Staump Music School Logo

Ukulele Strumming Secrets: Techniques to Elevate Your Play

From One Republic’s Counting Stars to Taylor Swift’s Love Story, plenty of popular and widely loved songs are tailor-made for ukulele players. This should come as no surprise because of the rich history ukuleles have in music. Since 1879, this interesting and unique instrument has been popular among players across the world.

Ukulele Strumming Techniques

If your child wants to learn the ukulele, guitar, or a similar string instrument, they’ll need to understand strumming techniques. Read on to learn how beginning players can understand the ins and outs of ukulele strumming patterns with ukulele lessons in San Diego.

Ukulele Strumming Basics

You likely usually see people strumming the ukulele with their right hand. This is simply because most people are right-handed. Anyone can play the ukulele with their dominant hand, so make sure that you choose the right musical instrument for your child’s comfort.

To begin strumming, the learner should be empty-handed. They need to set the ukulele down. Then, they should put their hand into the middle of their body between the stomach and chest.

After making the hand into a light fist, the player should point at their left shoulder (assuming that they’re a right-handed player.) Then, they’ll rest their thumb on the finger between the first and second knuckle.

Ukulele Strumming Basics

Strumming happens with the thumb, but the index finger plays a key role in stability. It keeps your thumb still so that the sound comes out cleaner.

If your young learner chooses to strum with their right hand, the left hand will be the “fretting” hand. The fingers hit parts of the fretboards that correspond to different unique sounds. Each sound is a different note on sheet music.

In any case, to strum the ukulele, the beginner will put the index finger right above the g-string. It should go right where the ukulele’s neck meets its body on the fretboard. This is the spot that gives the fullest-bodied sound when strumming in any rhythmic pattern.

Thumbs and Fingers: How Do You Strum?

“Strum with the thumb” is good advice for beginners. “Index finger for stability” is also a great mantra. But this doesn’t need to always be the case going forward.

In fact, it can become really limiting as the student attempts to master more complex pieces.

Simple downstrokes with the thumb get the job done for simple pieces. But the movement isn’t easy to expand on, and this limits what the player can do. Using the index finger (or other parts of the hand) to hit notes means that the player will have more options for what sounds they can make.

While your child will probably start with thumb strokes, a good music school can eventually help them learn smoother transitions. This will ensure that they can learn the advanced pieces they’re interested in and create unique, beautiful sounds.

Note that your beginning musician should begin strumming with their fingers until they get the hang of it. Picks can come in later, but it’s best to learn how to play in the simplest possible way. Ukulele and guitar picks are better used after all basic skills are second nature.

Simple Ukulele Strumming Patterns: The Downstrum

The most basic ukulele strumming pattern is called a “downstrum.” This is exactly as it sounds – the player runs the strumming finger across the strings in a downward motion.

Ukulele Strumming Patterns

One of the most important downstrum tips is to twist the wrist down before hitting the strings. This makes sure that the player strums at an angle. They won’t need to worry about getting their thumb or fingers stuck between the strings while playing.

Players who want a softer, gentler sound can also relax their strumming fingers a bit. This will help it bounce off the string to create a soulful sound.

Upstrum and Up-and-Down Movements

Of course, a ukulele player can’t only strum downwards. That would be a lot of work since they would need to lift their arm really quickly and strum in subsequently fast downward motions. Fast songs would be impossible to play, and even slow songs would make the player’s arm sore.

That’s where the upstrum comes in!

All your child will need to do is perform the downstrum motion in reverse. They’ll move the index finger back up in the exact direction it came from, strumming upward across the strings with the thumb.

Practicing this movement by itself is a great way to improve a child’s technique. It will also help them master the posture and hand positions needed to create a good sound.

However, the downstrum and the upstrum are meant to work together. The “down and up” motion is what lets players connect sounds and chords together comfortably. The movements are extremely natural and quick.

It’s important that the ukulele beginner remembers to change the wrist/index finger angle every time they strum over the strings. This might be hard at first, but it’s second nature once the player gets the hang of it.

Ukulele Strumming Pattern Combinations

Players don’t always need to combine upstrums and downstrums in up/down/up/down patterns. They can combine the movements in dozens of ways to create simple rhythms and songs.

An up/up/down/up pattern can make a unique sound, especially when the player leaves gaps between the chords to let them reverberate. An up/up/down/down pattern makes the music feel more complex, as does the opposite motion.

Trying various movements and inserting rests in different parts of a chord or song spices up playing a lot. Encourage your child to experiment with them even in songs they’re not sure they’ll fit in. They might find some fun surprises, and experimentation will teach them some great lessons along the way.

One of the best ways to help your child learn different ukulele strumming patterns is to encourage free practice. This means not pressuring your little one to do anything specific but instead to experiment with techniques they’re learning and studying. Letting them play freely means giving them the chance to experiment with different strokes and try new ukulele strumming patterns.

The Chunk Strum

The “chunk strum” is also called a “chop strum” or a “chuck strum.” Some people even call it a “mute!” These many names stem from the fact that this is one of the most popular ukulele strumming patterns for enthusiasts. 

Instead of strumming out a single chord and letting it ring through the room, the player strums once, moves their hand over the strings, and mutes them. The same hand performs both these actions. This all happens within one movement as the hand moves downward. 

The Chunk Strum

The effect is a popping or snapping sound in between the notes of a normal strum. This movement prioritizes rhythm and sounds a little like a snare drum. It’s a complexity that lots of people add to their playing when they want to make it a little more emotional and expressive.

Chunk strums do more than just move the rhythm along and emphasize it throughout the song. They also bring specific beats to light. This means that certain parts of the song can get more emphasis and magnify the listener’s interest in specific chop-strummed notes.

Ukulele Strumming and Songs

Mastering ukulele strumming takes time, but when you learn ukulele songs, that time flies. Find some great beginner’s songs that your child might enjoy and play them on Spotify or YouTube for them. See which ones resonate with them and get some sheet music.

This can greatly motivate them to play, as can looking for sheet music of some of their pre-existing favorite songs. After all, what little pop fan wouldn’t want to spend time mastering their favorite radio hits?

Note that the easiest ukulele songs will be in keys like C major or D major. This is because the chord progressions are simple to understand and practice. Make sure to choose something in easy chords when your child is just starting out – they’re more likely to feel accomplished and continue playing.

Learners can also get better at strumming music when they play original recordings or backing tracks as they practice. It helps to improve timing and rhythm. 

Unfortunately, learning good practice methods is challenging when you don’t have a music teacher.

Prioritize finding individual or group lessons that motivate your child to build and hone new musical skills. Find a ukulele teacher who understands your little one’s learning style and can help them understand music. This can help them develop a lasting love of music that can carry them through a lifetime.

Learn the Ukulele, Guitar, or Anything Else at Music School

The ukulele, guitar, and other strummed string instruments all can make a wide range of sounds in many genres. The ukulele is especially perfect for young musicians because of its easy basics and versatility. There are many genres to dip into on the ukulele, so it provides an expressive experience.

Now that you know the basics of this musical instrument, it’s time to begin helping your little one express themselves. Contact Staump Music School to choose the right option for your needs and get your first month of lessons free.