View Full Version : I am having major problems with strumming!

06-09-2008, 11:05 AM
I was trying to follow along on the Joy of Uke DVD, but I can barely do it at a tenth of the speed that he does, and it sounds pretty bad when I do it. I must be doing something wrong. So here are some questions:

Where exactly are you supposed to be strumming on the uke?

What fingers do you use? The pointer on the down strokes and the thumb on the up strokes? And do you tend to use the flesh part or the nail? Do you keep your hand pretty taut, or just really loose and inexact?

And how in the world do you learn to do it so fast? Is it all practice, or is there some trick to it? If I want to try to practice it, what is a good exercise?

I'd love anyone's help! Thanks in advance! :p

06-09-2008, 11:43 AM
Here's a post from seeso from a previous thread (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1919). You might wanna skim through the whole thing and get some ideas as well as other tips.

I would practice just going from one chord to another and back again with the simplest strum and work up from there, still using just 2 chords.

One of the easiest strums is all downward strokes on quarter notes.

If you don't know what quarter notes are, I can explain it like this:

Most music is in what's called "4/4" time. "4/4" is a "time signature." The number before (or above) the slash tells you how many beats there are to a "measure." A measure is what you see separated by straight lines in sheet music. The number after the slash tells you what kind of note counts as one beat.

So "4/4" time means that there are 4 beats to a measure, and a quarter note counts as one beat. Using the same logic, we can see that "6/8" time (another common time signature) means there are 6 beats to a measure, and an eighth note (half the length of a quarter note) counts as one beat.

Lengthy explanation aside, start with two easy chords: C and F. We'll use "4/4" time, and each chord will last for one measure (4 beats).

Count the beats aloud as you play like this:

"1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and"

Finger your C chord. Strum down when you say a number. When you say "and," your hand comes up but does not strum.

When you get to the last "and" after the 4th beat, switch to the F chord and do the same thing, this time switching from F to C on the last "and".

Keep doing that for a few minutes until you can switch from chord to chord without missing a beat. There should be no lag time while you switch chords. If you need to go slower, go right ahead.

Once you've got that going pretty good, we'll add an up stroke.

This time, say the following "mantra" out loud as you strum:

"1 and 2 up 3 and 4 and"

As you can probably guess, you'll strum up when you say, "up".

On every "and" your hand is coming up but not strumming. When you say "up" after the 2nd beat, your hand will touch the strings and strum.

If we were to replace the numbers in our "mantra" with words, we can say:

"down and down up down and down and"

If it's easier for you to strum with this "mantra," go right ahead.

Let yourself get comfortable with this new wrinkle in your strum before we add another. Give yourself as long as it takes. Remember, you shouldn't miss any beats! There should be no break in your speech cadence as your switch chords.

Ready for another wrinkle? Try this one:

"down and down up down up down and"

Now that we have this method of constructing strums, you should be able to explore and create your own.

06-09-2008, 11:45 AM
Where exactly are you supposed to be strumming on the uke?

Anywhere you want, but the recommendation is over the fret board, just past the sound hole.

What fingers do you use? The pointer on the down strokes and the thumb on the up strokes? And do you tend to use the flesh part or the nail?

You can use any fingers you want, but the recommendation is just how you put it. Downstroke with the fingernail of the index finger and upstroke with the thumbnail.

I use the fingernail of my index finger for my downstrokes and the flesh of my index for the upstrokes. I could never get the hang of the whole "upstroke with thumbnail" deal.

Do you keep your hand pretty taut, or just really loose and inexact?

It's best to keep your hand loose and relaxed when strumming.

And how in the world do you learn to do it so fast? Is it all practice, or is there some trick to it? If I want to try to practice it, what is a good exercise?

It really is just all practice. You may feel like you'll never get it, but trust me. It'll come sooner than you think. Just practice at least a half an hour a day and you'll get it in no time.

As for exercises, I've never been big on them, so I don't know any. I think there's no better exercise than to just play songs that you like. It's supposed to be fun, right?

Find some easy chords to songs that you like and play those songs. Here's a bunch:


Or you can just pick a couple of chords and jam away on them.

What's really important is that you get over feeling like you're doing it wrong. There really is no "wrong" way when it comes to this stuff. What's right for me may be wrong for you and vice versa.

The best way to figure it out is to just play. With time, you'll see what works and what doesn't. Don't concern yourself too much with the "right" way. It's the ukulele! It should be fun!

