How To Strum Ukulele

If you couldn’t already tell, strumming is the most essential part of achieving the perfect sound in the ukulele. This is why you need to be aware and practice all the possible techniques and patterns that can help to create a clean sound in this instrument. Here, we’ll be discussing on how to strum ukulele.

The basic strumming technique requires you to keep your fist loose while using your index finger to strum. As your fingernail is side down it should be hitting the strings with every strum. Instead of using your whole hand, use your wrist for the perfect movement. With that being said, we are here to walk you through the most common strumming techniques and patterns. 

Ukulele Strumming Techniques

1. Strumming With Your Finger

When you’re starting with the ukulele, you should practice strumming with your finger. With the perfect technique for up and down strum, you should be able to create a clean sound on the ukulele. For up strum, you should use the fleshy part of your index finger. In the case of down strum, you should curl your fingers toward yourself while keeping the knuckles pointed away from you as well. The fingernail of the index finger should be used to strike the strings. 

2. Strumming With A Pick 

Some people prefer strumming a ukulele with a pick while others may have to opt for that especially if they have long nails. You can use a small plastic or nylon pick to strum a ukulele. You should hold the pick using your thumb and the side of your index finger. The wrist should be kept flexible in this technique as well. The advantage of using a pick instead of your finger is the creation of louder and brighter tones similar to that of a guitar or a mandolin. However, using a pick will not make it easy for you to skip strings when you need to. 

3. Muting 

Since the production of melody in any instrument is an accumulation of sound and mute, this falls under one of the techniques of strumming that you should be aware of especially if you are a beginner. This technique puts a halt on string vibrations and creates a muted sound. To do this, simply press the side of your right palm against the strings lightly while you’re strumming. 

Strumming Notation in Ukulele

When you have to read strumming patterns in texts you should be aware of the strumming notation so that you can easily follow them even if you are a beginner. Find the AI version of strumming notation below. 

d: down strum 

u: up strum 

– : a missed strum or a pause which indicates the movement of the hand without letting your index finger touching the strings. This helps in controlling the timing of the strums. 

x: portrays a chnk which refers to creating a chnk sound while you’re creating a down strum. You can simply achieve this by strumming down and letting the underside of your hand land on the string to create a chnk sound. 

d or u: the bolded letters indicate that the strum is emphasized which simply means a more powerful sound needs to be created. 

Ukulele Strumming Patterns 

1. Down-down-up

Ideal for music written in ¾ time, this strumming pattern allows you to create sounds with three beats of a bar following by a silent beat at the end. This means you should go for this strumming pattern when the song you’ve chosen doesn’t fit well with the “one, two, three, four” count. Also known as the d-d-u pattern in ukulele tabs, you can use this pattern in 4/4 common time as well if required. 

Example in a song for d-d-u: “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” by Death Cab For Cutie.

2. Down-up-down-up

As the name of the strumming pattern portrays this is a simple strumming pattern of a downstroke followed by an upstroke (and its repetition). The pattern is also known as d-u-d-u-d-u-d-u in the ukulele. 

Example in a song for d-u-d-u-d-u-d-u:  “Kiss With A Fist” by Florence and the Machine.

3. Down-down-up-down-up

This is a simple strumming pattern that can be utilized to create the sound for punk rock songs. Follow the pattern as mentioned in the first one and continue to achieve your desired sound. It’s notated as d-d-u-d-u-d-u in the ukulele. 

Example in a song for d-d-u-d-u-d-u: “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by The Beach Boys

4. Down-down-down-down

As the pattern name suggests, this is used when you need to accent beats between counts. It’s a repetition of downstrokes in the ukulele and it’s notated by d-d-d-d. Also known as reggae strum, this will allow you to accent the off beats which create strong beats. 

Example in a song for d-d-d-d: “Colors” by April Smith 

5. Down-up-chnk-up 

Also known as a half-bar pattern, this strumming pattern is ideal for songs where you need to change cords regularly which mean “twice-a-bar”. 

Example in a song for d-u-x-u: “Betrayed By Bones” by Hellogoodbye 

Tips For Clean Strumming On A Ukulele 

  • Keep your index finger bent and relaxed while strumming. 
  • Use your wrist for the movement, while keeping your index finger unlocked.
  • Make sure that only the nail on your finger is touching the strings when you’re strumming. This will help you achieve a clean strum. 
  • You can achieve more volume by tilting your finger in a way that more of your nail is getting involved in your strum. 
  • Do not focus too much on the strumming pattern if you want to achieve a natural strum. 

Conclusion 

It’s not easy to perfect playing an instrument overnight, and the same goes for a ukulele. With constant practice utilizing the strumming techniques and patterns featured in this article on how to strum ukulele, you should be able to reach a point when you can create clean and soothing strums in a ukulele.

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