Can You Use A Guitar Pick On The Ukulele?

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Ukuleles make beautiful sounds that you could otherwise not get from any other stringed instrument. However, can you only achieve that sound through strumming with your fingers, or can you use a guitar pick? Let’s find out. 

You can use a guitar pick on a ukulele. A ukulele’s strings are made from a nylon polymer similar to that of classical guitars. The one factor you will need to consider is what guitar pick to choose. Typically, ukuleles are played by strumming, so a large, rounded, and thin pick would be best. 

This article will detail exactly why you can use a guitar pick with a ukulele, and it will also help you choose the right one to avoid any confusion you may have. 

animated red and blue guitar picks beside yellow lightbulb and blue ukulele on grey music themed background.

Can You Use A Guitar Pick On The Ukulele?

In order to understand if you are able to use a guitar pick on a ukulele in any instance (and not damage the strings), then we first need to understand a little more about guitar picks.

We would also like to know a little more about ukulele strings and how they compare to guitar strings, be it either electric or acoustic.

Understanding these aspects of guitar picks and strings will help us define our question, which is: whether or not we can use any or all guitar picks on a ukulele. 

We discussed if you are able to use a guitar capo on the ukulele in our other article and defined similar criteria for suitability. If you are interested, then have a look. 

Types Of Guitar Picks

There are many different types of guitar picks. Guitar picks have specific attributes which make every one slightly different and suitable to a specific playing need or personal preference.

Understanding these differing attributes will help you understand if a pick will work for a ukulele or not. The way guitar picks differ between one another are by:

  • Size
  • Shape
  • Thickness
  • Material
  • Texture

Guitar Pick Size

Larger picks are typically used by beginners and are more comfortable to hold and play with. These picks are usually considered much easier to strum with and can be held with multiple fingers.

This is because some beginners find it challenging to grasp holding a guitar pick in the first place. 

Read More: Can you play guitar with small hands?

Conversely, small guitar picks are used to pick individual strings (fast). You will often find the guitarists who shred (play very fast) often use small guitar picks. 

In terms of a ukulele, the main composition for the instrument is typically strumming out chords. It is then usually accompanied by another instrument for the melody. 

Guitar Pick Shape

In terms of shapes, you get many for guitar picks. You get ones with rounded edges, pointy edges, and even ones that resemble the edges of a shark fin. 

Rounded-shaped guitar picks are typically used for strumming as their sound is smoother in nature. Sharper (more pointed) guitar picks will more likely be used for single note picking as they create a nice “twang” or crisp sound. 

Rounded guitar picks will be your best option if you are looking for a guitar pick for strumming a ukulele. Unless you are perhaps integrating it with some melody lines, then maybe a medium thickness would suit you better.

Guitar Pick Thickness

Thick guitar picks are used for single-note playing. Once again, guitarists who shred quickly on single strings and across strings will usually use thicker guitar picks.

This is because the rigidity of the pick will keep its shape as they pick notes quickly.

Thinner-shaped picks are flexible and give way when you strum them across all guitar strings. These are much better suited for strumming and for ukulele playing. As we said (for the most part), ukulele playing will “mainly” be chordal strumming.

Guitar Pick Material

Guitar picks – you would think – would only be made of plastic. For the most part, this is correct.

However, you do get manufacturers that branch out, creating ones from other materials like nickel and other forms of metal as commemorative and special editions. These should never be considered when playing the guitar or a ukulele. 

Manufacturers do play with the type of plastic used, and for us, as a guitar (in this case, ukulele) player need not be concerned with that.

Your best bet is to find the correct size, shape, and thickness that suits your play style and then find one that feels comfortable. 

At the moment, for a ukulele, the size, shape, and thickness are large, rounded, and thin. We still need to determine if the ukulele strings are suitable for guitar picks (which we will cover in the next section).

Guitar Pick Texture

The texture is another factor that you do not need to worry about too much. All you need to do is find a comfortable guitar pick to hold and play with. Textures can range from smooth to coarse and anything in-between. Just find one that feels right for you.

Are The Strings Of A Ukulele And Guitar Different?

Now that we know what type of a guitar pick we should be looking at if we are playing the ukulele, we now need to understand if the strings are built for them.

The guitar and ukulele strings are tuned differently. Tuning won’t play a role in guitar picks or any stringed instrument you wish to play. However, the materials of the strings will matter. 

Guitar strings can be made of various types of materials. We will touch on the different types so you can get an understanding. For electric and acoustic guitars, strings can be made from;

  • Steel
  • Nickel
  • Nylon
  • Copper
  • Tin
  • Brass

Depending on the strings, and how and what guitar they are made for, these materials can be a mixture. This means you can have nickel/steel strings and so on.

On the other hand, a ukulele had its strings made originally from catgut. Those days are long gone, and now they are made from nylon polymer strings.

There can also be variations in the material that make up ukulele strings, and these materials include:

  • Fluorocarbon
  • Aluminum

However, for the most part, most ukuleles will ship with traditional nylon polymer (plastic, essentially) strings or some variation thereof. 

It’s also important to note that all types of ukuleles utilize the same materials for strings. It’s the size, length, and tuning that may differ between them.

Thus as you can see, they are pretty much made in the same way as classical guitars strings. If you know anything about guitars, you will know that classical guitars all have nylon strings. 

Furthermore, you are more than able to use almost any type of pick on a classical guitar. As such, therefore, a ukulele, too.

Read More: Can you put steel strings on a classical guitar?

Conclusion

We discussed various types of picks and how to go about choosing one for your specific playing style if you were able to do so for a ukulele.

Then we discovered that because ukulele strings are made very similar to classical guitar nylon strings, you can indeed use guitar picks on a ukulele. 

You will only need to consider your preference in guitar picks when choosing one for your ukulele.

As always, Happy Playing,

-D

About Devlon Jarrod Horne

Devlon started playing guitar when he was 13. He studied contemporary music at Damelin and classical music theory through the London Royal Schools of Music In the UK. He has toured extensively in the UAE, UK, and South Africa and played at the South African Soccer World Cup. His cover band was voted the number one band in Abu Dhabi by Time Out Magazine. Devlon has also had a number one hit on the Homebrew Show on Highveld Stereo in South Africa for five weeks in a row. He now spends his time playing for enjoyment and teaches on occasion.