How To Strum A Ukulele: An Expert Guide

Learning how to strum a ukulele is important, especially if you are enthusiastic about this instrument. If you want to hear an authentic ukulele sound, then should know the basic strumming techniques.

Among all the aspects of a ukulele (e.g. chord reading, tuning, and distinction of parts), strumming is the most important.


How To Strum A Ukulele

How To Strum A Ukulele

The Basic Concepts

There are different methods to learn to strum a ukulele. Take this one below as an example:

You should start with the loose fist formation. This is the first hand position that you should use for holding a ukulele. Strum the Ukulele using your right hand’s index finger. Moreover, you should not forget that your fingernail should be on a side down position.

When you are strumming down, make sure that you use your nail when you hit strings. If you're strumming up, the one that should hit the string is the your finger’s fleshy portion. It is also important to note that you should only utilize your wrist, instead of your entire hand. You can use your entire hand, as a matter of fact. However, it could be very tiring.

For those that have a background in guitar, you may learn to strum the ukulele differently. You may strum down with your index finger. Meanwhile, you can strum up with your thumb's tip. If you are a guitar player, you may learn to strum the ukulele quickly this way. However, it will still boil down on how you will adjust to the instrument.

In strumming the ukulele, make sure that you do it on the right spot. If you strum too near in the neck or the bridge, the sound you will produce is dim. Instead, you should strum in the part where the body meets with the neck.

Just practice with this technique continuously. Once your hands get familiar and comfortable with using a ukulele, then you can already jump to advanced methods.

Advanced Strumming Technique

How To Strum A Ukulele

When you already mastered the basic strumming of a ukulele, then you are ready to learn more complex techniques.

All songs have unique strumming rhythm and pattern. Therefore, you can create various sounds, depending on how you strum the ukulele. You can still make various strumming patterns by using the up-and-down motion. However, you may not hit some of the strings during particular strums. In this way, the sound you can create will be unique.

Notation Of Strumming

Here are some of the notations that you indicate several strumming patterns:

  • d: Down strumming
  • u: Up strumming
  • -: This means a miss or pause strum. An example of this would be strumming your hands but not touching any strings. Specifically, they are important because they will you how to time your strums.
  • x: It is a notation that creates a "chink" sound. You can strum down and make a follow through so that the lower part of your hand will hit the strings. Doing this strumming pattern is ideal for fast-paced songs.
  • (d) or (u): These notations tells you that you have to do a muted up or down strumming. You should strum normally. However, your fingers you use in fretting should rest on the strings. In this way, the strings will stop ringing. They are like the "x" notation. However, you can make them in both or either directions.

Strumming Hand Position

How To Strum A Ukulele

Here is the basic guideline on how to strum a ukulele correctly.

  • First, make sure that the hands you used in strumming are loose.
  • Next, hold the ukulele in front of your chest. Ideally, it should be in the middle of your chest.
  • ​The ukulele should be pointed toward your left breast if you are right-handed. You should do the opposite if you are using your left-hand.
  • It would also be great if you can use your thumb to steady the finger you used in strumming. It can prove you smoothness and support while strumming.

Strumming Techniques

How To Strum A Ukulele

Shuffle/ Swing Strums

If you are in jazz, blues, and Hawaiian medleys, then you should practice the swing time. In this particular strumming technique, the downward strumming lasts longer than the upward strumming. Specifically, the down strum should be twice longer the up strum. It is a good method to convert the basic strumming technique into an interesting one.

Simple Strumming

You can make unique rhythms and sounds by maintaining the basic strumming technique. However, in doing so, you must not touch the strings during particular strums.

Dead Strums

You can create a powerful sound from strumming by using the fret hand. Specifically, you should hamper the strings from vibrating by putting your fingers.

Strumming Patterns

There are no such thing as a "wrong" strumming pattern when it comes to a ukulele. You should know that all strumming patterns can work on the particular song. It is different from a guitar's chord progression, in which there is a wrong and a right cord.

However, it is still important that you can choose the strumming patterns that you are comfortable with. In this way, you can play any particular songs that you want! Here are some of the typical strumming patterns that you can pick!

4/4 Strumming Patterns

So far, this is the most typical timing signature. If a particular song fits a "one, two, three, four" counting, then you can try any of these patterns.

“d – d u – u d –”

You can use this strumming pattern on any of these songs:

  • Kate Micucci & William H Macy – It’s Time to Get Laid
  • Nevershoutnever – Cheatercheaterbestfriendeater
  • ​Andrews Sisters/Sophie Madeleine – Bei Mir Bist du Schon
  • ​She and Him – Gonna Get Along Without You Now

“d – d u – u d u”

You can use this strumming pattern on any of these songs:

  • Keston Cobblers’ Club – Pett Level
  • Amanda Palmer – Ukulele Anthem
  • ​Paramore – Interlude: Moving On
  • ​Beirut – A Candle’s Fire

“d – d – d u d u”

You can use this strumming pattern on any of these songs:

  • OK Go – This Too Shall Pass
  • Ewan Wardrop/50 Cent – In Da Club
  • ​Daniel Johnston – Living Life
  • ​WIUO – I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man
  • ​Keston Cobblers Club – You Go

“d – d u d u d u”

You can use this strumming pattern on any of these songs:

  • The Beach Boys – Wouldn’t It Be Nice
  • Sufjan Stevens – Christmases Past
  • ​Train – Sing Together
  • UOGB – Teenage Kicks

Half-Bar Patterns

If you want to practice on constant chord changes, then you should try these strumming patterns:

“d – d u”

You can use this strumming pattern on any of these songs:

  • McFly – Love is Easy
  • Sesame Street
  • ​GOTYE – Somebody That I Used to Know
  • ​Zooey Deschanel – You Forgot about Valentine’s Day

“d u x u”

You can use this strumming pattern on any of these songs:

  • Allo Darlin – Tallulah
  • Hellogoodbye – Betrayed by Bones

Two-Bar Pattern

If you notice that the chord change is slow, then you can double the speed of the 4/4 strumming pattern. However, the best way you can enhance the rhythm is using the two-bar pattern.

“d – d u – u d u – u d u – u d –”

You can use this strumming pattern on any of these songs:

  • Sophie Madeleine – You Are My Favorite
  • Sophie Madeleine – I Just Can’t Stop Myself


“d u D U d u D U”

You can use this strumming pattern on any of these songs:

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

“d u x u d u x u”

You can use this strumming pattern on any of these songs:

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


The art of learning how to strum a ukulele is not that easy. There are particular techniques and concepts that you have to understand first before you can play the ukulele. Playing the ukulele is just like the guitar and other musical instruments.

They take the time to learn. Therefore, if you are enthusiastic, then you should be patient. Never rush your learning progress. Otherwise, you will miss a lot of important things.

Moreover, the strumming patterns we showed you are just a few. In fact, there are dozens of strumming patterns that you can try. You can even make a pattern of your own once you gain mastery over the ukulele. In the end, you should never stop having fun while playing this instrument!

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