strings. Can you tell me how I can stop this happening.

    • Hey Sue, this could be a couple things. One, it could be the way you are fretting the strings. When you press down on the strings, make sure you’re finger is right behind and as close to the fret as possible. When you notice a buzzing string, try to isolate what note that is coming from and see if you can move your finger or adjust how hard your pressing to make the buzz go away. If that doesn’t work, it could just be the action on the ukulele. The action refers to how high or low the strings are off the fretboard. If they are quite low to the fretboard, it could be that a string is getting hung up on a fret and causing a buzzing sound. The only way to remedy this would be to take your ukulele in to a luthier to get it set up.

  16. Eray

    I just got my first ukulele a week before. I’m already really into this song. Very informative tutorial. Thank you Brett :)

  17. Julia

    i’m first
    i bought ukul a month ago but just play you are my sunshine.
    your tutorial is very useful
    thx very much

    • Julia

      but i have one question for you
      when i taking a D7 chord in index finger at second flat
      ukulele sounds like some bad
      i can’t press all the strings well
      how i can be well :(
      i’m a korean
      so i couln’t english well. plz understand me

      • Hi Julia, the D7 chord is a hard chord to play because it requires a lot of strength with your index finger. It’ll take some time for your fingers to build up strength to be able to play the chord. It’s important to make sure that the ball of your thumb is pressing right into the neck of the ukulele when you play a D7. This will allow you to get the needed pressure to successfully play the chord.

        • Steven Strauss

          The 2-0-2-0 D7 chord is the first one Hawaiian kids learn, and they alternate it
          with the 0-2-0-2 G6 chord. Then they add the 0-0-0-0 C6 chord and they are off to the races. The barred D7 is important, but until the strength is built up the one with two open strings is a great alternative.

  18. ukemabs

    hi, i just gotten myself a ukulele the other day and wanted to learn how to play it. I dont really know how to know learn plucking via the above. How do i know which fret to use and how do i know what chord am i playing? Kinda confuse here. I understand strumming the chords, but plucking, i am not sure. :-)

    • Hey ukemabs, all this fingerpicking lesson is doing taking some chord shapes (A7, D7, and E7) and applying a plucking pattern to those chords across the strings. In reality, you could change up this pattern by rearranging the order in which you pluck the strings.

  19. John Connolly

    Brett, I managed the finger picking and the lick, but it is hard to do the lick as fast as you do! Is it just practice to get the speed?or is it a certain way you position your fingers?
    Thanks Brett I just love this kind of play.

    • Hey John, I’m glad you’re enjoying the fingerpicking! The speed comes with time and practice. If you can play it cleanly at a slow speed, you’ll be able to play at a fast speed. Continue to practice at a slow speed and gradually increase the speed.

      For my fingers, the goal is always to be as loose and relaxed as possible. Any tension will slow you down. Sometimes the temptation when you’re trying to play fast is to tense up to “try” really hard. You have to be as relaxed as possible and that only comes with playing it slow and building up speed. You’ll get there!

  20. Slimlinni

    I love you ppl that are showing uss so many great things we can do with the uke. Keep it going!

    • The people in the ukulele community are the best!

  21. Jude

    Wow! You are great

    I love the eye contact

    Peace

    &

    Love

  22. M

    Really helpful :) It brings me a lot of fan even on hangover. Thank you for what you’re doing !

  23. jim banks

    I,m 78 years old just got a uke. is it worth trying to play with the memory problems that I have, maybe I’ve made a mistake trying something new so late?

    • Hey Jim, it’s never too late to learn how to play the ukulele. I have some students in my video lesson course who are in the 90s who are learning. If you struggle with memory problems, the ukulele is a good instrument to exercise your memory. I’ve heard from others who struggle with memory, and with time and practice, they are able to see improvements. You do have to be willing to be patient with yourself. It’s definitely not unrealistic. I think you should give it a try! Keep me posted on how it’s going for you.

  24. Keithmj

    Hey Brett. I learned to do this but GACE, GACE. and you use CEGA CEGA does it make a difference or is mine just a different variation of picking? And where can I get some information on the different forms? Thanks..Keith

  25. Keithmj

    I meant you use CAGE, CAGE..Sorry

  26. Peter

    many thanks for you very clear demo.

