Ukulele Strumming Notation

I’ve had to come up with my own method of writing up strums both for the blog and for the How To Play Ukulele Strums ebook I’m working on. I’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible, and here’s what I’ve come up with:

d : indicates a down strum.

u : indicates an up strum.

– : indicates a pause or missed strum i.e. moving your hand either up or down but not hitting the strings.They are most useful to give you an indication of the timing of the strums.

x : indicates a chnk. Strumming down and following through so the underside of your hand lands on the strings creating a ‘chnk’ sound.

(d) or (u) : A muted down/up strum. Strumming as normal but with your fretting fingers resting on the strings to stop them ringing. It sounds like a chnk but you can do them with strums in either direction.

D or U : when in bold and/or capitalised that means the strum is emphasized (i.e. give it a bit more welly).

TTT : triplet strum. There are plenty of ways to do these. My personal favourite is down with middle and index fingers, up with index, up with middle. Here’s Jake discussing his preferred method. Or you could be a complete flash-Harry and use a fan stroke.

Ukulele Strumming in Tabs

You’ll also see strums written up in tab form. Here an up arrow indicates a down strum and a down arrow indicates an up strum. (Make sense? Good.)

So a down, up, down, up… strum looks like this.

strum ukulele tab

A less common method – but quite a neat one – is to use guitar pick direction tab for strum directions.

A down strum looks like this:
And an up strum looks like this:
So a down, up, down, up… strum would look like this:


If you want to learn more about the subject, take a look at my ebook on Ukulele Strumming

View Comments


  1. Chris June 3rd, 2009 6:50 pm

    Those seem fairly clear. Not sure that guitar notation is particularly intuitive but i’m sure one gets used to it. For the d u type notation I found that the way they do it on this cheat sheet easy to follow:

    It’s pretty simple to follow. The boxes keep it clear where you are in the measure. Then capital U or D for emphasized beats.

  2. Tom McComb June 3rd, 2009 7:25 pm

    The guitar notation symbols come from orchestral downbow/upbow symbols, and are standard throughout string literature. Combined w/ standard rhythm notation, they work fine. A standard muted strum is to use “x” in place of a notehead or rhythm slash.

  3. Armelle June 3rd, 2009 8:37 pm

    Great to see you’re completely overwhelmed by strumming, Al ;)

  4. CharlesHugh June 3rd, 2009 11:08 pm

    Tom McComb, you took the words right outta my mouth.

  5. BrianW June 4th, 2009 9:39 am

    … d versus D for normal and emphasised down strums. Sounds like a good idea for text based blogs/forums…

  6. Woodshed June 4th, 2009 9:33 pm

    Chris: Thanks for the link. I like the idea of boxes but it isn’t practical for a blog post.

    Tom: Thanks for the info. The downside with that system is that it isn’t very intuitive for newbies.

    Charles: Thanks for the intended info.

    Armelle: Ugh! Either I finish this ebook or it kills me. At the moment it’s about 50/50.

    Brian: Yeah, I thought about d vs D. But I wanted to avoid any confusion with D referring to the chord.

  7. mictoboy June 4th, 2009 11:07 pm

    i think your system is pretty clear. i’m not familiar with other notation systems, so i don’t have expectations and ‘d’ for down or ‘u’ for up makes a fair bit of sense :)

    i’ve just got to get my triplet sorted, it’s more of a one-and-a-half at the moment!

  8. Armelle June 5th, 2009 5:52 am

    I agree with mictoboy. Your notation is user-friendly and accessible to everyone so why make is more complex.

  9. Armelle June 5th, 2009 5:52 am

    I mean make it more complex

  10. Woodshed June 6th, 2009 6:45 pm

    mictoboy: I’m still working on my triplets. I can’t pull them off to my satisfaction yet.

    Armelle: Thanks.

  11. ben March 24th, 2012 7:13 am

    That fan stroke link didn’t work… this ones a goodun. x

  12. Woodshed March 24th, 2012 11:02 am

    Ben: Thanks. I’ve added that one to the post. It’s a shame Steven Sproat took this down though.

  13. Tom October 8th, 2012 7:56 pm

    At the moment I am using the Ukulele playlist books ( and i don’t know how to read the strumming patterns etc in the book. So, if you could help it would be greatly appreciated.

  14. lorraine crisp November 13th, 2015 7:08 pm

    i’m new to the uke…so tell me…when you see a song that has just chords. with words underneath….how do you strum you count the usual 4 beat between chords..or do you go by the words…not sure this makes sense.
    any help on this would be appreciated
    thanks lori

  15. Woodshed November 14th, 2015 3:53 pm

    lorraine: Definitely focus on the count rather than the words. Try to count along with the song and take note of where the chords change. Then try a few strumming patterns you know to see what suits. After you’ve been playing a while you’ll be able to dive in with strumming straight away.

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