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Ukulele Easy Strumming Patterns

The complete guide to strum like a Pro!

by Jennifer VanBenschoten
Ukulele Easy Strumming Patterns

Greetings, uke players! If you’re reading this article about ukulele easy strumming patterns, chances are that you are either a brand-new ukulele player who is looking for some guidance on how to strum the ukulele, or you’re a seasoned ukulele player who is looking for some kind of inspiration to change up your ukulele strumming patterns.

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No matter where you are in your ukulele journey, here are my top tips and ideas for breathing some fresh life into your favorite strumming patterns. 

How to Strum the Ukulele

Before we get into the strumming patterns, let’s learn a little bit about how to strum the ukulele. There are a couple of different ways you can strum your ukulele, depending on what’s most comfortable for your hands. 

Thumb strum

When I first started learning how to play the ukulele, I learned how to strum the ukulele using my thumb. It seemed the most intuitive way for me to make music with the ukulele, and I continued with that for almost a year, until I started to learn more fingerstyle and fingerpicking techniques. 

To use your thumb for strumming your ukulele, you’ll want to employ the “opening a doorknob” technique by gently turning your wrist as if you’re opening a door. Make sure you’re not strumming from the elbow or shoulder – just a simple movement of the wrist will do! As you strum down (from the ceiling towards the floor) on the ukulele across all four strings, you’ll want to use the side of the pad of your thumb. As you strum up (from the floor towards the ceiling), you’ll use the side/top of your thumbnail as well as maybe a bit of the pad of your thumb. 

Try it a few times and see how that feels to you! 

Read more: Tine a Ukulele Without a Tuner

Index finger strum

If strumming with your thumb isn’t for you, you can also use your index finger to strum your ukulele. Personally, I feel like I get more control over my strumming when I use my index finger for my ukulele strumming patterns, but everyone is different. 

When you’re strumming the ukulele with your index finger, keep your hand relaxed. You can either extend your index finger slightly and keep the rest of your fingers gently curled back and out of the way to strum, or you can gently curl your fingers into the center of your palm and rest the pads of your thumb and index fingers together as you strum with your index finger. I call this the “imaginary pick” position for your strumming hand. 

As you strum down in this position, you’ll use the top/tip of your index fingernail to move across all four strings, and you’ll probably use a bit of the tip of the pad of your index finger to strum up. 

Give this position a few tries and see how it feels! 

Of course, if you have a different way of strumming your ukulele, you can always stick with that. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. 

When you’re strumming the ukulele, make sure that you’re coming down across all four strings evenly. As always, nice slow strums are best, especially if you’re a beginning ukulele player or you’re learning a new strumming pattern for the ukulele. 

Time Signatures and Strumming

One of the most important things that learning these ukulele strumming patterns can teach you is about time signatures and how to keep time. This is an essential skill that you’ll need to learn if you want to do things like sing to accompany yourself on the ukulele or play in a group at a uke jam. 

Most strumming patterns are written for 4/4 time. This means that there are four beats per measure, each consisting of a quarter note. Other common time signatures are 3/4 time (three beats per measure, each beat consisting of a quarter note) and 6/8 time (six beats per measure, each beat consisting of an eighth note). 

The main difference between each of these time signatures is where the accent, or stress, comes on each of the notes. You can count them out loud to yourself by saying, “ONE two three four”, or “ONE two THREE four”, putting emphasis on the first or first and third beats of every four counts/notes. 

In 3/4 time, the emphasis is on the first note of every three, so you would say “ONE two three ONE two three” – think of a waltz if you want to get a feel for the 3/4 time signature. 

Using a metronome when learning these strumming patterns can be a huge help in mastering any ukulele strumming pattern. If you don’t have a metronome, you can find an app for your cell phone or even look up an online metronome for your laptop or desktop computer. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just functional, and I highly recommend using a metronome to all of my ukulele students. 

