When I was first learning how to strum, it was the most difficult thing in the world for me. It can feel a bit unnatural and hard to know what type of strumming pattern fits into what song. However, there are some key things that can help make sense of your strumming.
In this lesson, I wanted to look at strumming patterns for beginning or new players. I really want to provide a basis for which to learn other strumming patterns. Strumming is not so much about how fast or how complicated you can strum. Strumming is a form of rhythm, and the most essential aspect of rhythm is consistency and good timing. If you don’t have these things, your strumming pattern is useless.
I hope this is helpful. As always, if you have any questions whatsoever, post your comment below and we’ll take a look.
hi ukulele tricks is there any chance you could put the strumming paterns in when to strum down and strum up so when to change chords my problem is i dont know the words to songs at 49 but still would like to play ukulele cheers nige
Nige, I think I might not understand your question. Do you mean to overlay the strumming patterns on the video? Can you clarify what you mean?
sorry for being a pain if you putup arrows and down arrows for strumming then i know when to chords without singing and other people know what am playing can we stat with some where over the rainbow cheers nige
Nige, I can keep that in mind for future videos but I can’t do that for the current ones. I do break down and explain when to strum up and down on “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and for this lesson. It might be hard to get some text or arrows that visually show you when to strum up or down in sync with the video. Even without singing, you should be able to strum in time to the song. Count it out loud at first. I’ll even hum the melody too in my head so I have a reference for where I am at in the song and when to change chords. I hope this helps.
Hey Brett! I’ve learned plenty of things about Uke from your pages. Thanks so much. It’s been just 3weeks that I started playing the uke and there’s no teaching place around my town. So I had a problem with strumming needed to play songs. This video gave me strumming skills that I might be able to vary. Thanks again!
That’s awesome, Minyeong! Strumming is tricky at first, but once you get the core foundations of it, you can get pretty creative. Keep up the good work 🙂
Poor production. Can not see which finger is strumming i.e., the thumb, index or severial fingers.
Robert, there isn’t a specific finger you have to use for your strumming. There are different techniques (not explored in this video) that emphasize different tonal characteristics in your strumming. You will need to find out what’s most comfortable for you. While the main focus in this video was understanding rhythm and timing, I probably should have touched on the finger position in the video. I will say that in this particular video I mostly let my four fingers loosely brush over the top of the strings as I strummed. Every now and then I would use my thumb as well. Some people find it easier to strum with a loose and relaxed index finger. Experiment around. The most important aspect is keeping your hand loose and relaxed. I hope this helps!
That down down up down down up makes sense finally. I think I have poor rythm but since I picked up the Uke for the first time yesterday, I am happy with my progress. Is there a trick to figuring out the strum pattern for songs I found online? Sometimes it seems I should be changing the chord but the music shows to keep with the same chord longer than I think I should. I think it may be that I need to be strumming differently to change the sound, not necessarily changing the chord.
Carla, rhythm does take a while to set in and become second nature so you are off to a great start! With songs that I find online, I typically try to find an MP3 or video of the song on Youtube so I can listen to the song and hear the chord changes. It can also give me a sense for the rhythm or strumming pattern that they might use. Another thing you find about chord charts online is that sometimes the formatting of the website gets a little off and the chords might not being changing right on top of the chord, so this is why it is really important to listen first and then play.
The main thing that I do is to count the song because if you are playing in time with the song, even though you might not be playing the exact strumming pattern, it still can work, although it might not be ideal. You can always tweak too as you get a basic strumming pattern applied to the song. Typically, most songs are count in either 4/4 (like in this video), 3/4 (1, 2, 3, 1, 2, etc.), or in 6/8 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, etc.). 3/4 and 6/8 are your more waltzy type of counts.
All to say, spend a lot of time listening to the mp3’s of the songs you are trying to play and identify the count of the song and then how chords change within that count. Unfortunately, there are no quick tricks, but this is a great way to start. It does take time so be patient with yourself and have fun! 🙂
are there any songs you recommend that are easy to begin playing on that are easy to pick up on the rhythm. getting the rhythm is what i struggle with the most
Hi KLM, I’d recommend I’ve Been Working On the Railroad to apply this strumming pattern. Other good, easy folk ukulele songs are “Ain’t She Sweet” and “Five Foot Two.”
