View Full Version : Rhythm confusion and fingering troubles

05-06-2010, 06:51 PM
Hi all,

3rd week beginner here... So I learned the beginner triple threat - C, F, G7 - and played happy birthday and twinkle twinkle (neither of which sounds like the "real" songs but I just sing along and fake it til I make it).. And actually found the upbeat version of over the rainbow w/ an additional Em and Am chords (but thank god no E major!)... But here I'm totally lost - how do you know what rhythm to strum the uke to? Does it depend entirely on your previous knowledge of said songs? The only thing I can get any clue as to the rhythm is the number of syllables in the words! And what happens at the next verse when there's no chords until the second or third word? Do I just a Capella the first word or two? I've played the piano a little bit and I guess it's hard for me to switch from that mindset... And I saw that monster of a strum pattern PDF and suddenly got very intimidated and thought - man I'd NEVER be able to learn how to play this!!

Next question is - I just can't can't can't seem to get my brainless left fingers to press down on the strings right... I know I need practice practice practice, but it's quite discouraging... :( I even cut my (really) nice nails. Please help or commiserate :(

churlala, in need of uke skills

05-07-2010, 04:04 AM
Hello Churlala,

The chords that you find on the internet primarily don't present the songs rhythm, as they kind of expect you to know the song you are starting to play. This is common for for guitar tabs and such, because guitarists (and ukulelistas :D) often don't have a wide background information on music theory. Mostly you can just "feel it" and most of pop songs do not have many rhythmical surprises. Youtube is a valuable source for information and examples, if you feel uncertain about some particular part of a song. Don't let these little insecurities about rhythm and such put you down, because the first few months are the most fun part of learning every instrument. You learn new chords and get more confident almost every time you play :) I truly recommend Aldrine's lessons found on the main site of Ukulele Underground. You might consider starting from the first videos, because the latest videos kind of assume you know all the stuff from the previous lessons.

For the second part, I can only say that it takes some time to build up "muscle memory" for playing a instrument. Sometimes you press too hard, sometimes too soft and very often in the wrong spot :) It will all fall into place if you continue to practice. If you don't believe me, make a video or audio recording of yourself playing now and compare it to your playing or the next video a month from here. Nothing is inevitable, except progress :)

Happy strummin'!

Uncle Rod Higuchi
05-07-2010, 05:01 AM
Here are a couple of links (under my signature) to some free material for you to use.

Welcome to UU.

Keep uke-in',

05-08-2010, 12:37 AM
Hi guys,
Not wishing to hijack your thread but the "Rhythm confusion" part helped to highlight my own struming technique concerns - I have been trying to update my school boy music theory, and can with relative success strum a pattern of chords (my own or from the books etc) from a ukulele music sheet and produce a recognisable tune. When it comes to popular songs on the net, yes, I agree unless you know the tune (you tube helps) the strum rhythm ecapes me :)

I confuse my self totally using standard struming patterns with chords highlighted over words in the song. Do I start start a repeat pattern for each chord change or keep to a e.g. 4 beats to the bar strum and play one or more chords within the strum pattern - where does the pattern start and finish. Or as I seem to end up, playing a strum to suit the melody and chords (ok while playing solo) of the tune but this is not the backing rhythm strum I am after, especially, if you are wishing to play with others.

Am I just complicating matters :)


Uncle Rod Higuchi
05-10-2010, 04:56 AM
Hey Mike,

if I understand your concerns, the chords change when you see them change and you strum a chord (not a sequence) until you see another (usually different) chord. Some songs require holding/strumming a chord for several measures at 3 or 4 beats per measure. Other songs have you strumming each chord only 2 times each. In those situations, if the song is in 4/4, then there will be 2 chords per measure, each chord gets strummed twice = 4 beats. (example: Heart and Soul).

Here's another example: (Sorry, I think the slashes may NOT be over the places I want them to be)

C / / / / / / /
Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream.
/ / / /
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
G7 / C /
Life is but a dream.

As you can see there are only 2 chords in this simple song. Initially you will be strumming the C chord for 12 strums, then switch to the G7 chord for 2 strums (over Life is but a), then back to the C chord for the final 2 strums (over Dream).

It could be that I've totally misunderstood your concerns. If so, sorry. It sounded to me that you might have been concerned re: the meaning of each chord whether it stood only for itself or if it meant start a new 'sequence' (like C,Am,F,G7) at each C.

I hope the above is helpful.

Keep uke-in',

05-14-2010, 11:45 AM
To some extent, these rhythm charting methods can help (a bit) but mostly hinder someone. The next time you're walking up a flight of stairs, try to "think" about what you're doing, lifting and then setting your right foot etc...you could end up falling SO DON'T REALLY DO THIS but I'm making a point. I think where things are going takes you there, hitting what gets emphasis and less on what needs less...and frankly, playing less than you might think, letting the song carry you more than this "job you gotta do."

I think Aldrine's lesson are correctly open enough and a great start. And here's an idea: play a lot and have fun!!!

And here's my BEST advice: pay more attention to what your tapping foot is doing than your right hand...

05-19-2010, 07:50 AM
For the fingers, I am new too (4 mos) and found that the more you play the more the fingers remember where to go. Also the closer (toward the sound hole) on the fret you place your fingers you don't have to press as hard to get a clean note. The farther (away from the sound hole) on the fret the harder you have to press and pressing too hard can cause your note to be sharp. The more you play the tougher your fingers get (calluses). Play, Play, Play.