Five Most Iconic Strumming Patterns

My usual advice about strumming patterns is to not worry too much about it and try a few to see what suits you. But some songs have strumming patterns so perfect they become its central feature. The good news is that you can’t copyright a strumming pattern (if you could Metallica would have done it by now). So you’re free to pinch these and use them as you wish. You certainly wouldn’t be the first.

Here’s my choice of the most iconic strums ever. If you’ve got one I missed leave it in the comments.

The videos here all show the strum played slowly at first (on a Bb chord) then up to speed (with chord changes where they’re useful). Some of the strums are complex so they’re shown using slash notation. You can learn more about that here and learn everything you need to about strums in my ebook How to Play Ukulele Strums.



Officially the greatest strumming pattern in history (according to the person who decides these things: me).

The Bo Diddley beat made up half of Bo Diddley’s catalogue (including Hey, Bo Diddley, Mona, Bo Diddley and I’ve had it Hard) and has been producing hits ever since including George Michael’s Faith, John Lennon’s Dear Yoko, The Strangeloves’ I Want Candy, Guns ‘n Roses’ Mr Brownstone, The Clash’s Rudie Can’t Fail, U2’s Desire, KT Tunstall’s Black Horse and the Cherry Tree and Hüsker Dü’s Hare Krsna.

Like a lot of strums in this post, the “x”s here represent muted strums.

Fell in Love with a Strum


d – d u – d –

This strum is the most adaptable strum there is. I include a whole bunch of songs that use it here. But no song uses it as the central feature of the song as effectively as Fell in Love with a Girl by The White Stripes.

No nonsense and in your face. It’s the Meg White of strumming patterns.

Proclaiming Strum


d – d – d – d u
d u d – d – d –

If ever a strumming pattern had a Scottish accent it’s the one that kicks off I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers. It’s amazing that a simple two bar pattern can be so associated with one song.

Get Strummy


All the strumming hand has to do in this one is a constant down, up, down, up… (just imagine DJ Khaled has stepped up in the building). All the fancy stuff is created by muting some strums at letting others play.

Like most funky rhythms, it’s syncopated and can take some work to get down. This is one to practice slowly before trying to go at it full speed.

Strums Like Teen Spirit


Muted strums are used in a more in your face manner here to punctuate the chord changes.


How to Play Ukulele Strums
13 Most Useful Strumming Patterns
Intricate Strumming

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Hall & Oates – Rich Girl (Chords)

Hall & Oates – Rich Girl (Chords)

Since Garfunkel and Oates just released a new album I thought it was high time I did a tune from Kate Micucci’s first band: Hall and Oates.

Unlike Micucci’s later work, the song has some tricky chord moves. The hardest part is the quick Gm7 – Am7 – Bmaj7 move in the verses. If you’re having trouble with that you can skip the Gm7 – Am7 bit and play the easier 3210 version of Bmaj7.

Suggested Strumming

You can use this strum through most of the song:

d – d – d u d u

Chorus: Main strum once per chord.

Verse: One strum each on the passing chords (Gm7 – Am7 and Bb – C). Then the main strum twice on everything else. Here’s how that sounds:

Last Chorus: There are some passing chords here too e.g. Dm – C on “won’t get you too far” and “You say”.

Not So Twiddly Bit

Rich Girl has a classic one note solo. You just slide up to the F and you’re done for notes. To play it I use the strum blocking method for the attack it gives. But you could also use a pick for this part.



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More 70s tabs and chords

Andy Eastwood, Eska: UkeTube

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Friday Links

UHTeeCrewThis year’s Uke Hunt t-shirt sale has already hit the minimum order level. So they’ll now definitely be printed once the pre-order period has finished on 18th October. You can buy from the US or from the UK.


Ukulele Friend’s Luthier Insights series
Eric DeVine, Aaron Oya and Gareth Yahiku from Ana’ole.
Krabbers learns you how to write a blues song.
– Danielle Ate the Sandwich has scored a new HBO documentary Packed in a Trunk.
See you next Tuesday, Uke Hunt.

Homemade backpacking ukulele.
Kanile’a Po’okela.
– Matching pair of soprano and sopranino Kumalae ukuleles.

Dave Brubeck Quartet – Take Five (Tab)

Dave Brubeck Quartet – Take Five (Tab)

The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Take Five (written by the group’s saxophonist Paul Desmond) is an absolute instrumental classic. That’s why I started working on it in the early days of Uke Hunt (the 27th February 2008 according to the date on the file). Since then it’s been occasionally dragged out of the pile of half finished tabs but I haven’t had a version I was happy with until now. I hope it was worth the wait!

The song takes its name from its 5/4 time signature (i.e. there are five beats in a bar rather than the more common 3 or 4). You probably haven’t played in 5/4 time before but it’s not that hard to get the hang of. I find counting out the bars 1, 2, 3, 1, 2 gives you a good feel for the groove of the piece and you can drop the counting once you’re in the swing of it.


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Uke Hunt T-Shirts


It’s Uke Hunt t-shirt season again! I’ve had a few requests for another run of the shirts. Excellent news this year: Teespring dispatches from the UK now as well as the US. So shipping is way lower for people in the UK and the rest of the EU now. (Just make sure you order from the right one!). You can buy them here:

Pre-order from US

Pre-order from the UK

I’m using Teespring again this year. It is sort of a Kickstart for t-shirts. So you put in an order for your shirt, if there are enough orders by the end of the campaign the shirts are made and sent out. You’re not charged until the end of the campaign (and you’re not charged at all if the shirt doesn’t reach its goal). This way of doing it means all the shirts are printed at once and exactly the right shirts and sizes are made.

