Different strokes for different folks: strumming patterns


After learning how to hold and tune your ukulele, the next step is what to do with your right hand (if you are right-handed) on the ukulele. This is the hand that controls the rhythm, the beat, the accents, and the tempo (speed). Strumming is all about time-keeping and rhythm.

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Koa tenor ukulele made on Oahu; tropical hardwood ukulele stand made on Maui

Most beginners rush to get a chord chart, get fascinated by the chord diagrams, and try to finger the chords with their left hand on the neck of the ukulele. At some point, they get stuck because they don’t know what to do with their right hand.

I’d say: focus on your right hand first. Practice strumming. You don’t need to know chords at this point. But you do need to practice different kinds of strumming.

A strum is a quick movement of one or more fingers of the hand down (towards the ground) or up (away from the ground) on the four strings of the instrument in a quick motion.

Another word for a strum is a stroke. There are up and down strokes, which can be represented by letters U and D or up and down arrows or the symbols ^ and v respectively.

There’s a WHAM stroke, which I represent by an X.

There’s also an air stroke, which I represent by a hyphen -.

Next is how to combine the four components U, D, X, – to make a strum pattern. The strumming pattern defines whether the accompaniment to a waltz, a pop song, reggae, or folk song.

I have given ukulele strum workshops in Boston and London. Below are what some participants have said about their experience in my workshops.

“Anne Ku’s strumming workshop focused on an oft-neglected but essential part of playing the ukulele. She demystified the process by breaking down (and slowing down!) each strumming pattern and having us practice it repeatedly. She also applied each strum to a specific song or songs so we were able to immediately apply our new skills. Later she sent us a handout containing all the strumming patterns so we could reinforce the techniques at home. Best of all, Anne is a friendly and relaxed teacher who treats her students, even the rankest beginners, like musical colleagues. I can’t wait to take her follow-up workshop.”

“A carefully thought-out session, covering the essential ground and presented by someone who is clearly passionate about music. It was nicely tailored to the needs of the participants. Very useful, and exactly what I wanted. It was a thoroughly enjoyable session. I would happily sign up for another one.”

“This is the class that you never knew you needed. But when you’ve done it, you’ll realize you should have done it years ago.”

‘The handout is excellent, and the class was both informative and fun.”

For more information visit my ukulele page.

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Author: BLOGmaiden

As one of the earliest bloggers (since 1999), I enjoy meeting people who embrace "out-of-the-box" thinking and fear not the unknown. I believe in collaboration for sustainability because it increases stakeholder value.

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