Strumming Patterns for the Ukulele
by Richard Hefner

Here are some strumming patterns for the ukulele. Try the different patterns with different songs and see how they sound. You can decide which patterns work best for you, and it’s up to you to decide which fit in the best with certain songs. After a while you’ll be strumming away, not really thinking about playing a particular pattern but just letting your fingers play what feels right at the time.

All of the strums in the examples below just use a standard C chord. I’ve provided standard notation for those who read music and tablature for those who don’t. If you need to learn how to read tablature be sure to read the tutorial on “How to Read Ukulele Tablature” before beginning.

Pattern #1 -- The first pattern is about as basic as it gets. Simply strum downward on each beat. Remember that in 4/4 time there are 4 beats in each measure. There are several ways to strum. You can strum downward on each beat with your thumb, you can use a felt pick, or you can strum downward with the back of one or two fingers. I mostly strum downward using the back of my index and middle fingers. You can try different ways and find what suits you the best.




Pattern #2 -- With this pattern you still strum downward “on the beat” -- that is, on the count of 1, 2, 3, and 4 -- just as in Pattern #1. However, now each quarter note beat will be broken up into two eighth notes, giving you 8 strums in each measure, 4 down and 4 up. It’s important to note that with all of these strums you strum downward on each beat then strum upward on the “&” (and). Think of the beats (1,2,3,4) as downbeats (strumming downward) and the &’s following the beats as upbeats (strumming upward).

Pay special attention to this strum because all of the strums following this are based on it. It’s mostly a matter of leaving certain parts out rather than strumming on every beat (and off-beat) that will make your strumming interesting.




Pattern #3 -- Notice what a difference it makes in the sound from Pattern #2 by replacing the first beat with a quarter note strum. This adds emphasis to the first beat in each measure. It’s not necessary to always strum across all of the strings. Many times it sounds better on that first beat to just hit the top couple strings.




Pattern #4 -- This strum puts emphasis on the first and third notes of each measure and is much like a country alternating bass pattern played on guitar.




Pattern #5 -- This simple pattern shows how easily you can add an interesting strum by adding just one set of eighth note strums to three standard quarter note strums. You can get a different sound by placing the down-up eighth note strums in  measure 4 in one of the other measures instead.




Pattern #6 -- You can also play 3 sets of eighth note strums along with a quarter note strum. Try putting the one quarter note strum at different beats in the measure.




Pattern #7 -- With this strum you don’t play on the count of 3, so the timing can be a little tricky. Be sure to strum in the direction noted below the tablature and and watch the video to hear how it should sound.




Pattern #8 -- This is just a simple variation of Pattern #7, adding an up-strum on the last beat.




Pattern #9 -- Here’s one more variation of Pattern #7.




Pattern #10 -- In Patterns 10, 11, and 12 you should try muting the strings where it is called for. In this example, since you’re playing an open C chord you’ll need to mute the strings with your right hand as you strum downward on the counts of 2 and 4. When you’re playing chords that use most or all of the strings you can mute the strings by just releasing the pressure on the chord being held with your left hand. It takes a bit of practice to get it smoothly.




Pattern #11 -- This is a variation of the previous pattern where you mute the strings on the count of 2, 3, and 4.




Pattern #12 -- This is combination of muting with a bit fancier strum. Be sure to watch the video for the correct timing.




Pattern #13 -- All strumming patterns don’t have to be confined to just one measure. This one covers two measures.