practice · ukulele

Ukulele tremolo picking Jake Shimabukuro style

My mom got me Jake Shimabukuro’s new album for Christmas and I listened to it last night. On this album he does a lot of something I’ve heard him do in other places, a kind of single string tremolo picking that sounds like a mandolin being picked fast. I’ve been curious as to how to best implement this kind of sound and twiddled around with some ideas today.

One idea would be to implement a kind of triplet feel so that each beat has three notes. (The kind of thing you would count as “one two three, two two three, three two three, four two three” though ideally you get it fast enough that counting along is impossible.) I’ve found that you can get pretty fast by implementing the following pattern T M I, T M I, T M I, etc. (T= Thumb, M = Middle finger, I = Index. The comma stands for a single beat.) The thumb is a downstroke, whereas the other two fingers pick upward. If you just sit there and work on this for a bit using an open string you get get it pretty fast (depending on your current level of course, but I think everyone can benefit.)

After you get it at decent clip on an open string, try a fretted note on the highest string. And after you get that going you can try changing notes on every beat (e.g. every three notes.)

However, I wanted to also figure out a way to play notes in groups of four. I experimented with a couple ideas and found the best for me was a pattern like this. T M I T, M I T M, T M I T, M I T M. It’s a bit tricky and a little weird as you alternate between the thumb and middle finger for the first stroke on every beat, but I find it feels more comfortable than the other options I tried. I’m going to see if I can get it up to faster tempos.

I still have no idea of this is exactly what Jake is doing. I did track down this video that discusses tremolo picking across several strings. The result is a kind of flamenco style series of arpeggios.

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