How to Strum a Ukulele

If you have played a ukulele before have you noticed that you keep worrying about your right-hand more than the left? Picking up all the notes is important but playing it perfectly is what matters the most. To learn how to strum a Ukulele properly read our article!

Since we use our right-hand to strum the ukulele, our right hand needs to be able to pull out the magic. You need to strum the instrument with consistency and strength to produce magical notes that will be able to touch someone’s heart. 

Brief Background on Ukulele

Ukulele is a Hawaiian instrument, and in Hawaii, its name translates to ‘jumping flea’ in English. It is probably because of the player’s random finger movement as they play the instrument.

Ukulele was further redesigned and developed in the 1880s. It was based on the shape of a guitar, but smaller in size. Ukulele also has a blend of Portuguese vibe. The Machete, timple, raigo, and cavaquinho are ancient musical instruments that were initially introduced to the Hawaiian people by the Portuguese immigrants from Cape Verde and Madeira.

Important Tips for all Ukulele strummers

1st tip

The first and most essential tip is that you should avoid locking your pointer finger while playing the ukulele. While you strum your ukulele make sure your pointer finger is relaxed, or curved. Since strumming you will be using your wrist a lot, so locking your pointer finger would be a mistake. Try to avoid this. 

2nd tip

Make sure you attack the strings neatly. While playing your ukulele you will have to strum up and down a lot rhythmically and you have to do so using few parts of your right fingers.

The strings should only be touching your nails and nothing below it. Otherwise, there is a possibility that your fingers will get stuck to the strings and create weird sounds every time your strum. It can also harm your fingers causing a cut.

3rd tip

Do you want to increase the volume of your strums? If so then you have to tilt your fingers a bit. Tilting fingers lets you get more of your nails stuck within your strings while you strum. You can also use your thumbnails to increase the volume.

4th tip

The fourth and last tip is that you have to develop a natural swing. You cannot stay focused on strumming patterns; you will sound robotic if you do so. You have to stay in pace and develop a natural swing with your strum. If you maintain these 4 tips you will be able to strum easily without any complications.

Three special techniques to strum your Ukulele 

You can strum your ukulele in any way you want, but to produce notably good music you need to acquire the right technique. We have mentioned three special techniques that you can follow whole strumming your ukulele is you want to produce quality music.

  1. Always use your finger nail of your index finger to strum your ukulele on full chords. While strumming down the secret lies in keeping your knuckles pointed away in the opposite direction of your body.

Strike your index fingernails and strum in downwards steadily. And while strumming up make sure to use the fleshy side of your index thumbnail. This will produce a vibrant neat sound. 

  1. Strumming the ukulele with a pick can help improve tonal quality. You can use any small nylon or plastic object as a pick. You need to place the pick between fleshy part of your thumb and beside your index finger.

Also, remember to keep your wrist free and flexible. Strumming your Ukulele with a pick helps people to strum the strings in patterns just like that of a mandolin or a guitar.

Picks also help people produce brighter, sharper, and louder tones. Your music will be rapid, elegant, and smooth. 

  1. If you want to mute your strings you can gently press the side of your palm and press the strings above the bridge while you are strumming. This will help to stop the string’s vibrations and help to produce a mutated noise that lays a vibe of the original Hawaiian ukulele.

How to strum a Ukulele properly 

  1. First of all you need to put your hands down and relax. See if your fingers can naturally round up or curl into a fist. 
  2. You must make sure your fingers are in a relaxed position. Do not strum while your hands are stressed.
  3. Check the notion of your fingers before you start strumming the strings of your ukulele. 
  4. You need to bend your right hand’s elbow so that it stays parallel to your belly button. Notice that your strumming notion will come from your wrist and now from your elbow. 
  5. Keep your wrists loose, and move your wrists as if you were painting in a canvas. From your fingers up and down in a constant motion. Keep on practicing your hand movements until you begin to feel you are comfortable and your hands feel naturally at ease.
  6. Once you get the hang of it, practice this pattern on your ukulele
  7. Take your ukulele and give the strings a simple down strum.
  8. Make sure that it is your nails that hit the strings and not your fingers.
  9. Keep doing this on all four strings, strum them all casually on quarter notes.
  10. After going down go for an upstroke. Bring your fingers back to the top and allows your index finger’s pad to play the strings. 
  11. Now play up and down strokes and repeat them. You are all set and can strum your ukulele properly and can cover any song.

Four Standard Strumming Patterns everyone must follow

Just like all other stringed instruments ukulele too has few strumming patterns that players must follow. The four standard strumming patterns help players stay in track with the song’s signature and tempo. Check these easy strumming patterns, you can apply these in any chord progressions. 

  1. Down-up-down repeat: this is an alternate strumming pattern in ukulele. You stroke down and up in a tablature. D-U-D-U-D-U-D-U is the pattern annotated for strumming.
  2. Down-down-up repeat: This pattern is handy and works great for music that is written thrice. You can also use this pattern in 4/4 times, especially if you want to play the first three beats of a song and then leave the rest muted. In ukulele notations, this pattern is annotated as D-D-U.
  3. Down-up-down repeat: you can play this pattern while playing the eighth-note triplets. You will see this pattern notated as D-U-D-D-U-D. This pattern requires 2 down-strokes, one after the other.
  4. Down-up-up-down repeat: This is a tough strumming pattern as it requires both up and down strokes that come back and forth. It is notated as D-U-U-D-D-U-U-D. Strum in this pattern and you will play jaunty music.

People will praise you for your preciseness and expertise. It is not that tough as it sounds, all you need is to start with a steady metronome and then gradually raise the tempo.

Strumming Position

While strumming you also need to find the sweet spot on your ukulele. Finding the sweet spot is essential because as you strum the bridge changes the instrument’s tone. Try finding it on the neck of your ukulele, as the most balanced music is produced as you strum in that region. The closer you strum near the bridge, the warmer your tone will get.

Efficiency of Motion

Efficiency is a key factor while strumming your ukulele. You do not need to make any remarkable or exaggerated strumming. Keep your hands close to the strings as much as you can and strum efficiently. This will cause your cause to be relaxed and play the strings in a gentle motion.

Is it necessary to strum Ukulele with a pick?

Most ukulele players play the instrument using their fingernails and fingers. However, it is not essential that you only have to use this combination; you can use a pick if you find it useful.

The first ukulele players in Hawaii did not use a pick, they used the combination of fingers and nails to strum the strings. Using bare fingers is advised by most veteran players too, the fingers help players produce specific hand gestures and sounds which we know was the main technique of playing the ukulele.

Check this video to see how you can strum a ukulele with your finger and nails.

Click here.

Click here.

Bottom Line

You should know how to strum a Ukulele now. We have five fingers to play rich and amazing notes and produce a heartwarming melody. Imagine all the different harmonies you can compose and cover with this little instrument. Have a great time strumming your ukulele.


You can also read: Best Tenor Ukulele Strings

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