Ukulele Strum Techniques

by David Ferris
Practice strumming with both a pick and your fingers.

Practice strumming with both a pick and your fingers.

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The ukulele is a clean-sounding, joyful instrument that conjures images of Hawaii, where it originated. The four-stringed instrument can be adapted to a number of musical styles and works well in an ensemble or as a solo instrument. Strumming brings out distinct rhythms in ukulele songs. Knowing a few different techniques will make your playing more versatile.

Pick vs. Finger Strumming

Ukuleles can be played both with and without a pick. The use of a pick changes the tone and feel of the instrument. Finger-strumming lends a softer, warmer sound to the notes; using a pick generally makes the notes come out louder and brighter. Picks also allow for greater control and techniques like tremolo.

Fan Strum

The fan strum produces a distinct flamenco sound and is ideal for high-tempo strumming. Start by strumming downwards with your pinkie, ring finger, middle finger and index finger, in that order. Strum upwards in one stroke with all your fingers. Practice the style by starting slowly and building up the speed to make the strum pattern clear and fluid.

Basic Pattern

This pattern is good for beginners, but its simplicity makes it widely applicable to a variety of songs. In 4/4 songs, strum downward once for each beat. Use a pick, your thumb, or two fingers at once. Alternatively, you can strum downward on beats 1 and 3 and upward on 2 and 4.

Eighth-Notes

Incorporating eighth-notes into a strumming pattern can give the strum a more textured rhythm and syncopation. Try strumming three quarter-notes and a pair of eighth-notes at the end of the measure. Strum down for each quarter-note and use an up-down pattern for the eighth-notes. You could also reverse it and try three pairs of up-down eight-notes, followed by a single down quarter-note.

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