Ukulele Strumming Tutorial

by Henry Francis
The sound of the ukulele is synonymous with the islands of Hawaii.

The sound of the ukulele is synonymous with the islands of Hawaii.

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As with most stringed instruments, strumming a ukulele is a straightforward task that can be learned in a matter of hours, but will serve you for the rest of your playing career. Honing the correct technique and then practicing it until you have it perfect is the quickest and best way to learn.

Holding Position

A ukulele is quite a small instrument; unlike larger stringed instruments such as a guitar, you do not need to rest it on your knee or wear a neck strap to play it -- although some players prefer to wear a neck strap. Cradle the body of the ukulele in the inside of the elbow of your dominant hand and hold it up high across the middle of your chest. Position your dominant hand in a way so that you can easily strum the strings at the point where the neck meets the body of the instrument. Take your left hand, which you will use to fret the strings, and support the headstock of the instrument in the open palm of your hand -- ensure the setup adopted means you can reach the entirety of the frets on the neck.

Wrist Action

The key to strumming is the action of your dominant hand's wrist. Adopt a position where your index-strumming finger points towards the ground, to play from the top to the bottom string, curl up your finger and lightly push downwards across the strings with the back of your fingernail. To strum upwards, from bottom to top, straighten your finger and pull gently upwards across the strings. You may wish to use your thumb to support your index finger by forming a pinching motion, add stability to the process.

Different Strumming Patterns

Use a number of different strumming patterns to generate different sounds. For example, playing over the top of the body of the instrument generates a tinny, less rich sound for specific effect. The other main variations in strumming patterns are whether you utilize the most common and basic up-down-up-down motion or complex patterns, such as up-up-down-up.


The other essential ingredient to generating varied and interesting tones from your ukulele is the work you do with your non-dominant hand. Press firmly downwards on each of the strings on different frets to produce different sounds. Pressing down on one fret on a single string and playing just that string is just playing one note, while pressing on any combination of frets and playing them is a chord. Experiment with different fret configurations; look online or buy a music book to work out the minor and major chords.

About the Author

I have been involved in coaching and administration of youth soccer with the Herts FA for several years. I have many years experience with the technical side and equipment of soccer, cricket, rugby, snooker and poker. I studied the health and fitness and dietary side of competitive sport while at University. Currently, I am not ready for on-camera opportunities, but this could change with access to training and equipment.

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