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How to strum a ukuelele correctly?

Where on the ukulele is the best position to strum? Where is the best place to strum a ukulele? What is the best finger to strum a ukulele? How to strum up on a ukulele? How do you strum a ukulele for beginners? How many ways are there to strum a ukulele? How do you strum a ukulele smoothly?

There is no wrong or right way to strum your ukulele. As long as you are comfortable and it sounds good, then you do it right. If you are not sure, use your index. Here are different ways for you to try.

When I had my first ukulele in my hands, years ago, I absolutely had no clue how to strum.

With the whole hand? Then, how to position my hand?

With one finger? If so, with which one? With my thumb? My index?

Or even with a pick/plectrum (you know, the little plastic triangle used to pluck or strum guitar).

Or should you play ukulele with your teeth (Jimmy Hendrix style)?

Strumming for beginner

Should I use my hand to strum my ukulele? My finger? My index?

The first answer I give to my students who've already grabbed a ukulele by themselves is: there is no wrong answer. Feel free to play it however you feel, as long as you like it and you like the sound of it.

For the ones that are starting from scratch, for total beginners, the best way is to use your the index. Not the hand, not the thumb and the index - just the index finger.

Start from that. Practice strumming. Try some simple exercises. Be used to the feeling.

Of course, feel free to explore new ways. After all, playing music is a constant exploration!

You explore the sound, you explore the rhythm, but you also explore the body of the ukulele, its many sounds and ways to play.

We will see the the different ways to strum your ukulele, but first, here are 3 essential tips to strum your ukulele.

3 essential tips to strum your ukulele

How to strum better on a ukulele?
Here are 3 tips that will get you started with ukulele from the get go. Strum well. Strum relax.

Relax

Take a deep breath. You are here to have a good time. To think about something else. To evade to a new World.

Take another deep breath. Expire slowly.

Now let your right hand loose. Shake it a bit to relax the muscles.

Hold your ukulele correctly.

Put your finger in position.

Now you can try to strum with your relaxed right hand.

Practice without pressing any strings with your left hand first: no need to play a specific chord. Focus on your right hand.

You are playing the chord Am7 anyway (it's the chord you play when you aren't pressing any string with your right hand's finger)

Focus on regularity and music volume. Try to keep the same tempo (the same speed).


To improve your strumming technics, book your free lesson today .

Where on the string should I strum?

Where should you hit the string? Where is the best place to strum a ukulele?
Anywhere between the fret and the bridge. Above the sound hole is a great place to hit the strings when strumming a ukulele or fingerpicking.

Strumming above the hole is where it will produce the best, clearest, loudest sound.

Feel free to experiment the sound of the various places you can hit the string.

For instance, if you play a little bit upward, a little out of the sound hole space, the sound may be a little bit quieter.

But if you play more toward the bridge, the sound will feel a little bit more metallic.

With which part of my finger should I hit the string?

You should hit the string with the side of your finger. Not the nail, and not the part opposite of the nail but with the side of it.

Practice until you feel happy and relax about that.

5 different ways to strum for beginners

The index

Strumming with the index is what I would advise to start with on a ukulele. It's easy.

Hold your ukulele correctly.

Place your finger just above the body, in front of the hole.

Then go through the strings, touching them in one go.

Practice slowly first. Then increase the speed when you feel comfortable.

Practice for a while to get better at it.

Bravo. You've made it.

The whole hand

The second best way to strum your ukulele is to use your whole hand. It may produce a higher volume, but it's what's more versatile. It's how I strum my ukuleles nowadays.

It's more versatile because you can learn a few more advanced strumming technics from there.

The thumb

Strumming with your thumb will give a slightly different sound going up than going down (if you are not sure what it means check out below What does D and U mean in strumming?).

The volume will be different.

The middle finger

If you are used to strum with your index, but for one reason or another you can't use your index (is it bruised?), then you can easily switch to using the middle finger.

The joined fingers - index and middle finger

I've started playing my first ukulele using joined fingers. I should've started with the index instead, but this fit me at the time, and that fit the way I wanted to play and sound.

