Ukulele Strumming Patterns

Ukulele Strumming Patterns

We all know the cheerful, beachy strum of a ukulele. But if you're a new uke player (or if you just want to mix up your style a bit), it can be tough to come up with new strumming patterns. In this list, we've gathered some ukulele strumming patterns that work for just about any genre.

Ukulele Strumming Patterns You Can Try Today

Before we begin, it's important to note that you can strum a uke either with the index finger of your strumming hand or with a pick.

If you're using your finger, hit the string with your fingernail on the way down and the pad of your finger on the way down. If you're using a pick, be sure that your strumming hand is held in a loose fist and that your wrist is still flexible.

1. Strumming Pattern 1: D-D-U

Our strumming pattern 1 is a classic: down/down/up, meaning you play a down strum, a down strum, and then an up strum, with the up strum on the third beat. If you've read uke tabs, you already know that the pattern would be abbreviated to D-D-U in tablature.

This pattern is a great one to use if you're playing music with a 3/4 time signature. Each of the three beats lines up with a strum.

It's worth noting that it might take a bit of time to get accustomed to this pattern, especially if you're a new ukulele player. If a song's chords change regularly and/or it has a very fast tempo, lining up your strums with the beats can be difficult.

It may help to get a click track or set a metronome that mimics the beat of the song. That way, you can focus on each beat without the distraction of the rest of the song. Once you've mastered playing along with this version, you can go back to strumming along with the song. 

As you practice strumming the D-D-U pattern, it doesn't hurt to check your strumming technique. This video offers a helpful beginner tutorial on how to strum properly.

2. Strumming Pattern 2: The Island Strum

Any article on uke basics is almost certain to include the island strum. You've almost certainly heard it before; it's down/down/up/up/down/up or D-D-U U-D-U.

The most common time signature used with it is 4/4, so it makes sense that the island strum makes an appearance in so many ukulele songs. This video (below left) both shows you how to play it and lets you hear it for yourself.

Though there are all kinds of different strumming patterns for the ukulele, this is one of the most commonly seen ones. But for beginners, it can be a bit of a challenge. Much of that challenge is due to the fact that there's a very slight pause between the two up strums in the middle of the strumming patterns. This is something you get a feel for over time; listen and play along with lessons and songs that use the island strum (video below right), and it will become second nature in time.

The good news is that once you've mastered the pattern, there will be many songs you won't have to learn a new strumming pattern for.

If you've only recently mastered the art of holding a consistent strumming rhythm, trying out new strumming patterns on the ukulele may bring out a few mistakes. For instance, if you choose to strum with your index finger, make sure your nail doesn't snag in the strings on the way up. Accidentally skipping strings is another beginner mistake; make sure you're hitting all the strings both on the way up and all the way down!

3. Strumming Pattern 3: The Reggae Strum

If you play guitar or are otherwise familiar with reggae, you know that this pattern is a lot different from the rest. That's because reggae uke players strum down on the off beats of a song. This pattern gives reggae music its classic rhythm and feel. And since guitars or ukuleles play on off beats, you can very clearly hear both the bass and the rhythm section -- it's that relationship that creates the strong beat reggae is known for.

As you may already know, reggae strumming incorporates all down strums, but you don't play these like regular strums. As this video tutorial shows you, this pattern uses staccato strumming. To do the reggae strum, you strum quickly downward. Almost immediately, take a finger of your fretting hand and lay it across the strings.

 That mutes them, keeping the chord very short.

Like a lot of strumming patterns, this is one that you can effectively internalize after some listening and practice. Once you've learned it, you'll have a valuable tool in your rhythm arsenal. If you're feeling adventurous, you might even try playing some of your favorite songs in other genres as reggae songs!

4. Strumming Pattern 4: D D-U-D-U-D-U

You probably don't associate ukuleles with punk music. But if you want to get into some punky stuff, this is the pattern to use! The pause between the two first down strums indicates a slight pause. So you strum down, followed by a more rapid-fire down/up/down/up/down/up.

Of course, it's always easier to hear a given ukulele strumming pattern as opposed to just seeing it written.

This video tutorial takes you through a version of it. It's slowed down enough that you can really get a feel for the rhythm.

On this pattern and others, you might start looking for embellishments you can add as you play. One of these is palm muting, where you briefly mute the strings. You can also use this to create what many people call a "chuck strum." This quick guide can help you start palm muting if you haven't already.

Palm-muting and other techniques can be added to songs to make them feel like your own. When you're first using palm muting, try it out on a song you're very familiar with. You might not think the song sounds great using this technique, but it helps develop your ear so you can get a feel for when palm muting is an improvement (and when it's not).

5. Strumming Pattern 5: D-U X U

You might not recognize the "x" here. It stands for a muted strum. That's where all strings are muted, so they have a "chuck" sound that is a bit like percussion. This video elaborates on the "chuck strum" mentioned above. It's part of this rhythm pattern, but you can sprinkle it into other strumming patterns if you want to add some really distinctive flavor to your playing.

This is a half bar pattern like the very first strumming pattern on our list. As the name suggests, these patterns take up half a bar of music. They are usually used in songs with frequent chord changes. Usually, as a chord change, the half-bar pattern restarts again.

If you're starting to get more confident as a uke player and want a challenge, try this pattern (complete with chuck strum) on a fast song. You'll get to practice two skills that often give beginners grief.

Ready to Take Your Playing to the Next Level?

Being able to really hold a rhythm on a ukulele is an important skill to have. But if you've done the basics and aren't really sure what to learn next, online ukulele lessons are a great choice. If you're from a guitar background, you may already be familiar with online learning. These courses give you a structured lesson program, but you can also take individual lessons on techniques, songs, and more. It's a great way to learn on your own time!

Final Thoughts

We hope that you can use at least some of the above ukulele strumming patterns to revitalize your music. And of course, don't be afraid to create your own strumming patterns.

What do you think? Are there any other interesting strumming patterns you frequently use? Let us know in the comments, and please don't forget to like and share if you found it helpful!

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