Everyone seems to know the unofficial international ukulele strum, D DU UDU, but there is so much more you can do with the right hand. 5 ukulele bloggers weigh-in on their favorite ‘go to’ strums . . .

Modified Clawhammer Strum

One of my favorite strums goes like this:

  1. Thumb plucks “c” string.
  2. Down strum all four strings.
  3. Index finger pluck “a” string.
  4. Thumb plucks “g” string.
  5. Down strum all four strings.

A variation of this pattern (and a song tutorial) can be found here:

~Daniel Hulbert of circuitsandstrings.wordpress.com

Daniel will be teaching at this years Utah Uke Fest.

SKA Patterns

This video will (hopefully) supply you the foundation you need to start jamming with some ska tunes.

Before I had a family and a real job, I spent my days touring with a couple different ska bands. For some reason this genre of music, with it’s happy upbeats and carefree attitude has always appealed to me and the style transfers quite well to the ukulele. I guess that it makes sense…the ukulele originates from a sunny island (Hawaii) and ska music comes from a similar, albeit different island (Jamaica).

This style of music is all about timing – your strumming hand and fretting hand really have to be in sync and know what each other is doing. Like riding a bicycle, it might be frustrating and seem impossible at first, but with enough patience it will eventually click.

~Miles Ramsay of UKEonomics.com

The ‘Easy’ Split Stroke

This video demonstrates a simplified version of the split stroke with the song, The Old Ark’s a Moverin’ that I teach in my Level 2 ukulele classes:

This ‘easier’ version of Split Stroke splits 2 ‘triplet strums’ and a down-up evenly across 4 beats to create a syncopated, driving foundation for singing. Here’s two ways to look at it:

  • Dt uD tu Du
  • Dtu Dtu Du

D = accented down strum with the index finger
t = strumming down with the fleshy part of the thumb
u = up strum with the fleshy part of the index finger

If you’re just getting started with split/syncopated rhythms, take it slowly at first and work your speed up little by little.

~M. Ryan Taylor of UkulelePlay.com

Bossa Nova Strumming



Tuning: G C E A ( high G ), Beat: 4/4, Tempo: 118 bpm

Strumming Pattern:

Bossa Nova

This is one way to play Bossa Nova style on your ukulele:

  • First learn the strumming pattern ( 2 bars long ).
  • In the beginning mute the strings with the left hand as shown in the the video.
  • Mind the change from downbeat ( downstroke ) to offbeat ( upstroke ). This is called Partido Alto and brings some Latin touch in the strumming.
  • Start with one chord and then add the others.
  • Mute the strings between the strokes with your left hand.

~FriendlyFred of uke4u.com

Vaudeville and Variety-Style Strumming

I tend to play jazz and pop from the first four decades of the 20th Century, music that calls for strums that provide the ability to create syncopated rhythmic combinations, including triplets, 16th notes and 32nd notes.

The four strums I use most often are known as the “fan stroke”, the “triple”, the “double-time”, and the “split stroke” – as George Formby called it – or “syncopated stroke” – as Roy Smeck referred to it. All four are used liberally in this video of the 1931 tune “Lady of Spain”, which has forever been associated with the accordion.

I play the verse and refrain through twice using a combination of fingerpicking and various strokes and rolls, including flamenco-style finger rolls in refrain at 0:15, 1:15 and 1:24.

Then, at 1:32, I pick up the pace and run through the refrain using two strokes primarily: the triple and the double-time.

Let’s start with the simplest: the double-time. This is just a “down-up” every beat. It’s useful for creating a double-time feel if you increase speed and play it “down-up – down-up” every beat.

Now, the triple. This is often mistakenly referred to as a “triplet” stroke. It is and it isn’t. The triple stroke is actually a quarter-note triplet followed by an additional quarter note downstroke – “da-da-da – daa”. This is achieved by doing a downstroke across all four strings with the index, followed by a downstroke with the thumb, followed by an upstroke with the index and thumb together, followed by a downstroke with the index and thumb together – “down-down-up – down”.

I use the fan stroke several times in this arrangement. At 1:56 and again at 3:11, I play the classic triplet fan stroke. Its made up of three strokes – a downstroke with the nails of the pinky and ring finger, followed by a downstroke with the pad of the thumb, followed by an upstroke with the nail of the thumb. The effect is a straightforward “da-da-da”. You can see that I break my wrist when I do it, moving my hand in a circular fashion. On the downstroke with the pinky and ring fingers, the hand fans out – hence the name of the stroke. This stroke can be immediately and infinitely repeated, with the effect of an almost infinite triplet.

Finally – there’s the split stroke – I play a version of the refrain based on the split stroke starting at 2:28. It was the hardest of the above strokes to learn and – unfortunately – it’s the hardest for me to explain. The basic stroke is accomplished with the thumb and forefinger held together as for a basic downstroke strum. The stroke is “down-up-Down, down-up–Down, down-up” and the rhythm is two eighth notes followed by two syncopated triplets. The name “split” comes from the fact that on the initial downstoke, you only hit the botton two strings of the uke; then on the upstroke, you only this the op two strings of the uke. Then, on the third downstroke, you strike all four strings. This approach gives you the right accents. You hit the accents on the full four-string downstrokes of the figure, so the effect is “ba-da-DA, ba-da-DA, ba-da”. I learned how to play this stroke from watching videos made by fellow George Formby Society members Matt Richards http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhjy9_3rusc Peter C. Nixon and Mike Warren http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8cnPP3SU5s . I also highly recommend their tutorials of the additional Formby strokes – the Fan, the Triple, and the Shake, which I am still struggling with.

Those four strokes are “go-to” for me, with the Triple and Double being most commonly used to drive the tempo, but the fan and split stroke are often used in the way that a tenor banjo player might use a tremolo – as a means of holding a note or injecting interest in a solo or accompaniment.

~ John Bianchi of theukaholic.blogspot.com

Thanks to all the guest bloggers for sharing some awesome info!!!

Post filed under All UkulelePlay! Blog Posts, Ukulele Technique.