Hi Brett..I have most of the patterns down pretty good and can go through a smiple song and keep the timing and on some songs I can keep the strumming rhythm but I am having problems keeping the strummimg rhythm, singing, and keeping the count all at the same time. How do you keep the timing? If I try to sing I lose my timing count..I read the article about Playing and singing but I can’t keep the count. Any suggestions?
I have learned alot from your site..Thanks..Keith
Have you tried practicing with a metronome yet? Sometimes it can be helpful when you’re singing because you have something else keeping time. I do want to encourage you though to continue to practice and counting. Singing will come. The biggest challenge with singing and playing at the same time is developing an independency from the ways the rhythm of the melody might depart from the rhythm of the strumming pattern. In other words, you want to change your strumming with the melody rather than keeping it steady and consistent. All to say, if you haven’t incorporated a metronome into your practice times that can be really helpful, but continue to keep practicing strumming and counting so you can build to that point where it becomes second nature. It will come. Hang in there 🙂
Hi Brett..Just a update..It has taken practice, practice, and practice but I finally can keep my patterns and sing along with the songs, I have just been trying to hard. I have been using the metronome and that has helped alot also. I am able to figure out when playing a song if they put in a wrong chord and I am also learning to do the George Formby “Split Stroke” to go along with the song “When I’m Cleaning Windows” I want to thank you again for the advice and the lessons..I still have a long way to go to please me..Keith
Thank you for the update. That’s so great to hear! It sounds like your ear is really developing too to be able to notice wrong chords. That is awesome. It’s a great feeling to have put in so much work and practice and to see improvement. Keep up the great work! You are very dedicated.
Thanks for the great pointers! Can you do an intermediate/advanced beginner strumming lesson? I don’t have a very good feel for what different strums are possible and find myself using the same strums for every song I play.
Katylin, I am always looking for new lesson ideas, so I will keep this in mind. I think it’d make a really great lesson!
As I am just starting to learn the ukulele I didn’t have any idea how to strum, your strumming lesson was very helpful, so I am practicing, thank you.
I’m so glad to hear that, Sally! Best of luck to you.
Hi there I’m the “NEW” LOL
I receive my first ukelele as a birthday gift las year (about 4 months ago) I just love the idea of have one, since I’m a singer and i do reggae, so I’m looking to get some lessons.
for now i already now some basic stuff but need a lot of help!
i love “hallelujah” you’re good! just keep on move and I’ll try to get the best from you! 🙂
and… could you give me personal classes! (is not a joke) 😀
Tania, I don’t do one on one lessons right now although I’ve considered it! I’m actually working on something really huge for Ukulele Tricks right now that I think will be right up your alley. I can’t say much more for another couple weeks, but you’ll definitely want to stay tuned. 🙂
If you haven’t already, be sure you’ve downloaded my free ukulele lesson book. It’ll definitely get you started on the right foot and you’ll learn a couple songs too.
WE ARE LUCKY TO HAVE PEOPLE LIKE YOU WHO GIVES OF THEMSELVES TO US LEARNERS YOU DO A GREAT JOB MATE. MY QUESTION. CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE DIFERENCE BETWEEN HIGH G TUNING AND LOW G THANKS DAVE
Dave, thanks for the kind comment! I wrote a post about different types of tunings on the ukulele a while back that looks at high G vs. low G tuning. You can check it out here: http://www.ukuleletricks.com/ukulele-tuning-how-to-tune-your-ukulele/
Sound on video lessons keeps stopping and starting.
How can I avoid this please as I love these lessons?
Jack, sorry to hear about the video troubles. Is it just the sound that is cutting out or is it the video too? In case you haven’t tried it yet, pause the video so it can load all the way first and then try watching it. Let me know if this works for you!
Brett – I got your email on the new strumming course you are offering and I would like to be one of the 100 you will work with but I cannot find where to sign up at. I looked for a link to go to but found none. How and where do I sign up. I have not played a ukulele in 44 years and I struggle with strumming. I need all the help I can get.
