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Ukulele Strumming Patterns: The 13 Most Useful Ones

Ukulele Strumming Patterns: The 13 Most Useful Ones

The most awkward question I get asked is, “What’s the strumming pattern for this?” Because there’s no real answer to it. It’s not like a chord progression where there’s a right chord and a wrong chord. You can use different strumming patterns and it will still work. It’s an important skill to be able to pick your own strumming patterns.

So in this post I’ve listed some of the most common strumming patterns around. Ones you can try out and see if they fit the song.

For more info on strumming, read the posts on strumming notation and strumming for dummies; and the ebook I wrote How to Play Ukulele Strums.

Some Basics

Before you start strumming, go through these steps:

Step 1: Clap along with the song: If the singer was to shout, “Hey everybody, clap along,” what would you do? (Assuming you’re less surly than me and would just fold your arms and look moody.)

Step 2: Pretend you’re in The Ramones: If you were going to start the song by shouting one, two, three, four what would you do? Try counting through the song repeating that all the way (if counting to four doesn’t fit, try counting to three).

Step 3: Try a few strumming patterns: Try fitting a strumming pattern to the song. Fit them so the down strums in the pattern match with the numbers you count. So a dead simple pattern would be all down strums: strum down when you count one, when you count two, when you count three and when you count four.

4/4 Strumming Patterns

By far the most common time signature around is 4/4 (“four four”). If you can count along to a song, “one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four,” and it fits, try out these strumming patterns.

Strumming Pattern 1: d – d u – u d –

This one crops up in so many ukulele songs. It’s simple to play. But – because it misses the third down strum – it has a slightly syncopated feel to it which makes it more interesting.

Sounds like:


d-du-ud-

Use it in:

Charlieissocoollike – A Song About Acne
She and Him – Gonna Get Along Without You Now
WIUO/Outkast – Hey Ya!
Kate Micucci & William H Macy – It’s Time to Get Laid
Noah and the Whale – Jealous Kind of Love
Zee Avi – Kantoi
Zee Avi – Just You and Me
In double time: Cosmo Jarvis – She’s Got You
Nevershoutnever – Cheatercheaterbestfriendeater
Andrews Sisters/Sophie Madeleine – Bei Mir Bist du Schon

Strumming Pattern 2: d – d u – u d u

Very similar to strumming pattern 1, but with another up strum at the end.

Sounds like:


d-du-udu

Use it in:

Ingrid Michaelson – You and I
Paolo Nutini – High Hopes
I Wanna Be Like You
Misty Miller – Remember
Paramore – Interlude: Moving On
Brendan Maclean – Stupid
Keston Cobblers’ Club – Pett Level
Amanda Palmer – Ukulele Anthem
Beirut – A Candle’s Fire

Strumming Pattern 3: d – d – d u d u

Sounds like:


d-d-dudu

Use it in:

WIUO – I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man
OK Go – This Too Shall Pass
Keston Cobblers Club – You Go
The Pogues – Fiesta
Neutral Uke Hotel – King of Carrot Flowers
Ewan Wardrop/50 Cent – In Da Club
Daniel Johnston – Living Life

Strumming Pattern 4: d – d u d u d u

A really straight-forward strum useful for punky stuff.

Sounds like:


d-dududu

Use it in:

UOGB – Teenage Kicks
Ryan Gosling – You Always Hurt the Ones You Love
The Beach Boys – Wouldn’t It Be Nice
Sufjan Stevens – Christmases Past
The Smiths – The Queen is Dead
Train – Sing Together
The Vaccines – Wrecking Bar

Half-Bar Patterns

If you’re looking for a strumming pattern for a song where the chords change regularly (twice a bar) try out these.

Strumming Pattern 5: d – d u

Sounds like:


d-du

Use it in:

Death Cab for Cutie – I Will Follow You Into the Dark
WIUO – Short People
Sesame Street
McFly – Love is Easy
Zooey Deschanel – You Forgot about Valentine’s Day
Zooey Deschanel – What are You Doing New Year’s Eve
GOTYE – Somebody That I Used to Know

Strumming Pattern 6: d u x u

Sounds like:


duxu

Use it in:

Hellogoodbye – Betrayed by Bones
Allo Darlin – Tallulah

Two Bar Pattern

If the chords change much more slowly, you could just double up on the 4/4 pattern. Or you could make it more interesting by using a two bar pattern.

Strumming Pattern 7:
d – d u – u d u
– u d u – u d –

Henceforth to be known as the ‘Sophie Madeleine strum’.

Sounds like:


d-du-udu-udu-ud-

Use it in:

Sophie Madeleine – The Knitting Song
Sophie Madeleine – You Are My Favourite
Sophie Madeleine – I Just Can’t Stop Myself
Rocky and Balls – Love Cake
Bella Hemming – Play Guitar
Peggy Sue – February Snow
Antarctica Takes It – C&F

Emphasis

Strumming Pattern 8: d u D U d u D U

Sounds like:


duDUduDU

Use it in:

Florence and the Machine – Kiss With a Fist
Rocky Horror Picture Show – Time Warp
Sophie Madeleine – Take Your Love With Me
Sufjan Stevens – Lumberjack Christmas
Chuck Berry – Run Run Rudolph

Strumming Pattern 9: d u x u d u x u

Sounds like:


duxudu

Use it in:

Nevershoutnever – Biggest Fan
Noah and the Whale – Five Years Time

Reggae Strums

With a reggae strum you’re always going to be accenting the off beats. In the other strums here you’re always playing a strong beat on the ‘one’ of the count. Here you’re accenting other beats. It’s not always obvious what’s going on so I’ve included a click track with these.

Strumming Pattern 10: – d – d – d – d

Here you’re accenting the beats between the count.

Sounds like:


-d-d-d-d

Use it in:

April Smith – Colors
Weezer/Sarah Blackwood – Say It Ain’t So

Strumming Pattern 11: – – d u – – d –

Here the accent is on the ‘two’ and ‘four’ beats.

Sounds like:


–du–d-

Use it in:

WIUO – The Israelites

3/4 Time

If counting, “one, two, three, four,” doesn’t fit with the song you’re playing, try counting in threes instead. If that works, try these patterns.

Strumming Pattern 12: d – d u d –

Sounds like:


d-dud-

Use it in:

Amanda Palmer – In My Mind
John Denver/Ballard C Boyd – Christmas for Cowboys
Weezer – Christmas Song
OK Go – Needing/Getting

Strumming Pattern 13: d – d u d u

Sounds like:


d-dudu

Use it in:

WIUO – Blue Smoke
Kelli Rae Powell – Some Bridges are Good to Burn
Walk off the Earth – Little Boxes
Bon Iver/Kina Grannis – Michicant

Changing the Patterns

There are tweaks you can make to all these strumming patterns.

Swing Them

When you swing a strumming pattern you make the down strum last slightly longer than the up strum. That gives the strum an off-kilter feel to it.

You can do this with any of the strums. For example, strum pattern 4 would sound like this when swung.


Swing Strum

Change the Tempo

You make any of these strums faster or slower than I’ve played them. In general, the more complicated the strum, the better it’ll sound slowed down. The more straight forward it is, the better it works at high speed.

For More on Strumming…

Pick up a copy of my ebook How to Play Ukulele Strums

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