So if you want one of the shirts they’ll only be available until Sunday 18th October. After that you’re all out of luck.

The system has worked well for the last couple of years so I’m sticking with it. My shirt came here (the UK) quickly and without any hassle. It’s nice quality. The one I have is two years old and it’s still in good shape. You can see it on a devastatingly handsome model in my recent videos.

The Shirts


In the US there are two different styles: the standard fit American Apparel crew-neck (at the top of the post) and the v-neck Bella Missy slim fit (directly above).Both are $22 plus shipping from the US

The UK ones are only described as “Premium Unisex” and “Standard Women’s V Neck”. I couldn’t find out any more than that. They’re both £16.50 from the UK (incl. VAT).

You can combine the different shirts into one order by clicking ‘Buy/Reserve it now’ then ‘Add another style’.

Pre-order from US

Pre-order from the UK


Teespring is based in the US so shipping outside of that is more expensive and will take longer.

United States: $3.99 flat rate, plus $2.00 per each additional item. Your shirt will arrive within 7-14 days from the end of the campaign.

Canada: $11.49 CAD flat rate, plus $5.00 CAD per each additional item. Your shirt will arrive within 14-21 days from the end of the campaign.

International (from the US) £7.99 (€11.49) flat rate, plus £3.50 (€5.00) per each additional item. Your shirt will arrive within 14-21 days from the end of the campaign.

UK (from the UK): £2.75 for the first apparel item and £0.50 for each additional item. You can expect your package to arrive around 5 business days after the campaign finishes printing.

Europe (from the UK): £3.35 for the first apparel item and £1.00 for each additional item.

For more information on the shirts and the system take a look at Teespring’s FAQ.


Buy from US

Buy from the UK

Happy Birthday to You (Chords)

Happy Birthday (Chords in C)

Copyright of Happy Birthday has been freed from the clutches of Warner/Chappell (who were incorrectly claiming ownership of the lyrics and making an estimated $2 million a year from people singing the words “Happy Birthday to you” a few times). There are a lot of ins, a lot of outs, a lot of what-have-yous so it’s not technically public domain but no one is claiming ownership of it anymore so it is for practical purposes.

One illustrative detail: the original documents are so old no one involved in the case had copies. They had to go hunting in the British museum amongst the statues of Ramesses and Olmec masks to find them. When copyright lasts so long the paperwork is a museum it’s time to think about shortening them.

Now that the piece is free I’ve written up four versions: two sets of chords (one in C up top and one in F below) and two sets of tabs here. And I’ve kept them as simple as possible so everyone can play them.

Happy Birthday (Chords in F)

Suggested Strumming

Just downstrums will work perfectly well. You can keep it ultra-simple and just do one strum per chord.

Or you can play three downstrums per chord on the first three lines. Then on the final line do two downstrums on the C (or F in the second version) and one each on the next two chords.

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Happy Birthday to You (Tab)

Happy Birthday (Solo Tab)

Since Happy Birthday is now free of dubious copyright claims, it’s time to do a few new arrangements of the tunes. In this post I’ve written up two beginner-level tabs. They’re a great place to start if you’re new to single note playing. All you need to know is how to read tab and you’re good to go.

For such a familiar and straightforward song, there’s some unexpected oddness going on. Vi Hart has an excellent video covering the weirdness of the now invalid copyright of the lyrics and the strangenesses of the tune that have developed over time.

But, in the spirit of keeping things straightforward, I’ve ignored her and shaved out some of the oddities (but I do at least feel guilty about it).

The tab for the solo version is all played with just the thumb on the picking hand. It’s very minimal and focuses heavily on the melody. It does incorporate some chords as well. For the most part you strum down across the strings and let your thumb come to rest on the A-string (so you don’t play it). You only strum across all strings at the start of bars 5 and 7.

The busiest bar is bar 7 where each beat has a new chord. You can simplify this if you like and drop the Dm chord and just play the E-string, first fret.

Duet Version

Happy Birthday (Duet Tab)

The lead line of the duet tab is very similar to the solo version but has all the chord bits removed. So you’re just playing one note at a time. It’s worth learning this version first so you have the melody down before moving on to the solo version.

The backing part plays the chords with just three downstrums per bar. No need for anything fancier than that.

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Lou Barlow, Abigail York: UkeTube

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Top 10 Ukes: Friday Links

Lots of people have been rating their ukuleles in the review section of the site over the last couple of weeks. You can see the ten highest rated ukuleles here. The early leader is KoAloha closely followed by Kamaka and Kala (people really love ukes that begin with K it seems).

If you think your favourite uke has been cruelly overlooked, go rate it. There’s a list of ukulele makers here and luthiers here.


Jake at Antebellum Instruments has been posting a bunch of interesting vintage ukes recently including:
– Incredible 1920s Oscar Schmidt presentation flamed koa.
1970s Jennifer Swiftwater-painted uke.
1952 Regal “Tara Guitar” baritone ukulele.
1950s Mauna Loa.
1920s Oscar Schmidt-made Wm. J. Smith soprano.
1970s Kamaka HF-1 koa soprano

On Video

– Man Man does a not altogether helpful tutorial for his Deep Water (Thanks to Liz).

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