How to Strum a Ukulele

by Rodrigo Sanchez, Jan 10, 2022 . 4 min read

How to Strum a Ukulele

Today we’re going to talk about how to strum a ukulele. Despite the fact that most of the attention is placed on chords, strumming is just as important for a good ukulele sound, especially for beginners.

As a matter of fact, strumming is where “the magic happens” as they say. In the simplest of terms, you’re going to be using your dominant hand to strum the ukulele. It is also the dominant arm that’s responsible for securing and stabilizing the instrument while you play it. This is done by pressing it gently against your body while playing. For a great tool to help with your ukulele playing, check out our Roadie Coach. It offers personalized feedback and exercises to help you improve, several resources, and a recording feature. Without further ado, here is how to strum a ukulele. 

With your fingers

This is the most popular way to strum a uke. It offers warmth provided by the unique sound of flesh combined with a bit of nail. For downstrums, point your knuckles away from the uke, curl your fingers in toward the instrument, trying to maintain a natural stance. Use your index fingernail to strum down. 

For upstrums, use the fleshy pad of your index finger for a warm sound. If you want something a bit crispier, try using your thumbnail. 

The trick here is to make the downstrums and upstrums feel like part of a unity and make them as cohesive as possible. 

With a pick

Strumming the uke with a pick provides more attack and sharper sound. This is because the plastic (sometimes nylon) used in picks is solid and creates more volume when hitting the strings. There are many types and gauges of picks so you might want to try with a few different ones to see what you prefer. You can start out with a .071 mm pick as it will provide a good balance of attack and flexibility. 

Hold the pick on your dominant hand between the fleshy part of your thumb and the side of your index finger. An advantage of playing with a pick is that it may be more comfortable for guitarists trying to pick up a uke. A good piece of advice is to try with a pick and with hand picking in order to see what you prefer. 

Still, struggling? Check out this video by Elise Ecklund:

 

Muting strings

A common technique on the uke is to mute the strings occasionally. This provides more variety to your picking style, whether you use hand or pick. To mute, place the fleshy side of your dominant hand on top of the bridge of the uke and press gently. To mute more, move it close to the soundhole, and for less, move it closer to the bridge. 

Here’s another video to help you visualize it:

Learning songs

The best way to practice strumming on a ukulele is to apply it to songs. This gives you context and makes learning a lot of fun. Try to start out with songs that feature easy chords so you can focus on the strumming. Make sure you begin slowly and don’t try to rush before you have a decent grasp on the strumming pattern at hand. 

Learning how to strum a ukulele is a big part of playing the instrument. With time and practice, your strumming technique will get better, so have some patience and stick with it. In the meantime, remember to practice every day and have fun!



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