06-09-2008, 11:49 AM
I'm following the Joy of Uke too, and the secret is to strum it really slowly at first until you're comfortable with the chord changes (follow the booklet) and then start to speed it up. For practicing the strum, you could mute the strings with your left hand (assuming you're right-handed) and just concentrate on the strum, so you're not making the chord changes at first. I find this helps.

And I reckon there are as many strumming techniques as there are uke players! I like to strum down with my thumb and up with my index finger if the strum's complicated. Otherwise I just go up and down with my index finger. Try it out and after a while you'll settle into something that's comfortable for you.

And yes, it does take practice. Find a song you like and just strum away. It's meant to be fun! And it does get easier, honest. But then you find more complicated things to work on ...


06-09-2008, 02:57 PM
I didn't really jive with that dvd. He wouldn't bother to tell you what the chord progression was for some of the songs. He'd just tell you the new chord, and then away we go at a hella faster tempo than he just taught with the new strum. It's not a technique that works well for me, and I didn't like the songs.

But that's just me. But if you follow Seeso's advice, there will soon come a time that you can strum and your fingers know what to do.

For my part, I follow that guest artist's advice when it comes to strums, don't worry about copying someone else's pattern, it doesn't work for him. It doesn't work for me either. I'm more comfortable, and more apt to eventually get it right, if I just do it by ear rather than concentrating on down-up-down-up-up-down. Just try it slow and before you know it, you'll have an opinion on which strum you'd rather use, and that in no way makes you wrong and the original pattern right. :)

06-10-2008, 07:05 AM

Like everybody says, just find some songs you like and practice. Go to Uke sites and find some songs you like. You don't need to spend very much money to find music. Somewhere out in internetland I found a chart of strumming patterns. (not too helpful there, am I? can't remember where).

Anyway, be patient -- that's what I am telling myself. We can't all play like Seeso in 2 weeks or two months.:bowdown:

06-10-2008, 09:50 AM
Hey guys! Thanks so much for all your replies. You've given me hope, although maybe I need to limit the practice a little. My fingers are sore today!

I think seeso's technique of just using the pointer finger is working for me for now. This is my first stringed instrument, so I think a lot of it is getting a feel for the rhythm and the angle that you strum the strings. After years of piano lessons, it's hard to come at things with the attitude that it's supposed to be fun! But maybe if I just slow down and try to learn a couple songs, things will go better.

I agree with you guys that the Joy of Uke isn't the best DVD to learn from! He starts off very basic... like this is a string! This is how you hold it! And then all of the sudden he starts jamming, and I just can't keep up! I find looking up things on youtube to be far more helpful... not to mention the videos on this site!!!

Does anybody have any good sites for strumming practice?

Well, thanks again for all your help. Back to practicing! (I'm working on Daydream Believer right now. The chords are very simple, but it sounds so pretty!)

06-10-2008, 10:51 AM
I started off with just the forefinger, and now prefer pad of forefinger-thumb. It's all what's comfortable, and you're right, is so unlike learning other instruments. It's funny what cheesy eye-rolling songs can be stripped down to very nice chords. It's like then you go "Ah, I see why they went with this. It works." - I found that first moment with Ah-hah's Take on Me. I can't stand the song and I love playing it on the uke with an island vibe. :)

Can you imagine if piano was taught like in that DVD? I have a feeling that he's probably a great teacher when he's in the same room as the student though. Could be wrong, but he seems to have that kind of calm. It just doesn't work for me in that DVD.

06-10-2008, 12:34 PM
Oh, I love Take on Me! Ok, so it seems my dorky music taste is definitely suited to ukulele!

What I do like about the DVD is he comes across as completely obsessed with ukulele. And you've got to love being taught by someone whose spirit is so passionately entwined with what they're teaching, if that makes sense.

ant on son
06-10-2008, 12:50 PM
Have you considered practicing with a metronome?

06-10-2008, 04:17 PM
Check out doctoruke.com.

04-27-2009, 12:48 PM
had my uke nearly a week now and learning a lot, when i got it i thought the easiest thing to do would be the strumming technique, how wrong was i lol
i've done a lot of hours a day and i cant get it right, my fingers are sore and feel like a blister wants to come through for the last few days, im kinda hoping i do blister badly so i have no choice just to practise strumming while my other fingers are out of action lol

04-27-2009, 01:48 PM
I use just my index finger for strumming as this seems to be most natural for me. I love learning new strum patterns but still find it incredibly annoying when my strumming hand just reverts back to doing something it's used to. Best thing is to just keep practicing. Choose songs you really like and you'll be excited when it finally comes together. Keep up the good work! x