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Thread: Strumming help

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Default Strumming help

    Hey everyone. I have only been clunking around on a Ukulele for about two weeks now, so I'm about as "beginner" as they come. I also play Upright Bass and Banjo. I'm having difficulty with strumming chords. My left hand seems to be moving OK on the fingerboard, it's my right hand that needs work. I'm lost as to the best way to hold my right hand while strumming, to get good sound. Every video tutorial I've watched on strumming, including my lesson book, mention a different way. Everything from using only your thumb, using your index finger with thumb across it at the first joint, using a claw shape with your hand finally a felt Ukulele pick. What is the best way for a complete beginner? I've tried them all and nothing seems to be working. I know they will take practice, as strumming is a new technique I don't use on my other instruments as I do 3-finger Scruggs-style on the Banjo. I also know that being brought up Orchestrally, we are taught to over-analyze every single detail. Am I making this harder than it needs to be? Someone please point me in the right direction.

  2. #2
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    I've never really got on with strumming, preferring to pick melodies for my own enjoyment, but basically it is 'anything goes', just as long as you get the sound you want.

    Most of my ukes are tuned low G, so down strumming works well for me when I need to, but I do have re entrant, & when I strum that, I usually use finger nails down, thumb nail up.
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

  3. #3
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    Hi Stringdaddy, I had to grab my uke and do a little strumming to refresh myself on exactly how I approach it, I guess it's become so second-nature! And I may be somewhat in the minority on this, but... I find that I actually rest my thumb very gently on the soundboard (to give me a sense of being "grounded") and that I do the strumming with my index finger only (the second, third, and fourth fingers just sort of hang loosely out of the way). I try to maintain the nail on my index finger at just enough length to keep the pad of that finger from "taking the full hit" of each strum. But it's funny, now that you mentioned it, that I never could get comfortable with using the index finger with thumb across it at the first joint; somehow that just feels too aggressive, like on a guitar when you're used to using a very thin pick and someone hands you a heavy gauge...

  4. #4
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    I'd advise not reading about how you are told to do it but just pick up the uke and make a noise with it and note what feels natural to you. I use only my index finger extended comfortably and naturally curved striking the string with the side of my nail. My thumb floats naturally neither touching the uke or my index finger. Sometimes a little bit of the fleshy part of my index finger will strike the string along with the edge of my nail. Other times I will hook my index finger and strike the string with the top edge of my nail. They make subtle sound differences so it will depend on what sound I want at the time.
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  5. #5
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    I mainly strum and this is only the way I use my fingers. I strum with index or index,middle and ring fingers down and with index finger up.

    Some strum with thumb up, but it feels unnatural for me. Thumb down strum is also in the arsenal and that is maybe also related to fingerpicking and produces the gentler softer sound because I don't use thumbnail.

    The 3 finger down strum came to me when I started learning chucking/chunking, but I now use it also with normal downstrum to have perhaps a more powerful strum than just from index finger. Also I believe myself that it might give the correct angle of the right hand regarding finger nails but your mileage may vary, etc. regarding hand shape and size. I just try get most volume out of the strum and when I first started with index finger strumming only, that finger was more sideways whereas the more powerful sound I get when the finger is more down pointing. So the nail(s) hit more straight than sideways, if this makes any sense

  6. #6
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    Feb 2017
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    I keep my strumming hand in a loose claw configuration. On the down strum the ring finger seems to be the finger that hits the strings. On the up strum I use the knuckle of my thumb.

    I think you're seeing the theme of this thread: do whatever you want. After all, it is just a stop-gap. Once you advance you are going to try other strums. So, the one you pick right now isn't really going to matter too much; it will just be one of many tonal tools you will have at your command.

  7. #7
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    My beginning sequence (and what I have seen with a number of classes) is:
    Use whatever gives you a consistent down strum and then a consistent up strum.
    Strum whatever you are playing D U D U
    Keep doing that until you get to a comfort level with how to use the rest of the Uke. Then consider a different strum pattern. D DU UDU or some such depending on the piece.
    Then continue to add.

  8. #8
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    Thanks for all the pointers. It sounds like I was being overly-critical. I will try some of these things out when I get home from work.

  9. #9
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    Hi, Daddy!

    Quote Originally Posted by StringDaddy View Post
    I'm lost as to the best way to hold my right hand while strumming, to get good sound.
    I have once taught strumming to my friend and it was bit difficult. There were two difficulties for him. The first problem was that he pat strings rather than strummed out. This was the first strung instrument for him and he was about 50 years old. The other problem was that he shook his forearm like guitar (See photo A) rather than turn his wrist (photo A C and D). According to Ohta-san's book, we should use wrist for strumming. One of the reason of this is that we have to hold ukulele with our right hand (green circle in photo B). We utilize the angle (green line) of the strings and forearm for strumming and finger picking, the anchor point (green circle in B) should be located on the upper half of the tail of the ukulele body. My friend has big tummy, and it helped to hold his ukulele a lot. Half sleeve shirt (C and D) helps this anchor a lot.



    This kind of lesson is much easier in person like my friend. I know it is difficult to learn it by books, internet or videos. My friend took a couple of month to strum, but it was fun.
    Last edited by zztush; Tomorrow at 12:50 PM.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by StringDaddy View Post
    I do 3-finger Scruggs-style on the Banjo. I also know that being brought up Orchestrally, we are taught to over-analyze every single detail. Am I making this harder than it needs to be? Someone please point me in the right direction.
    "3-finger Scruggs style" is actually the example that serves best as an illustration of my thoughts on this.
    Earl was not a revolutionary banjo player because he played banjo the way somebody else played banjo. He played the banjo the way Earl Scruggs played banjo.

    So, I say have at it. Find out how YOU like to strum a ukulele and don't worry about how somebody else does it.

    If you want a nudge in the right direction, I'd say to keep in mind that the more flexible your strum, the more adaptable it will be as you learn new techniques.

    My strum uses the backs of my index, middle, ring and pinkie fingernails on a downstroke, (often followed by a thumb pad downstroke for a triple strum) and the back of my thumbnail on the upstroke. This style is dependent on a free hand, so no thumb or pinkie planting.

    YMMV
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