Hi Bob, I actually just replied to your email! See if you got it. The course isn’t opening up till this Friday at 1:00 PM eastern time. I’ll be sending out another email in a couple days with exactly details on how you can sign up. Talk to you soon!
Hi Brett (my new friend and Maestro)!
Im a 67-yr old retiree from the Philippines. Except for the radio, I don’t play any musical instrument. Now that I have lots of time on my hands,I wish to start learning playing the ukelele. Thanks to the free lessons on your website, I have started learning your 11-basic must-know ukelele chords. Today I started practicing your two basic stumming patterns. I’m thouroughly enjoying your lessons with you guiding me in the UTube (a fantastic technology). By the end of this Lenten vacation, I hope I would be able to impress some of my family members (especially my 5-year old grandson) accompanying myself with the ukelele. Thanks a lot and God bless you, Brett! Continue to teach other disciples!
Willy, thanks so much for your comment! What an exciting journey you are on with the ukulele! Keep up the fantastic work. I was actually six years old when my grandpa introduced me to the ukulele. It’s the perfect time to impress! Enjoy 🙂
do you know what the strumming pattern is for the song “lullaby” sung by lateeya?
if so can you exolain it. ex) down, up, chuck,. . . up up up chuck.
I have never played the song myself. I did listen to a clip on Youtube here very quickly and the song does have a really interesting feel. It sounded like the strumming pattern was largely based around the muting of the strings that happens on beats 2 and 4 of the measure. It sounded like there was a down strum on beat 1 of the measure, an up strum on the “e” of 1, down strum mute on 2, up strum on the & of 2, down strum on 3, up on “e” of 3, down mute on 4 and then an up strum on the & of 4.
I don’t know how accurate this will be because I was only able to take a quick listen. I would say as you play it try to imagine that feel in your head. Think R&B 🙂
Really enjoyed the strumming video. good work. thanks for the help.
OK so far so good.I am having a bit of a problem navigating around the site.How do I get to lesson 2?
You can access the members area here 🙂
I have SO MUCH TROUBLE with strumming up because the side of my finger/fingernail snags under the first string and it literally sounds as though I’m tripping on my uke. Any good tips for avoiding this?
If your fingers are snagging, it might mean you need to relax your fingers a little bit more. Any tension in your fingers can sometimes cause your fingers to hang up. The fingers should just glide over the strings nice and easy. Give that a try and let me know how you come out. 🙂
Hi Brett, i want to thank you for the free guide and also the tutorial vids,
i have never played a musical instrument in my life, i bought a uke on the 15/6/11 two days ago and i did’nt have a clue,
there are no tutors around my area, already after using your free book and the vids my strumming is coming on fine,
i still struggle with the chords though i am remembering them, but i am making progress and having great fun
Thank you for all of the free instruction on your website and for your e-book. You are an outstanding teacher! I consider myself rhythmically challenged and really struggled with strumming before finding your website, but can now really rock out to Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and I’ve Been Working on the Railroad. I’m having a blast and look forward to learning more!
That’s awesome! Sounds like you’re getting it down quite well. Good work! 🙂
You are a really good teacher! thank you!
Well, thank you. You are very welcome! 🙂
Just found your site. I dig it! what strumming pattern would you recommend for Hallelujah (Jeff Buckley)?
Glad you dig it! 🙂
I actually did a video lesson for Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” right here: http://www.ukuleletricks.com/ukulele-fingerpicking-lesson-how-to-play-hallelujah/
You may have seen it already, but if you haven’t check it out. I like to fingerpick the song, but a strumming pattern of just down strums works really well for this song. It’s one of those songs you don’t want to overcomplicate too much since the power is in the movement of the melody and lyrics. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
AWSOME job! this is the first video I stumbled across looking for strumming techniques and it really helped! (I hadn’t even thought of using my metronome XD) Anyway my question is how do I keep my strumming finger from getting caught in the strings thus throwing off my rythm. I have cut my nails really short and still keeps happening! any ideas?
