Is playing with a plectrum heresy?

If you are a guitar player then the chances are that you’ve played with a plectrum. A little piece of triangular shaped material, usually plastic, nylon or similar which is used to vibrate the strings of a guitar. However, you’ve probably noticed that plectrums are pretty rare for Ukulele players. But is it heretical to play the Ukulele with a plectrum? Let’s have a little discussion.

plectrum for ukulele

Cons of plectrums

A plectrum is a single point to play with unlike your five fingers. It is true that you can use some of your fingers along with a plectrum but you remove the thumb and pointer finger and instead gain only a plectrum.

Plectrums can also damage your strings and the body of your instrument as well. It’s why guitars usually have a “pick guard” which sits atop of the guitar body and is more resistant to the plectrum and so protects the body. However, the majority of Ukuleles don’t feature this protection.

Plectrums also damage the strings more than strumming with your finger or plucking with your hand. This means you may have to replace your strings more frequently.

Standard plectrums aren’t designed for Nylon strings, this reinforces the previous point, it will damage your strings more, but also makes them sounds harsher.

Finally, traditional sounds and playing styles have all revolved around using fingers and so if you want to get a “classic” ukulele sound, you’ll have to use your fingers.

But…

Having said all those points, strings still wear out even if you don’t use a plectrum. Plus, it’s okay to create new styles of music and not have a “traditional sound”. So while these are downsides…they aren’t deal breakers in my opinion.

Pros of Plectrums

After thinking about those downsides, it’s importent to think about the advantages of plectrums as they often get neglected with it comes to Ukuleles.

Plectrums can be easier to play with. The firmness of a plectrum can be easier to get used to playing with when you start out playing. It also won’t hurt your finger as much as you strum.

Plectrums can be louder. This is not a firm truth, you can gently and quiet play with a plectrum and loudly with your fingers, but with the firmness of a plectrum you can create a louder sound.

Plectrums can help you play faster. When you look at the fasters guitar players, they don’t use their fingers, they tend to use a plectrum as their firmness returns to it’s place quicker. This can help you play a series of notes quicker. This is not a complete truth as you can also roll strum which can help you play very quickly with your fingers.

Conclusion

Well, it’s really up to you and what you prefer. In general I don’t play with a plectrum as I prefer playing with my finger and the variety of options it opens up but I have and do sometimes play with a plectrum. What about you?

Do you ever play your Ukulele with a plectrum? Why/Why not?

I'm an English as a Foreign language teacher who loves playing the Ukulele and spreading that joy as well. This is my site.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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One thought on “Is playing with a plectrum heresy?

  1. If you’re playing chords in Trad Jazz situation, a plectrum gives you a louder and an “edgier” sound. It also helps to create a more driving rhythmic feel. I use a soft plastic guitar plectrum and haven’t noticed a wearing out of the strings. On the other hand, when playing alone and accompanying my singing (such as it is), the fingers produce a warmer more mellow sound.
    I believe that the use of a plectrum is just another tool that we have at our disposal.