Ukulele beginners tips - advanced strumming technique

12 Feb 2011

Ukulele beginners tips - advanced strumming technique

As you will have read on this site, I do encourage new ukulele players to try not to be swayed by fancy strums, and concentrate on mastering a simple strum and getting rhythm right.  That said though, to spruce up your ukulele playing, you may want to consider adding some frills to your playing.

I list below some basic guides to some other strum techniques that you might want to have a go at.  There are no hard and fast rules - try to develop your own style!

Firstly, before we get into the advanced ideas, if you are an absolute beginner, your strum may will simply consist of (in a 4/4 time song) Down - Down - Down - Down - and you probably think it sounds a little dull.  You may have moved on to a Down-Up, Down-Up, Down-Up, Down-Up, which adds a bit more life, but can sound rather like an Oom-Pah band!!  So before you move on to investigate the tricks below, try some more work on your strum patterns.  Mix it up a little, and try new things out

How about - Down, Down-Up, Down, Down-Up - (this is very simple and creates a kind of country music style)?  As I say, there are no rules!

Also, have a look at my beginners guide on READING UKULELE TABS and try your hand on vibratos, slides, hammer ons and pull offs! (easier than they sound)


This fancy name is the term given to the very simple technique of plucking the individual notes of a chord instead of strumming them. Try to replace the odd strum with a quick finger pick of the individual strings one after the other. This can be done in the simplest way by simply picking the strings in order from top to bottom or bottom to top, but you can add more flavour to your sound by picking the strings out of order - try some different patterns, but always picking all the strings, and keeping your picking pattern in time with the music (as a direct replacement to the strum)


This is a nice ukulele technique (also known as Chucking) which punctuates your strumming rhythm with a staccato muting of the strings - very effective to get a chugging rhythm going, and super effective in reggae or ska music. It gets its name from the chunk chunka chunk chunka sound it creates.

Very simple to do, but its more tricky to master into a steady rhythm so will require practice.

To chunk on your ukulele, the immediate split second after your strum, mute the strings with the fleshy underside of your hand (I tend to use the fat part of the base of my thumb). This immediately kills and deadens the chord notes you have just played. Try muting first on every strum to get a feel for it, but you will create more of a grooving rhythm if you alternate your mutes to every other strum, or more occasionally than that.


This is the action of muting all the strings with your fretting hand (by lightly holding your fingers across them), and strumming the ukulele as normal. This just creates a clicking percussive sound which you can use in certain points in a song to create a beat. No notes are sounded, just the sound of your nails on the strings. Very effective in certain songs, and sounds great when you then immediately move into a chord and the music comes back to life!


This is a fancy strum technique made famous by George Formby. It's quite easy to describe, but rather more difficult to master!

The simple technique is to strum a chord down wards, then, still holding the chord shape, immediately pluck the A then the G string before your next strum. The key is to use the plucks in time with the beat of your strumming. When done very quickly, this is often called "The Shake".


The fan stroke has it's roots in Spanish flamenco guitar playing, and adds a real zing to your strumming. Rather than just strumming the string downwards with your index finger, the fan stroke uses ALL of your fingers, rather like you were dragging a comb down across the strings - with each finger catching each of the strings in succession.

For all of the above, youtube is a superb tutor aid, and you will find countless videos showing these techniques now that you know what they are. As I say though, DO try to find your OWN style, and keep in mind that there is no real right or wrong way to strum. Do try to liven up your playing though, and work with differing beats to your strumming to add a bit of flavour to your sound.  Try adding a plucked note hear and there, or hammering on and off of a single finger in a chord as you strum to bring a bit more life to it.  Experiment!!

Good luck!


  1. Thank you for this very informative and helpful post. These tips will certainly guide beginners to achieve their goal of being able to play another incredible musical instrument which is the ukulele. I hope that you keep on posting materials like this because this is definitely beneficial to aspiring musicians.


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