It's slightly harder than the other methods, as sometime a finger could get "blocked" by a string, but it does the work nevertheless.

What does D and U mean in strumming?

U and D means "Up" and "Down". For guitars or ukulele, it means that the right hand strums up (U). And the right hand strums down (D).
The up and down movements come from your wrist, not from the whole arm.

The up and down movement come from your wrist. More from the wrist than from your arm. It's the opposite of guitar, where the movement of the strums come from the whole arm - especially in some genres like 2000's pop punk with Sum 41 and Blink 182 where the use their WHOLE arm for the strumming movement.

Practice strumming: simple exercises

Even if you've some experience in strumming, it's great to go back to the basics and make sure to have a sound as clear as possible.

Like any practice, start it slow. Really slow. And once you feel good and confident, increase your speed just a bit.

Like any practice, start it slow. Really slow. And once you feel good and confident, increase your speed.

Repeat.

I'd advice to first do up and down pattern. Try to have even sound between the ups and the downs. And even rhythm. Practice with open strings (meaning that you don't touch the strings with your left hand).

Do you like the sound? Were there any sound glitches?

If the sound is not clean and even, feel free to practice until you are happy about that.

It make take multiple sessions ; don't worry it'll come.

Once you're happy about that, do exactly the same movement, up and down and up and down, but don't hit the strings when you go up. So you just hit on down movements. We'll refer to this pattern as "Down and Down and" pattern.

And third exercise: again, do up and down, but don't hit the strings when you go down. We'll refer to it as "and up and up" pattern.

You should master these three exercises before going further.

Pay attention to get keep the same rhythm, and keep a good sound quality, a sound that you like.

Play around, try to increase the volume to make it louder.

Try to make to decrease the volume to make it quieter.

How does it sound? Great? How do you feel about it?

The more you practice and fiddle around, the better you will get.

Practice strumming: some more strumming patterns

This is a whole article by itself, it will be written soon.

Nail it!

What a witch, right?

The most important thing about nail is to cut your left hand's regularly.

Left hand's nails

It's easier to play the ukulele if you have short nails for the right hand. It's easier to press the strings. If you let them grow, not being able to press the strings correctly can result in a "buzz" sound from the string - and you don't want that. You want the best sounding notes.

In addition to that, it could be harder for you to play some of the chords.

Right hand's nails

I personnaly recommand to let the right hand's nails grow about 2 or 3 millimeters (0.08 inch / 0.1 inch). Mine tend to break if longer, and it'd be not that useful to have longer.

That way, you can play louder if needed. Plus it's easier to play fingerpicking style.

However, you don't have to, you can play with short nails if you prefer.

Should I play ukulele with the flesh of my right hand or the nail of my right hand?

You can indeed play with the flesh of your right hand, without using the nail, even for fingerpicking.

With or without a pick/plectrum?

Playing your ukulele with your fingers or hand is much more versatile than using a pick. You can switch very easily between strumming and finger picking. You can apply nuances (playing loud - forte, or playing quitely - piano) much more easily.

On the other hand (pun intended), using a plectrum will make your sound louder. In some music, it is more common. For instance, the use of a pick for Tahitian ukulele music is more common. These ukuleles don't have a sound box. All strings are doubled, much like the mandolin.

How to strum if I am left handed?

In this article and on this site, we refer to the right hand as the strumming hand.

Generally, left handed people take the ukulele the other way round than right handed. They inverse all the strings (take the last string and put it first, and take the second last string and put it second first).

If you are left handed and strum with the other hand, it will sound great too! You just have to read all this article and replace "right hand" by "left hand":) However, I've meet some left handed players who play as if they were right handed - strum with the right hand.

In any case, right or left handed, it would feel much like a fun challenge to try and practice the other way around that you are used to. Just give it a try.

Conclusion

Mastering strumming is a never ending journey. But you can start in a great way by practicing with your index.

And you?

  • How do you feel about your strumming ability?
  • How do you feel like strumming? Whole hand or just with one finger? The index or the thumb?

In which team are you?

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