how to strum a ukulele

Video: How to Strum a Ukulele for Beginners

how to strum a ukulele

In order to play any stringed instrument (like a ukulele), you have to learn how to strum! Not quite sure which technique to use? In this article and video, Winston Salem, NC teacher Willy M. shows you how to strum a ukulele… 

Today we’re going to take a closer look at how to strum a ukulele. I have also included a video to show you the proper technique. Before we get into strumming specifics, let’s review how to hold a ukulele and how to tune a ukulele.


How to Tune a Ukulele

how to strum a ukulele

Even if your strumming technique is perfect, you’re not going to get the sound you want if your ukulele is out of tune, so it’s important to learn how to tune a ukulele. Standard tuning is the most common way to tune a ukulele, and the tuning you should learn as a beginner. When you tune your ukulele in standard tuning, you tune your strings to G, C, E, and A.

In the video, I show you how to tune your ukulele with a chromatic tuner. Chromatic tuners usually have three lights, or a series of lights, red on both sides, and green in the middle. These types of tuners are better than the ones that only have one light.

Many beginning musicians think that all tuners are the same, but some of them are slightly out of caliber. So if you use one tuner and your friend uses another, you might be slightly out of tune with each other. In order to perform with other people, use the same tuner. It will save you some headaches in the long run.

Sometimes, it helps to start in the middle and tune out toward the outside of your ukulele. Instead of just tuning G C E A, you might want to start with C and E, and then tune the G and A, it can make tuning easier if your uke is pretty far out of tune.

You can purchase a tuner at a music store or you can download a tuning app for your smartphone.

If you don’t have a chromatic tuner, you can still tune to a keyboard, a pitch pipe, a harmonica, or even tune the ukulele to itself. If you don’t have a chromatic tuner, here’s how to tune a ukulele using these other methods.

One thing to keep in mind as you tune your ukulele: nylon strings often stretch, and the wood expands and contracts depending on humidity. So if your uke goes out of tune, simply keep working at tuning it until it settles in.

Sometimes, it can take a while to fine-tune your ukulele, but keep at it. The more you practice, the better you will be at tuning your ukulele.


How to Hold a Ukulele

There’s nothing very special about holding the ukulele; the key is to make sure you’re comfortable. You don’t want to strain your wrist or cause any undue tension. If you get in the habit of playing with tension, it can cause all sorts of medical problems, in the long run; so try to stay relaxed.

Cradle the body of your ukulele with your picking hand, and hold the neck gently with your fretting hand. Your elbow should be at a 90-degree angle, more or less, and your wrist should be relatively straight.


how to strum a ukulele

How to hold a ukulele

How to Strum a Ukulele

How to Strum a Ukulele With Fingers

There are several different ukulele strumming patterns that you can try, but essentially, there are up strums and down strums. When you’re just learning to play, the easiest way to strum your ukulele is to simply strum up and down with your fingers.

You can use your fingernails or the pads of your fingers to strum the ukulele strings. See which method feels more comfortable, and which one produces the best sound. In the video, you will learn about the different sounds you get from using your fingernails, the pads of your fingers, and your thumb.

The basic up-down strum can be done rhythmically with the beat of the music to produce just about any strumming effect you can imagine. You can strum fast or slow, depending on the rhythm of the song, and this simple pattern gives you time to change chords with the changes in the song. It may not seem glamorous, but the up-down strum works wonders.

How to Strum a Ukulele With a Pick

You can also strum a ukulele with a flat pick. You can do the up-down strum with any type of pick, from a regular guitar pick to a felt ukulele pick.

When you hold the pick in your hand, hold it firmly, but not so tight that it gives you tension or pain in your hand. Hold your pick between your thumb and first finger. When you use a pick, you can pick one string at a time, or you can strum up and down.

When you strum a ukulele with a pick, you don’t have to worry about what to do with all of your fingers, you can simply strum up and down.


How to Strum a Ukulele

Follow along with this video to learn how to strum a ukulele.


Now you know some simple tricks to get started playing your ukulele. I hope you enjoyed the video, and if you want to learn more about alternate tunings, you can check out some of my other videos. Until next time, keep on practicing!

Which ukulele strumming method do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below! 


Willy MPost Author: Willy M.
Willy M. teaches guitar, ukulele, and mandolin lessons in Winston Salem, NC. He’s the author of the Dead Man’s Tuning series of mandolin songbooks, and is a former member of the American Federation of Musicians. Willy has been teaching for 20 years, and his students have ranged in age from young children to folks in their 80s. Learn more about Willy here!

Image courtesy Debby

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