Daniel, great question! Whenever my fingers get hung up on a string, it’s usually because I’m tensing my finger up. The more relaxed my finger and strumming hand is the easier it glides over the strings. I wonder if this might be the issue.
hi, i tried to find my own pattern, but half the time it sounds either sloppy or just not right. any advice?
It’s hard to say exactly why your patten didn’t work out for you. Are you counting out loud and trying to line up your strumming with your count? It might be that you need to practice a basic strumming pattern first (e.g. all down strums) and just practice getting that as consistent and steady as possible… then you can build from there. Some of these things just come down to practice 🙂
I am having trouble on my finger position with the up and down strum. I can’t find something comfortable that sounds good on the up and down strum. Do you have any advice?
I got a question, when do you know when to change chord as you are strumming? Im not quite good at explaination but my problem is when ever Im performing a strumming pattern. I have to change chord during that strum pattern to another chord and it gets kind of confusing because I will mess up the consistency of the strumming pattern. Is there any tips on how to train suck a problem?
*such a problem not suck a problem HAHA
Haha, I gotcha!
Great question. The biggest thing with switching chords is making sure your fingers and your brain is comfortable with switching those chords. One of the best things you can do to practice is just go back and forth changing between different chords without strumming. Your brain needs time to develop muscle memory for those chords. Eventually, you’ll get to the point where you don’t even have to think about your chord changes!
I wish there was a magic trick, but continue to practice, as well as practicing with a metronome.
hey, so any advice on strumming up….i keep getting stuck on the bottom string and i cant fully strum up
Hey Katreena, if you find your fingers getting stuck on the strings when you strum, you need to think about and practice relaxing. The key to strumming is a loose and a relaxed wrist. Any tension will work against you as you strum. The idea is that you want your fingers to just glide over the strings in one quick, but relaxed, motion.
Also, ensure that you are strumming over or around the 12th fret of the ukulele. Don’t try to strum directly over the sound hole because the strings hold a bit more tension the closer you get to bridge of the ukulele.
morning brett – thanks for the great uke tools. have a great one!!!
Good morning to you as well! You’re very welcome. Glad you’ve been enjoying them. Take care.
Hey, Brett! Do you strum with your thumb or index fingernail? Is there a difference/right way? Many thanks!
Hey Liv, I actually use the nail side of my middle finger for my down strums and the side of my thumb for my up strums. There isn’t a real right or wrong way. Each way will give you a different tone which may be suitable for the song you are playing. It’s good to experiment with different ways and ultimately find a way that feels comfortable to you.
Thanks Brett! I was am rushing through strumming to get to the interesting stuff, and it sounds pretty bad. Thanks for slowing me down and helping me focus on the rhythm. I’m feeling it more now.
I find myself strumming with both my index and middle finger – is it better to just strum with one finger?
I don’t know about better. I tend to strum with my index/middle finger for my down strums and then I use the nail and flesh side of my thumb for my up strums. It really depends on the type of tone you want to get out of your ukulele. You’ll find that strumming in different ways produces a different tone. So, I hesitate to say there is a right way because it just depends what you want! 🙂
Hey Brett……just wanted to ask how do you strum for songs?(like is there a specific one or you make your own depending on the tune of the song)
Your strumming pattern always depends on the type of the song. Different factors that play into this are: how fast the song is, what count (time signature) the song is played to (e.g. is it played to a count of four, three, or six?), and other elements like feel. The best way to figure out a strumming pattern for a song is to listen to it over and over again and try to count along. Then, try to come up with a strumming pattern fits within this count, much like I demonstrated in the video above. I go into a lot of depth and detail about an approach for strumming in my Ukulele Strumming Tricks video lesson course.
thanx bret.it’s really help.thanx a million.easy 2 learn
Love how easy you make this!! I have a goal of learning a few songs on my uke for the next family gathering, and I just think I may be able to do this!!
You can do it! 🙂
Do you have a suggestion as to what Strumming patterns I should use when playing the Beatles”Let it Be” and “Something”. Also Van Morrisons “Brown-Eyed Girl”? Thanks
Hey Bob, with every song, I recommend starting with just down strums at first. Just do down strums and play through the song thinking about being as consistent and steady as possible, and as you get comfortable, you’ll find places to add up strums and vary the strumming pattern a little bit. There are so many different strumming patterns that can work with different songs. That’s why it’s good to start simple with down strums and build from there.
