How to Strum the Ukulele
After learning how to hold your ukulele and keep it in tune, one of the earliest challenges in your beginner ukulele journey is typically becoming comfortable with ukulele-playing as a two-handed task.
Our non-dominant hand, commonly the left hand, is what lives on the fretboard and is responsible for pressing down on the individual strings to form notes and chords. Whenever we talk about ukulele chords and frets, the focus is often on this hand.
But what is our other hand doing? Our dominant hand, commonly the right, is responsible for strumming the strings that give our ukulele its voice.
What is an Ukulele Strumming Pattern?
The pattern and rhythm of how we strum, including the direction our hand is moving, is often referred to as an ukulele strumming pattern. The strumming pattern used on a song is part of what gives it a unique personality. With that said, there are a few extremely common ukulele strum patterns that are both fun and helpful to learn on their own to make you a well-rounded ukulele player!
Let’s kick things off with an introduction to some of our favorite ukulele strumming patterns, taught by Kala Artist Ukulenny:
Popular Ukulele Strumming Patterns:
The Island Strum
The Island Strum is broadly regarded as the most classic and popular strum pattern in the world of ukulele. This pattern originated from Hawaiian music and has followed the ukulele into a broad range of popular musical styles throughout the globe. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “Riptide,” “Hey Soul Sister,” and Twenty One Pilots’ “The Judge” all utilize a basic variation of the Island Strum. The Island Strum is a great way to convey levity, cheer, and ease with your ukulele.
The Swing Strum
The Swing Strum is another extremely popular uke strumming pattern, especially in jazz, blues and reggae. Swing itself is a very recognizable rhythm for many — and the Swing Strum is simply the best way to express it with the ukulele. The most notable feature of this strum is how much it lingers on the “down” strum in order to create its signature dance-friendly swing groove.
The Rock Strum
The Rock Strum, also called the Basic Rock Strum, is remarkable for its simplicity and versatility. For many, this is the ideal strum pattern to serve as their ukulele foundation while learning and performing their favorite rock and pop classics. As Ukulenny explains, this pattern provides so many opportunities for variation and improvisation as your comfortability grows. This uke strumming pattern is straight-forward, heavy, and is great at driving a song forward with confidence.
The Hula Pattern
As its name suggests, the Hula Pattern is the foundation for Hula: a quintessential polynesian style of music and dance. Hula has a rich cultural history and legacy that still thrives today, from frequent traditional performances on the Hawaiian Islands to Hula schools and Hula competitions throughout the globe. The Hula Pattern was developed alongside the ukulele as an instrument, making it an extremely natural and refreshing fit for the instrument.
Based in Southern California, Kala Artist Anthony Ka’uka Stanley is part of a young generation of musicians throughout the U.S. carrying the tradition of Hula on the ukulele into the 21st century.
Perhaps the most exciting part of starting your journey on the ukulele is developing a brand new way to express yourself musically. Broadening your personal repertoire of ukulele strumming patterns, and eventually even creating your own, will help you to better create the mood, rhythm, and feel that’s right for each moment!
If you are still searching for the perfect beginner ukulele, start with our Kala Learn To Play ukulele collection, which include more digital lessons like these taught by Ukulenny.
Which of these ukulele strum patterns was your favorite? What is one that you hope to master next? Connect with Kala on Instagram and Facebook to share your ukulele journey with us!