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

View Comments

60 Comments

  1. George June 29th, 2011 6:04 pm

    First!!

  2. Lou June 29th, 2011 6:46 pm

    Great post, Al. Definitely one I’ll be sharing with my students.

  3. Greenway June 29th, 2011 7:02 pm

    This might just be the most useful thing on here, great stuff.

  4. Sunny Jim June 29th, 2011 8:16 pm

    Thanks Al, a timely reminder for me to broaden my palette from the two or three I seem to use for everything.

  5. Ron Hale June 30th, 2011 12:33 am

    You left out one important bit of advice,
    Al. When all else fails and you just cannot find the strum and hit the groove, just ask yourself one overriding question – W.W.E.D. – What Would Eddie Do?

    You could include some “W.W.E.D” stickers with the second edition of your book so readers can
    put them on their ukes as reminders. Hey, I’ll take a cap and shirt, myself.

  6. Anya June 30th, 2011 5:51 am

    An answer to my prayers! Thank you.

  7. Krabbers June 30th, 2011 7:23 am

    Thanks for this Al

  8. Ken June 30th, 2011 8:23 am

    I am sure this post will be really helpful to a lot of people, Al. Superbly well-explained and really clear.

  9. jcmcgee June 30th, 2011 9:39 am

    Brilliant post!

  10. Readie June 30th, 2011 10:58 am

    Strumming patterns are definitely the things I struggle with most, so really appreciate this post! Thank you.

  11. OddRobot June 30th, 2011 2:13 pm

    Recent subscriber to your blog here. Thanks for the post!

    For strumming practice, I burn a CD with songs with interesting rhythms and try to work out strums while I am driving; just strum on my leg! Moving your hand up and down rapidly near your lap while driving might lead the other motorists to incorrect conclusions (“Really, I’m just strumming!” “Oh, is that what you kids are calling it nowadays?”), but who cares?

    Correction on one of your links; the link that says “Florence and the Machine – Kiss With a Fist” is linked to Dog Days are Over. Both great songs, so I’m not complaining.

  12. benny p July 1st, 2011 12:09 am

    This is wicked helpful, thanks!

  13. Rachel July 1st, 2011 2:35 am

    You are AWESOME! Your emails are one of the only newsletter subscriptions that I look forward to reading everytime I see it in my inbox. And this blog (with recordings…woohoo!) on strumming is just what I’ve been hoping for~
    Thank you!!!!
    Cheers, Rachel

  14. Rachel July 1st, 2011 4:34 am

    Okay…I’ve been trying to figure out what the strumming pattern is for “Only Exception” by Paramour~
    Do you have any idea what it is? It seems like they change it up a bit~

  15. RobNY July 1st, 2011 4:39 am

    Great post! Thanks Al.

  16. Andi B. Goode July 3rd, 2011 7:39 am

    This is a great post, thanks! I’m generally pretty good at picking up strumming patterns…but then I end up reverting to the same old one or two I always use (probably don’t practice the others enough so they’re not in my muscle memory or something) when I sing along. So this is a good list for me to remind myself to vary it up a bit.

  17. Luke July 4th, 2011 11:03 pm

    Rhythm being one of my strong points this post didn’t directly help me in any way, but it was very interesting to see what some songs fall under. Great post for those who need it.

  18. Barbara July 23rd, 2011 8:57 am

    Brilliant post!!!!!!
    I have a hard time with the strumming patterns… I usually hear the drums in a song very well, but have no clue how to adapt the rest of the rhythm!
    Hopefully, this will help me get to know other strumming patterns and my “musical ear” will develop!!!!
    (I have bad eyes, hopefully I won’t have bad ears also: Argh!)
    Thanks again!!! You are a uke saver!!!!

  19. Valerie July 24th, 2011 2:38 am

    This was great! And it came at just the right time in my self-training.

  20. Woodshed July 24th, 2011 8:31 am

    George: Well done.

    Lou: Thanks very much. I hope they find it useful.

    Greenway: Glad you find it useful.

    Sunny Jim: I sometimes find myself using the same strums a bit too often.

    Ron: Thanks for the advice.

    Anya: You’re welcome.

    Krabbers: Cheers.

    Ken: Thanks very much.

    jcmcgee: Thanks!

    Readie: Hope it helps with your struggles.

    OddRobot: Thanks for the correction. And the tip.

    benny: Thanks.

    Rachel: From memory, it’s in 3/4 so choose one of those.

    Rob: Thanks very much.

    Andi: Thanks, hope it helps.

    Luke: I was interested to see that as well.

    Barbara: Thanks, you’re very kind.

    Valerie: Glad to hear it!

  21. melissa January 10th, 2012 7:51 pm

    thank you so much! i’ve been looking for something with different strum patterns.

  22. Woodshed January 11th, 2012 7:55 am

    melissa: You’re welcome!

  23. 4stringG January 23rd, 2012 12:55 am

    Your strumming tips are wonderful! I noticed when I record my songs they all sound the same unless I’m singing the words to the songs, just playing the chords they seem to sound the same, I guess I need to change the strumming patterns, do you think?

  24. Woodshed January 23rd, 2012 9:44 am

    4stringG: Yeah, varying the strumming will definitely help. Also, pay attention to dynamics (loud bits and quiet bits).

  25. mike May 11th, 2012 8:26 pm

    Can someone tell me what strum pattern this guy is using for “Last Caress” by The Misfits? I can’t figure it out (warning, lyrics could be offensive) http://youtu.be/PTnuwb11STo

    This is SO helpful. I am a complete beginner and your dummies book and youtube have been my only teachers. The interactive Kindle edition on my iPad is awesome. Thank you so much and please keep up the good work!