Awesome video! It really helped a lot!
But I having trouble keeping each strum consistent. Each time a new string will sound louder than the others, and its just really uneven. Maybe it’s the way I’m strumming, I have trouble with that too, but I just have difficulty keeping it sound consistent. What should I do? ):
Hey Maria, consistency will continue to come with time and practice. If you want to work on the consistency of your tone, try setting a metronome at a slow tempo (60 to 70 bpm) and just work on your down strums. Then, once you spend some time with that, work on your up strums. Think about getting your strums as consistent as possible. Working on it slow can help you build up speed.
But again, these sorts of things take time, so keep putting in the practice, and you’ll be sure to see improvement. 🙂
Hi Brett, I am just starting on this uke trip and I have a question about the actual strum. On the down strum I assume that you are using the outside of your thumb. I am having trouble on the up strum. What part of the thumb is used for the up strum? On the up strum are you strumming all strings or just the “A” string? Does the thumb nail play any part in the up stroke?
Hi Geoffrey, on my down strums, I’m using the nail side of my index, middle, and ring fingers. On up strums, I’m using the side and partly the nail side of my thumb. As a rule of thumb (no pun intended), I try to strum through all the strings.
I just got my uke and am absulutly terrible! You have helped me a little on your videos!!! thanks a bunch!!!
So I got this ukelele yesterday and it was $29 and I’m starting to worry because it sounds more like a minny guitar and not a ukelele and I’m concerned and even on the ukelele it said that its one. Any help with this I’ve tryed everything
Hi Bea, what is the problem you’re having? Is it not staying in tune?
Great video, thanks! (ditch the loud background music though 🙂
Noted! Sorry about that 🙂
Is it okay if I use a pick to strum my uke? I’m not sure if it’s safe for my strings.
Hey Zacky, I wouldn’t recommend using a guitar pick to strum your ukulele. It might be awkward to use your fingers at first, but you’ll find in the long run that you’ll be able to get a more diverse and pleasing tone with your fingers. Picks tend to produce a harsh sound against the strings.
i made my own song you are my inspiration thank you so much
Thanks Brett, great pointers! I had some chords down pat but now I have the strumming right it sounds so much better. I felt very uncoordinated before but your tips really helped – thanks!
Hey Brett, I also play the fiddle, and I was wondering if playing the ukulele would get in the way of playing my fiddle, because I am truly passionate about both instruments.
Hey Chuck, one can never play too many instruments. I find that playing more than one instrument can actually help me understand the others better. Go for it!
Hi Brett, So I got my first ukele today, and I know the C, F G, and Am notes, but I’m just having trouble on how to strum the uke and get a good sound, also any beginner songs with those notes? Thanks!
Hey Brett, I parchased my First ukelele today and have been on to many sites, and yours is by far the best for beginners. Thank you so much!
looove your videos, its really easy to understand, thanks Bret 🙂
Hey Brett! I was wondering what the strumming pattern would be for a song like Therapy by All Time Low? I’ve been looking everywhere trying to find something but it’s been unsuccessful….
Hi, I’m getting okay-ish with the strumming patterns, but whenever I do the up strums, it never seems to sound right. I’ve tried using a leather plectrum but it just seems much harder…
I mean as in I like to use my hands to strum, but when I do the upwards strumming, it doesn’t sound right and it’s quite hard to explain how I seem to be doing it, but it’s kinda like as if I’m stroking the strings, like I would an animal but a bit faster? Honestly I probably sounds weird now but I hope you get what I mean?
Any tips on how to upwards strum properly?
Been playing the uke for a month now – I love it! Just want to thankyou very much for your instructive and great teaching.
Much appreciation for all your instruction. I am having fun! 🙂
Oh i have a question: Is there any reason, when you are doing the up strum, you cant use your thumb?
Hi Lani, I sometimes like to use the side or nail-side of my thumb for up strums. However, when I do so, I’m combining the nail-side of my index finger for the down strums. If you are going to use your thumb, I’d recommend using a combination with other fingers.