  27. Madhava

    Awesome Brett. I am learning so much. Thankyou

  28. Stock Kwan

    Hi Brett,
    I am from Hong Kong and just bought Ukulele yesterday. I am still learning the 11-must-know cords (and English ^^) from your videos.
    Thank you for the tutorials.
    Peace

    • Welcome to Ukulele Tricks! Best of luck to you as you learn ukulele and english. :)

  29. Rose

    hi,
    I’ve been playing the ukulele for about a year now and decided to buy a new, better quality instrument. I learnt on a soprano ukulele and have moved to a concert size. My problem now is that I am finding bar chords significantly harder to play and I have to really press down hard on the strings close to the ‘nut’ to get a clear sound. When I use the old soprano it’s easy, but on my new one I am really struggling with chords like Bm and D7 etc. Do you know why this is happening or have any suggestions on how to fix it? Thanks heaps.

    • Hi Rose, this is pretty normal as you switch between different size ukuleles. I’ve noticed that as I switch between my smaller concert ukulele to my tenor. Chords on my concert are a lot easier to fret and barre than on my tenor. Eventually, your hands and fingers will build up the strength so you don’t notice this difference as much.

  30. Thomas Slatten

    I am looking at the finger picking. I have a tenor with a low G string. what would you suggest I do? I have sent in a couple of other inquirlies but have not heard from you. P lease at least advise that you are receiving my messages.

    • Hi Thomas, these patterns can definitely be used for low G ukuleles too, although the overall pattern will sound a little different to how my ukulele sounds in the video.

  31. M.I. Jim Jacob

    Hi Brett,
    I learn you e-book ukulele trick and and watch your practice lessons online during my spare times only after working hours. I found it interesting, slowly but sure I am progressing. Thanks for your guidance lessons.

    • Slowly and surely sounds about right! So glad to hear you are enjoying the lessons. Keep at it, and let me know if you have any questions.

  32. Paula

    Hi Brett
    Thank you for this lesson. I have tried to follow other “lessons” online and get lost because I have Never Ever had any education in music theory so all it’s language and concepts are like Swarheelee to me. At 60 this makes things tough from a basic principles point of view. I have ordered a music theory for idiots book so hope to get a few pennies to drop after reading that.

    In spite of this I do have a good ear for music so I can master the simple stuff. I find your way of explaining really helpful

    Paula

  33. Izzie

    Hey Brett, I’m looking forward to playing the Blues on the uke, but tell me, is your uke a concert or a tenor? xx

  34. John

    Brett,
    I’ve tried all the other on line videos with no success, yours is the only one where I feel I have actually learn t something.
    Thanks John

  35. Jac

    Hi Brett,
    Your videos are great, and I think you are one of the best teachers around!
    I have one question about your uke blues finger picking, which reveals just what a beginner I am I think.

    The lick is great! However, you then impro for a bar or so at the end before re-starting. Any chance you can tell us what that is? I have watched repeatedly but you are too fast, my eyes too weak, and brain too slow.

    Cheers!

    Jac

    • Hey Jac, I included the tab for this lick above. Check that out and let me know if you have any questions.

  36. Amy

    Hey Brett. I was watching you play the sequence at the beginning and I noticed you’re barring the second fret with your middle finger for D7 rather than the pointer finger like you suggested… Just curious, is it just personal preference? I tried it that way and found it much easier than barring with the pointer finger, but is there any reason you suggest barring with the pointer finger that could screw me up later if I don’t practice that way? Thanks, loving your tutorials!

    • Hi Amy, this is my personal preference. Honestly, I think it makes a lot more sense in the context of different chord progressions to use your middle finger for barring the strings. I know this might be weird for beginners, so I hestitate to recommend it off the bat, but if you are able to perform it that way, I’m all about it! :)

  37. Barbara

    I love your videos and website. Thanks a lot.

  38. Lynda

    You are a great teacher. Everything is clear and provided for success. I feel I’ve accomplished something because now I can play this. Thanks so much. I think I’m signing up for your strumming video series.

  39. Gem

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this!!!!
    Thank you for your help! You’ve turned this very wet and dreary afternoon into a very happy one x

  40. Gail

    Mine sounds different, you must be tuned re-entrant this time. Is there a way to make it sound right with low-G?

    • Hi Gail, I’d just pick the pattern I demonstrated on your low G tuned ukulele. It will sound a little different but the pattern would still work over a chord progression very nicely.

  41. Rocket

    Hi Brett, at the end of the lick you seem to strum the A7 followed by another chord to finish the tune – I can’t figure out what that final chord is. Is it a g7?

    Thanks so much for your lessons, so easy to follow and fun to learn!

    • Hi Rocket, for the last couple beats, I switch to an E7 chord (the V chord) to “turn” it back around to the beginning.

  42. Barb

    Can you use a low g here?

    • These patterns work great with low G tuned ukuleles as well.