  26. Lana June 21st, 2012 6:46 pm

    Wow thank you so much for this!! Brilliant post, bookmarked and will be referring to regularly – I’d worked out No2 from the book and was using it regularly, but having them all in one place with sound bites to check = just heaven!

  27. Woodshed June 25th, 2012 11:38 am

    Lana: You’re welcome. Glad you found it useful.

  28. Gloria July 15th, 2012 9:58 pm

    THANK YOU. Dear God thank you! The sound links really helped!

  29. Woodshed July 17th, 2012 8:13 am

    Gloria: You’re welcome. I’m very glad you found it useful.

  30. Linda July 18th, 2012 2:26 am

    Thanks for this. Really clearly explained. I enjoyed listening to the recording of how it should be played. Really helpful.

  31. Woodshed July 18th, 2012 8:07 pm

    Linda: Thanks! That’s great to hear.

  32. Gaby August 1st, 2012 4:48 am

    THIS IS AWESOME!!! IT REALLY HELPED ME! IT WAS JUST WHAT I NEEDED!!!

  33. Woodshed August 1st, 2012 10:50 pm

    Gaby: Thanks very much! Glad it helped.

  34. Astrid August 21st, 2012 8:25 am

    Loving this guide, however I noticed you had the strum pattern for Betrayed By Bones by Hellogoodbye, what would you recommend for Finding Something To Do? Thanks (:

  35. Woodshed August 22nd, 2012 9:25 am

    Astrid: Finding Something To Do is in 4/4 time. Try a few of those out and see which you like.

  36. Erin September 10th, 2012 7:16 pm

    Thank you very much for posting this! I just started playing cavaquinho, and the strumming patterns you posted are helping me break out of my usual rhythms. Any chance you could post some more complicated Brazilian patterns? Choro, samba, or otherwise?
    Thanks!

  37. Woodshed September 10th, 2012 10:24 pm

    Erin: That’s a good suggestion. I’d like to be able to do it but I don’t know enough about it to write a post, I’m afraid.

  38. Erin September 17th, 2012 7:52 pm

    Thanks anyways!

  39. Rachael October 11th, 2012 3:48 pm

    Hi. Could anyone please tell me what the x means in the strum patterns?
    Thanks

  40. Woodshed October 12th, 2012 12:14 pm

    Rachel: it’s a chnk.

  41. CMA AMIT CHAND December 12th, 2012 8:27 am

    Thanks

  42. Woodshed December 12th, 2012 11:01 am

    CMA AMIT CHAND: You’re welcome.

  43. sumedh December 22nd, 2012 8:06 am

    Thanks …it was very very helful to me…

  44. sumedh December 22nd, 2012 8:09 am

    Rachael: it’s somply use of palm for stopping all stings it will be better to see videos…on you tube..

  45. Maddie January 23rd, 2013 2:14 am

    Just wanted to say, THIS IS AMAZING! I just got a ukulele 2 weekends ago, and this page + THIS WHOLE WEBSITE has totally been the most useful to help me learn! Thank you so much!!

  46. Woodshed January 23rd, 2013 8:16 am

    Maddie: Thanks so much! Really glad you like it.

  47. Paula February 13th, 2013 10:46 pm

    I really appreciate you putting this up!

  48. Woodshed February 14th, 2013 11:43 am

    Paula: You’re welcome.

  49. Kimmi March 2nd, 2013 8:28 pm

    Thank you for putting this up, you’ve helped me a great deal!

  50. Woodshed March 3rd, 2013 1:44 pm

    Kimmi: That’s great! Glad it was useful.

  51. Gabriela April 27th, 2013 8:04 am

    Aloha from Hawaii! Thank you so much for the helpful post, strumming is what I struggle with the most :)
    I second the suggestion for Brazilian patterns, if you ever learn more or come across any other websites with some good instruction I would love to hear/see it.
    Mahalo for sharing your gift with us!

  52. Woodshed April 27th, 2013 12:22 pm

    Gabriela: You’re very welcome.

  53. Karen August 18th, 2013 12:27 pm

    Decided to take my ukulele off the wall today after turning it into a decoration for quite some time. Discouraged by my strumming, which I never mastered even after attending large group lessons for months. They never addressed strumming adequately. Looked up strumming and found your fabulous strumming techniques. Hearing them too was awesome. I now have hope and will try your style. Thank you!

  54. Woodshed August 18th, 2013 12:38 pm

    Karen: Thanks very much! Glad you like it.

  55. Mike January 21st, 2014 6:58 pm

    Hey! Thank you so much for this website! I am learning ukulele and learning fast cause of your site!

    I was wondering if I could make a request of the song Screen by Twenty On Pilots. Both the strumming pattern and cords would be greatly appreciated. I would love to see this pop up on the site!

    Hope to see more great things come!

    Thanks
    Mike

  56. Woodshed January 22nd, 2014 11:18 am

    Mike: Thanks very much! Sorry, no plans to.

  57. Ashley February 13th, 2014 1:03 am

    Wow! Thank you sooooo incredibly much for this. I got my uke for my birthday and have been wanting to know more patterns. This makes learning them so much easier :D One word dude: Awesomeness!

  58. Woodshed February 13th, 2014 9:56 am

    Ashley: You’re very welcome! And Happy Birthday!

  59. veit seidl March 26th, 2014 9:54 am

    thanks a lot! will broaden my basic strumming patterns!

  60. Woodshed March 26th, 2014 7:32 pm

    veit seidl: Very glad it helped.

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