Easy Ukulele Strumming Patterns

Easy ukulele strumming patterns are great for both beginners and advanced ukulele players. For beginners, an easy ukulele strumming pattern will help you develop a feel for the instrument. Advanced players can also benefit from easy ukulele strumming patterns because it allows them more freedom to play with chord changes and other advanced fretboard techniques. Easy ukulele strumming patterns also help you develop your sense of rhythm, which is an important part of learning how to play any instrument! So let’s look at 5 easy ukulele strumming patterns to get you started:

D – D – D – D 

This is about as easy you can get! This ukulele strumming pattern is simply a down strum, repeated over and over again. While this might seem like an easy ukulele strumming pattern, you can play this in time with a metronome set to different speeds. Start off slow and then speed up your metronome until you can play perfectly in time with the beat. You’ll notice vast improvements in your rhythm playing if you do this for a few minutes every day!

D – U – D – U

Just like the previous ukulele strumming pattern, this one seems like a no-brainer, but practicing it can teach you the art of the up strum! Just like with the D – D – D – D strumming pattern, try this one with a metronome, starting off slowly and increasing the tempo until you’re a ukulele strumming wizard.

D – D – D – U – D 

Now we’re going to change things up a bit and mix in an up strum to a series of down strums! The key to learning this particular ukulele strumming pattern is rhythm and timing, and this is where a metronome will come in handy. If you’re playing each down strum on the beat of the metronome, you’ll slip that up strum in there as a half beat. 

D – D – U – D – D – U 

Another great way to work on your rhythm and timing when strumming the ukulele is to use this particular ukulele strumming pattern. When you start including the up strums after every other down strum, you can start to add emphasis, or accent, to certain beats. It might come naturally when practicing this particular strumming pattern, and again, using a metronome will help you feel your way into the beat. 

D – D – U – U – D 

Here we have the more complex version of the previous strumming pattern, where we skip a down strum and have two up strums. This is a great ukulele strumming pattern to learn when you want to refine your technique and get a little more control over your strumming hand. Remember: keep your wrist nice and loose, use that pretend-you’re-opening-a-doorknob movement, and you’ll master this one in no time. 

Read more: Where Can I Find Ukulele Lessons?

Advanced Ukulele Strumming Patterns

So now that you have a handle on some easy strumming patterns, let’s kick it up a notch and learn some of the most popular ukulele strumming patterns. 

D – D – U – U – D – U 

This is a popular ukulele strumming pattern for lots of pop and rock songs, also known as the Island Strum. You’ll find literally hundreds of tutorials for how to do this ukulele strumming pattern online, because it’s one of the most widely used strumming patterns by both beginners and more experienced ukulele players. 

D – D – U – D – U – D – U 

Learning how to play a fast strum like this one is great for fast-moving songs and lots of rock songs. Keep it moving with your metronome – starting out slow and then speeding up the tempo will help you learn how to control your strumming hand at high speed!

D – U – x – U – D – U – x – U 

Now let’s add a little percussive technique to our ukulele strumming patterns with this classic! Wherever you see an “x” in the strumming pattern, you chuck. Chucking is the art of percussively muting the string as you down strum, and it adds a wonderful drumbeat sound to your playing. 

D – x – U – U – x – U

One of my personal favorite ukulele strumming patterns, this one sounds great with classic rock songs like “Have You Ever Seen the Rain”. Most of the down strums are replaced by chucking, leaving just the lovely up strums that give an almost syncopated feel to your music. Syncopation is the art of placing an emphasis on a beat that is normally not emphasized in a time signature. 

D – D – U – D – U 

When you’re ready to try some 3/4 ukulele strumming, try this classic pattern. The emphasis here would be on the first down strum, to make it sound like a waltz or a dance. To really spice things up, add a chuck in on the second down strum and see where it takes you!

How to Practice Your Ukulele Strumming Patterns

As I mentioned throughout this article, the best way to practice your ukulele strumming patterns is with a metronome. Start slow – between 65 and 70 bpm is a good starting place – and then gradually increase up to 100 bpm or more as you notice you have more control over your strumming hand. If you’re learning how to navigate chord changes with each of these strumming patterns, slow is always best to start. One of my ukulele teachers reminds me over and over that if you can’t play something accurately at a slower tempo, you can’t play it accurately at 120 bpm! 

Feeing inspired to pick up your ukulele and start playing? Make sure you check out all the great courses and products available at the Terry Carter Music Store. Whether you’re looking to upgrade your current ukulele, expand your ukulele collection, or learn something new in an online self-paced course, we have everything you need to play like the pros. 

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1 comment

connections game June 28, 2024 - 7:44 am

Personally, I like the D-U-D-U strum the most

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