  43. sarah eydam

    So haven’t yet got the finger picking coordination/speed for the turn around sooo I’ve improvised to create my own turn around with double stops. Better at those. :) Will for on the traditional turn around. This is fun.

  44. Gabe

    Brett, I enjoy your lessons. I am a rookie on this. I have difficulties in finger picking with the middle finger. Any suggestions or is it just practice?

    • Hi Gabe, I wish I had a magic tip for you, but indeed, you’ll find improvement with practice. The pattern I’ve outlined above in this lesson is a great, simple pattern to practice. However, while you practice, take it slow. Focus on being relaxed and remember that it just takes a little bit of contact with your middle finger to pluck and sound the string.

  45. Robert Johnson

    Hi Brett, I’m really enjoying the lessons and worksheets.
    But I’m doing this free lesson and there isn’t a work sheet for it.
    Is there no worksheet for this at all?

    • Hi Robert, indeed, I only have worksheets for the Ukulele Strumming Tricks course. I do not include downloadable worksheets for my free ukulele lessons.

  46. Carolynne

    Hi Brett, I’m another grateful beginner & am happily progressing by following your excellent lessons. I’ve struck a problem with the ‘lick’ which I cannot solve. When I pluck the E string whilst in A7, I get a dull ‘no note’ even with trying all variations & turnings. Any solutions? Thank you for your wonderful tutorials..you’re very patient with me!!!

    • Hi Carolynne, for the lick, I don’t play the lick on the E-string, so no need to pluck it. However, if a string doesn’t ring out, it’s normally because another finger is muting the string accidentally, or you are not pressing on the string hard enough to allow it to ring out.

  47. neil

    Hi Brett

    Thanks so much for making the basics look easy. i know I have a long way to go but thanks to your lessons i feel a little more confident now.

  48. Rocky Dan tyler

    Just got a nice Super Tenor Kanile’a uke with low G. Really nice. I have been frustrated by “Ukulele Aerobics.” just not enough step by step teaching. Tried you blues lick this morning. Nice! I like the way you teach. One question: my ear tells me there should be one other chord either before or after the final A7, possible a diminished or augmented chord? And I think you played something like this the last time through. Am I nuts?

    • Hi Rocky, are you thinking about the E7 chord? In the 12 bar blues, typically the V chord (in this case, E7) will be played on the last measure to turn it around to the top, back to the I chord (in this case, A7).

  49. Judd Fuller

    Brett, having trouble with fingering the D7 chord. My index finger just won’t lay across the strings flat enough to get a decent sound out of the C string. Would it be OK to use the middle finger instead? Or would it only create a bad habit?

    • Hi Judd, I find that quite often I end up using my middle finger to barre the D7 chord. I wouldn’t be worried about forming any bad habits by using your middle finger in this way.

      • Judd Fuller

        Is it always that variation for D7?

        • Judd Fuller

          Thank you by the way. Will make things a lot easier!

  50. Judd Fuller

    Hey Brett, could you define “lick?’ You say you count the licks in triplets. I can’t seem to get it. Thanks. Judd

    I am now trying to keep the two patterns straight. I’m sure it will come. I am also getting a better sound out of the D7. I see on Utube there are many videos just on the barre.

    • Judd, a “lick” is a short musical phrase (collection of notes) that might be repeated in a song. Some people also use the word “riff” interchangeably for the word “lick” sometimes. In the case of the 12 bar blues, this is a “lick” that you can insert and use at the end of the 12 bar blues.

      The arrangement of the rhythm of the notes in a lick can also be different. The lick I teach in this lesson just so happens to be counted in triplets: 1 trip – let, 2 trip – let, 3 trip – let, 4 trip – let.

  51. Judd Fuller

    Thanks for your explanation. This is all taking a lot of patience and practice for me. You have provided everything I need to get it. I keep watching and re-watching the video, esp. re: lick and slowly getting it.

  52. geakfreak

    I can make the fingerpicking but i just can’t get that blues lick :S

  53. mac andrews

    Brett: Do you ever use a ‘capo’ in making ukulele music and when would you?

    • Hi Mac, I don’t generally use a capo in making ukulele music, but there are two main reasons you might choose to use a capo:

      1. Practically, you might use a capo to raise the key of a song to better suit your vocal range.

      2. Or, more artistically, to get a brighter and different tone from the ukulele.

  54. Karen

    Which of your books has the most info for blues type instruction. Karen

    • Karen, at this time, I don’t have any blues-specific lesson resources, however, I do cover the 12 bar blues and blues licks in Ukulele Exercises For Dummies, available on Amazon here: http://amzn.to/11Ahjeq

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