Great website, I am learning a lot. One thing I don’t get though is how long to strum i.e. how many times. For example in the free firs lesson book Twinkle Twinkle Little Star says how many times to strum, but in I’ve Been Working on the Railroad it just has what chord to play. It’s like this in all the music I’ve seen. Help!
This is one of the trickiest parts to first learning how to play the ukulele (especially strumming). For your encouragement, it does get easier with time.
The thing with songs that it’s important to find the beat or count of a song. When you listen to a song, always tap your toe or try counting along to the beat of the song. Most songs are counted in four (like “I’ve Been Working On the Railroad”). When you find the beat of a song, just play down strums along with the chords.
Most of the time, the chords of a song are played for one or two measures. In “I’ve Been Working On the Railroad”, for the most part, chords change every measure. That means each chord gets four down strums if you are counting in a beat of four beats per measure.
For more in-depth learning and teaching from me on finding the right strumming pattern for a song, I invite you to join my in my Ukulele Strumming Tricks video lesson course: http://www.ukuleletricks.com/ukulele-strumming-tricks/
Going from a C to an Em is tough for me. I am using my daughters Soprano. Would it help me to go to a bigger Ukelele? An Alto?
Hi Mike, if you find that your fingers are too big and are getting cramped, a tenor ukulele might be worth looking at.
I only have one question (sorry you have already answered it because i didn’t read all the comments).Do you need nails to play the chords ?
For the fingering ?
Hi Katia, I like to use the nail-side of my fingers for down strums. For the fingering, I find that too long of nails can make it harder to position my fingers for the chords.
Do you have a simpler version of the F cord on the baritone
I love your lessons.
Pythagoras is right! It is all in the number patterns!!! You are a great teacher, Brett (from one to another). I am so pleased that I stumbled on to your website. Keep strumming!
Many thanks for your free lessons. I’ve just started with an Ohama SK10-S uke which I hope will be ok for me to learn on. I had to have my left ring finger amputated some years ago so although I’m naturally right handed I have to fret with my right hand as I don’t have enough fingers to fret normally! The uke has been restrung so the only chore is transposing chord diagrams to a mirror image. It seems to be working though, but chord changing is still very slow. No doubt the only remedy is practice. I shall persevere! Is there any chance of your lessons becoming available as DVDs? Broadband is pretty slow where I live and even Utube clips are fragmented. Best wishes, Robert.
As always, thank you so much for the lessons! I have had my ukulele for a week, and I’m coming well with it. That being said, I am having problems with my strumming. I have a background in guitar, so I’m learning the chords very well, but my right hand strumming is insufferable. When I strum hard enough to hit all the strings, my fingers get caught in the strings. When I try to lighten up a little bit, hardly any sound comes out of the instrument. I’m willing to work hard on this even if it’s a little boring, but I don’t want to get better at doing it the wrong way. Any suggestions? Thanks. ~Bill.
Hi Bill, it sounds like you’re instincts are correct on this. If you’re fingers are getting caught in the strings, think about relaxing and strumming a little lighter. You want to imagine your fingers just grazing over the tops of the strings. It takes just a little contact to make sound. In addition, aim to strum the strings over the 12th fret versus the sound hole. This part of the ukulele is a little easier to strum. In addition, for your down strums, I recommend using the nail-side of your index finger, and the flesh-side of your index finger for up strums. Keep it loose and relaxed!
I will try those things. Thanks for the tips Brett!
Hi Brett, I’ve been working on my right-hand strumming using the techniques you gave me, and I just wanted to tell you it’s working! My strumming is starting to sound better. Thank you! I’m going to subscribe to your video lessons soon so I can improve in other areas. You are a great teacher!!
Fantastic, Bill! I’m glad to hear about your success. It’d be great to have you in the course. You’ll be sure to continue to improve your skills.
Very helpful! Thanks!
I just wanted to congratulate you on having 6,000 students. What a milestone!!
Thanks, Bill! It’s an exciting milestone indeed. It makes me happy to see so many people learning to play the ukulele.