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How to Play Cool Strumming Patterns on the Ukulele


I find that the 1 thing my Uke students struggle with the most at first - is the thing helps them the most in the long run. Here’s what it is:

Move your hand for a down strum every beat - even if you’re not actually playing.

That sounds confusing. Let’s back up.

Ukulele strumming patterns are made from various combinations of down and up strums. Right now, pause. Turn to someone around you, or to an imaginary person, and play a few games of rock paper scissors. Make sure your wrist is nice and loose for your “rock - paper - scissors - says - shoot.”

I mean it. Go.

That’s the motion that you want your wrist to constantly make while strumming the ukulele. No matter your strumming pattern, you’re keeping four steady beats with your wrist/hand. If you do play an up, it happens quickly on the up-beat in-between your downs.

As you strum down, use the nail of your pointer finger. You will want to strum over the bottom of the fretboard and NOT over the sound hole. Occasionally you will strum on the way back up too. On an up strum, you’ll be using the padded/skin part of your pointer finger instead.

Is strumming with your pointer finger uncomfortable? Check out our short post for some quick strumming fixes.

Once you can play some nice steady 4 (or 2 or 3, depending on your song) beat down strums , you’ll want to play some more interesting patterns. Ukulele strumming patterns can be confusing because they don’t usually show you the rhythm/rests, so you’ll have to figure out what’s happening in each of the beats. Usually you’ll just get the letters U and D for up and down, or actual up and down arrows.


Or:                                     D    D      D U   D

only without those helpful numbers keeping track of the beat for you.

But be careful, if there’s a rest, you’ll have to spot it yourself. Remember what I said in the beginning- your hand does the motion for every down beat, if there’s a rest, you still move your hand down, just do it above the strings without hitting them.

For example, this: 

Just looks like this              

Or:                                          D    D         U D

It may feel awkward to play a fake down during that rest, but after some practice you’ll see that it’ll help you to keep the beat. Plus, you can’t play an up if you didn’t bring your hand down first. Practice those patterns on repeat on an easy chord like C (need help learning chords? Check out this helpful post *insert link*) or change chords every time you repeat the pattern.

Before you go, here’s some popular Ukulele patterns. Happy Strumming!



















About the Author

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Jessica Wiese

Jessica Wiese is a co-founder of! She founded VirtuLessons after moving from NY to PA because she did not want to stop teaching her students in NY. With much research in online learning, curriculum, and design, Virtulessons was born and now connects teachers and students from all over the world in an interactive eClassroom! She has also taught in public, charter, restorative, and independent schools. She received her Bachelor of Music from Long Island... Read More

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