Picking patterns are used when the ukulele is used as an accompaniment instrument. In this case, the notes of the chord underlying each bar (mostly) are played (plucked) individually in regular patterns. A bar is usually subdivided into eighth notes (that is, the 4/4 bar plays 8 notes, the 3/4 bar 6 notes, etc.).

The number of possible patterns is virtually unlimited. Presented below are just a few basic options. Which ones are chosen depends critically on the type (in particular the rhythm) of the music to be accompanied, as well as on the chords used.

Arpeggio

Arpeggio

For an arpeggio, all strings are plucked one after the other. The movement can be “upwards” (from the 4th to the 1st string) or “downwards” (from the 1st to the 4th string). 1) Arpeggios can be combined, either upwards, downwards, upwards-downwards or downwards-upwards. However, it is common for the first note of the pattern to be on the lowest played string.

Example: C Major Chord

   Upwards               Downwards             Upwards          Downwards      Up and Down
   2/4  3/4        4/4   2/4  3/4        4/4   6/8    4/4       6/8    4/4      4/4
xA|3---|3---3-|3---3---||---3|---3--|---3---3||---3--|---33---||3-----|3------3|-------0|
xE|-0--|-0---0|-0---0--||--0-|--0---|--0---0-||--0-0-|--0--0--||-0---0|-0----0-|--0---0-|
xC|--0-|--0---|--0---0-||-0--|-0---0|-0---0--||-0---0|-0----0-||--0-0-|--0--0--|-0-0-0--|
xG|---0|---0--|---0---0||0---|0---0-|0---0---||0-----|0------0||---0--|---00---|0---0---|

Variation with Alternating Bass

   Upwards          Downwards          
   3/4    4/4       3/4    4/4      
xA|3--3--|3---3---||--3--3|--3---3-|
xE|-0--0-|-0---0--||-0--0-|-0---0--|
xC|--0---|--0-----||---0--|----0---|
xG|-----0|------0-||0-----|0-------|

Odd-Even/Even-Odd

Odd-Even/Even-Odd

The odd (1st and 3rd) and even (2nd and 4th) strings are plucked in turn. The patterns can be pluck upwards, downwards or in alternating sequence.

Odd-Even

   Upwards          Downwards        Up-Down          Down-Up
   6/8    4/4       6/8    4/4       6/8    4/4       6/8    4/4
xA|3---3-|3---3---||-3---3|-3---3--||3----3|3----3--||-3--3-|-3--3---|
xE|--0---|--0---0-||---0--|---0---0||0-0---|--0----0||---0--|---0--0-|
xC|-0---0|-0---0--||0---0-|0---0---||00--0-|-0--0---||0----0|0----0--|
xG|---0--|---0---0||--0---|--0---0-||0--0--|---0--0-||--0---|--0----0|

Even-Odd

   Upwards          Downwards        Up-Down          Down-Up
   6/8    4/4       6/8    4/4       6/8    4/4       6/8    4/4
xA|--3---|--3---3-||---3--|---3---3||--3---|--3----3||---3--|---3--3-|
xE|0---0-|0---0---||-0---0|-0---0--||0----0|0----0--||-0--0-|-0--0---|
xC|---0--|---0---0||--0---|--0---0-||---0--|---0--0-||--0---|--0----0|
xG|-0---0|-0---0--||0---0-|0---0---||-0--0-|-0--0---||0----0|0----0--|

Out-In/In-Out

Out-In/In-Out

The outer (11 and 4th) and inner (2nd and 3rd) strings are plucked in turn. The sequence of both the inner and outer strings can be changed, resulting in a variety of combinations.

Out-In

   Out              Out-In           In               In-Out
   6/8    4/4       6/8    4/4       6/8    4/4       6/8    4/4
xA|3---3-|3---3---||3---3-|3---3---||-3---3|-3---3--||3----3|3----3--|...
xE|--0---|--0---0-||---0--|---0---0||---0--|---0---0||--0---|--0---0-|...
xC|---0--|---0---0||--0---|--0---0-||--0---|--0---0-||---0--|---0---0|...
xG|-0---0|-0---0--||-0---0|-0---0--||0---0-|0---0---||-0--0-|-0--0---|...

In-Out

   In               In-Out           Out              Out-In
   6/8    4/4       6/8    4/4       6/8    4/4       6/8    4/4
xA|--3---|--3---3-||--3---|--3---3-||---3--|---3---3||--3---|--3---3-|...
xE|0---0-|0---0---||0----0|0----0--||-0---0|-0---0--||-0---0|-0---0--|...
xC|-0---0|-0---0--||-0--0-|-0--0---||0---0-|0---0---||0---0-|0---0---|...
xG|---0--|---0---0||---0--|---0---0||--0---|--0---0-||---0--|---0---0|...

Odd-Even/Inside-Out

Odd-Even/Inside-Out

Odd-even and inside-out techniques can also be combined. This results in many more plucking patterns, e.g.:

   6/8    4/4      6/8    4/4
xA|---3-3|---3-3--|---3--|---3---3|3-----|3------3|...
xE|-0----|-0-----0|-0---0|-0---0--|--0-0-|--0-0---|...
xC|0---0-|0---0---|0-----|0-----0-|---0--|---0-0--|...
xG|--0---|--0---0-|--0-0-|--0-0---|-0---0|-0----0-|...

Rhythmic Variations

Rhythmic Variations

These patterns can still be varied by doubling individual note values, e.g.:

   3/4    4/4 ("Folkpick")          
xA|3--3--|3----3--|...
xE|----0-|---0--0-|...
xC|--0---|--0-----|...
xG|-----0|----0---|...

1) “Upward” actually means from the lowest to the highest, “downwards” from the highest to the lowest. However, this idea is not true for an ukulele in reentrant tuning.