I get quite a few emails asking me about strumming, so I thought I’d put together a ‘How to Strum a Ukulele’ post. This is how I strum – any resemblance to good technique is pure coincidental.
Strumming Hand Position
1. Make your strumming hand into a loose fist.
2. Hold it infront of the centre of your chest.
3. Point towards your left boob (or right boob if you’re left handed).
4. I like to have my thumb steadying my strumming finger. It gives it extra strumming support.
Where to Strum
If you strum your ukulele too close to the bridge it sounds very tinny (which might be an effect you want sometimes) and the strings have very little give there. The ‘sweet spot’ on the soprano and concert ukes are around the point where the neck hits the body. The sweet spot for tenors is a little closer to the bridge than this.
As any teenage boy will tell you, moving your arm rapidly up and down gets tiring very quickly. When you strum, use your wrist rather than your whole arm.
When you strum down, you should be hitting the strings with your nail. When you’re strumming up, with the fleshy tip of your finger.
Lots of forums of music popular on the uke use swing time – such as Hawaiian, jazz and blues. In swing time the down strum lasts twice as long (ish) as the up strum like this:
This makes a simple up, down strum sound much more interesting.
Simple Strumming Patterns
You can create some more interesting strumming patterns by keeping the same up, down motion but not hitting the strings on certain strums. In this clip the actual strums are down, down, up, up, down. But I’m doing a constant up, down motion (I strum down, miss the strings on the up strum, strum down and up, miss the down strum, strum up and down, miss the up strum).
You can learn more strumming patterns here.
You can funk up the strumming a little with a few ‘chnks’. With a chnk you strum down and hit the strings with the underside of your hand, so you get a percussive sound from the strum. In this clip I strum down, up, then a chnk followed by an up:
Dead or muted strums are another way of creating a percussive click from strumming, but this time you’re creating it with your fretting hand. To create them, you stop the strings ringing by laying your fingers across all the strings like this:
Advanced Ukulele Strums
Once you’ve got the basics down, you can start checking out the advanced stuff.