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View Full Version : Tips on getting the hang of consistent strumming



Shepazzi
08-04-2015, 04:42 PM
I'm currently having some issues with getting the hang of the rhythm of strumming. I strum downwards just fine but have trouble getting any sort of reasonable sound coming from the instrument when I try to strum back up. I started using a felty bolo pick because it seems like that is the only thing that allows me to strum upwards without sounding silly. I can barely strum upwards at all without the pick and even with the pick I get out of rhythm because it doesn't feel naturally to me. Any tips on ukulele holding position as well as ways to strum with more easy down and up (and especially if there are better ways without the pick) would be greatly appreciated. I am an absolute novice and started two weeks ago.
.Shep

DownUpDave
08-04-2015, 05:06 PM
Are you using just your index finger when strumming or are you using your thumb or all four fingers. It could be a simple technique change is required.

Shepazzi
08-04-2015, 05:48 PM
Are you using just your index finger when strumming or are you using your thumb or all four fingers. It could be a simple technique change is required.

Originally I tried using my index finger and it simply felt like I couldn't make a good connection with the strings in general. My index finger seems to catch on the strings frequently... I don't know if I'm just going at it too hard or at the wrong angle... or what.

Purdy Bear
08-04-2015, 09:23 PM
I'm a total beginner but I have found two things to be very helpful:

a) Strum to the beat of a metronome. You start off at the slowest setting to get both the down stroke and up stroke correct and then speed up.
B) I also found this video about the body mechanics of strumming:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3BbRTARjTg

kypfer
08-04-2015, 09:51 PM
If you're not using a strap, try one ;)

The very need to "hang onto" your instrument can restrict your ability to play it well!

There are many who seem to cope perfectly well without, clamping the ukulele to the body with the forearm or sitting in some contorted manner, but why struggle?

Once you've got the hang of things you can introduce "style statements", in the meantime, try a strap ;)

Good luck :)

kohanmike
08-04-2015, 10:44 PM
Strap for sure, relax your hand, wrist and finger, but what works the best for me is just keep doing it and doing it. When I first started on a uke 2 years ago, I tried to do Iz's version of "Rainbow" but just couldn't get it. I kept trying and trying, along with playing twice a week with a group and everyday by myself. One day a couple of months later, I did it, just like that it was there.

Shepazzi
08-05-2015, 01:18 AM
Strap for sure, relax your hand, wrist and finger, but what works the best for me is just keep doing it and doing it. When I first started on a uke 2 years ago, I tried to do Iz's version of "Rainbow" but just couldn't get it. I kept trying and trying, along with playing twice a week with a group and everyday by myself. One day a couple of months later, I did it, just like that it was there.

Thank you for all of the help and advice guys, I really appreciate it, I'm going to invest in a strap, I definitely think that would help as I have found it difficult to switch strings easily without losing hold of the ukulele.
*Cheers*

phil_doleman
08-05-2015, 05:50 AM
I have a '2 minute tip' video on strumming that might help...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAn5lMbpld4

As for getting the upstroke, if you are strumming with your index finger, you could try using your thumb instead (just for the up stroke). Whatever you use, the hand needs to be really relaxed and floppy. The angle of your wrist can also make a huge difference, and is worth experimenting with.

CactusWren
08-05-2015, 06:53 AM
You may need to remove some clothing. :)

Seriously, though, using short sleeves can help the arm "stick" to the top and give you some security. Relaxation, in the shoulder, arm, fingers and thumb is very important. You want to find a balance where the weight of your arm helps to hold the uke in place. Sometimes this can conflict with strumming it where and how you want. I get better results when the fingers are loose, and you kind of drag them through the strings like floppy paintbrushes. If you are a naturally tense person like me, you may have to devote quite a bit of will to learning to detect that you are holding your digits too tightly. It took me years to realize my thumb was tense and it caused problems in my technique.

John King also recommended putting some kind of tacky material, such as the stuff people put in kitchen drawers, on the back of the uke. He also said he had a built-in advantage in front on which he could rest it. :)

Tootler
08-06-2015, 02:18 AM
John King also recommended putting some kind of tacky material, such as the stuff people put in kitchen drawers, on the back of the uke. He also said he had a built-in advantage in front on which he could rest it. :)
I have a little piece of self adhesive velcro (use the hooky side) on the back of each of my ukes. Even the little square I use (abt 2cm x 1cm) is enough to cut out most of the slipping.

I go along with recommendation of a strap. There are three options.

1. Uke leash (http://ukeleash.com). This supports the neck and you still support the body against your yourself (check the link for more details). Lori, who invented them is a UU member.

2. A uke thong. This has a hook that hooks into the sound hole and the body is supported but you still have to support the neck though you only really need a very light touch so you have much more freedom for your left hand. Ebay is a good place to get these

Both of these involve no modification to the ukulele and that's there big advantage. I've tried both and both are a great help.

3. Have a strap button (or strap buttons) fitted and use a full strap. Your uke is now fully supported and you can let go of it completely quite safely.

I discovered the uke leash not long after I started and I found it very helpful while I was learning. Now I am quite happy playing sopranos without any strap and I will also play concert and tenor sat down without a strap. If I'm playing a concert or tenor while standing I like some extra support and will use either a uke thong or uke leash. Both are as good as each other. Some people worry about damage to the sound hole with a uke thong but as long as you avoid metal hooks and are sensible there should be no problems. I find mine with a plastic hook and a plastic adjuster is fine.

terrgy
08-06-2015, 04:55 AM
While I am new to ukulele, my first go to instrument is a mountain dulcimer. For several years I taught (free) dulcimer to kids and adults, always in a church setting. What I quickly discovered is that some people seem to pick up strumming right off, while others have a difficult time with it. I am convinced that everyone doesn't have built in rhythm. Some do, some don't.

To the ones that don't, just practice practice and practice some more. Just going down up down up, or down down up down. Hundreds of times. Nothing beats repetition.

I, for one, lack built in rhythm. Always have, and probably always will have a problem with rhythm. It's always a work in progress. But I don't let it discourage me, and others who have this handicap shouldn't either.

Happy strumming!

PhilUSAFRet
08-06-2015, 05:21 AM
Strumming is a skill like any other and must be developed slowly at first. The speed comes with practice. Many new players try and strum at a speed that exceeds their skill level. I know I had a problem with that at one time. Lots of tutorials here and on Youtube.

Uncle "Ule"
08-11-2015, 03:13 PM
Without worrying about timing, try just strumming along to any song that comes to mind. Alter up and down depending on what feels right to you. Ukulele is different from other stringed instruments due to it being more casual and friendly. Relax and enjoy!