5 Effective Strumming Patterns for Beginners

In this lesson, I show you five strumming patterns you can use to play thousands of different songs on ukulele (I’m not exaggerating!). These are my “go to” strumming patterns. I use them all the time and have used them in a lot of video performances on the site (e.g. You’ve Got a Friend In Me, I’ve Been Working On the Railroad). These patterns are versatile, simple and work for most songs.

Note: A few of these strumming patterns are taught in the Ukulele Strumming Tricks video lesson course. For sake of brevity, in this lesson, I won’t go into as much detail explaining these patterns as I would in my course. If you are looking for a progressive easy-to-follow, step-by-step practice plan towards becoming a better strummer with deeper explanations, I highly recommend my Ukulele Strumming Tricks course.

Foundations of Strumming

The first thing to realize about strumming is that it’s not about how fancy or complicated you make a strumming pattern. Since strumming is a form of rhythm, in order to be effective, it must be consistent and steady. A steady, consistent strumming rhythm is always more pleasing to listen to than a really complicated strumming pattern played out of time.

The following strumming patterns, as demonstrated in the video, are played in 4/4 time signature. This means each pattern is played to a steady, consistent count of four: 1, 2, 3, 4, repeat. You can use these patterns for any song counted in four. As you practice each of these strumming patterns, count out loud, and even use a metronome to keep your strumming as rocksteady as possible.

Strumming Pattern #1

Before learning any other strumming pattern, learn this one. This pattern is very simple, as it is only down strums, but it is highly effective. For example, in my performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, I use all down strums for the last half of the song.

As you practice this, set your metronome, count out loud, and focus on lining up your down strums with each beat. Try to make your strums as even in tone and in volume.

Strumming Pattern #2

When you have the previous pattern mastered, add in up strums between each down strum to make the pattern more interesting. You would count these up strums in between the main beats by counting the word “and” like: 1 and, 2 and, 3 and, 4 and, repeat.

In addition, practice changing between chords on the first beat of the strumming pattern. For example, you might switch between a C, Am, and F chord. Take your practice further by coming up with your own chord progressions too.

Strumming Pattern #3

This strumming pattern combines the first two patterns. For this pattern, insert an up strum on the “and” of beats 2 and 4.

Strumming Pattern #4

You can get creative by rearranging the order of your down strums and up strums within the count of four. This pattern is like pattern #3, but in this pattern, you insert an up strum on the “and” of beats 1 and 3.

Strumming Pattern #5

This strumming pattern is sometimes referred to as the calypso strum. This pattern is the most complicated out of all of the patterns. This is because the down strum on beat 3 is removed and you only play an up strum on the “and” of the third beat. You’ll want to be sure to watch the video to get a sense for how this pattern sounds and feels. Once you get it down, you’ll find that it’s an easy pattern to apply to a lot of different songs.

Practicing Strumming Patterns

I recommend practicing these strumming patterns while playing just a C chord. Strumming is all about practicing a pattern to the point where it comes second nature and you don’t have to think about it too much. Don’t forget to practice these strumming patterns at a slow and fast tempo.

After practicing each pattern for awhile, practice changing between chords. Check out my lesson “Knowing When to Change Chords While Strumming a Song” for some practice examples.

When you’re ready, try applying these strumming patterns to a few different songs:

How’s the strumming going for you? What questions do you have? I’d love to hear from you.

Post your comment below.

How the Ukulele Strumming Tricks Video Course Makes You a Better Ukulele Player

If you feel like you've hit a wall with your ukulele playing, you're in luck.

With online ukulele lessons, you're able to learn how to play the ukulele from the comfort of your own home. However, as you've probably found, it can be hard to know where to start.

As you'll see in a moment, the Ukulele Strumming Tricks video lesson course is more than just a couple of lessons that were thrown together. It's a step-by-step, comprehensive course that gives you a complete roadmap towards ukulele success.

Let's take a look at how the Ukulele Strumming Tricks course is organized to take your playing to the next level…

21 Comments

  1. Bob

    What Strumming pattern do you suggest using for the Beatles “Let it Be”

    • Hi Bob, I’d recommend starting with just down strums as you strum the chords for ‘Let it Be’. Then, as you get more comfortable, add in up strums to create a little bit of variety. Whenever I’m learning a new song, I always like to start basic with my strumming to make sure I have sense of the chords and how the melody is sung over the chords. Then, once I’m ready, I add to it to make it a little more interesting.

  2. john fagas

    i tho’t the five lessons were terrific. Easy to undersand and a big help to an old time uke player. Looking at your strumming tricks! thanks John f

    • Glad you enjoyed the lesson, John!

      • Claire Duchar

        You’re great & love you lessons.
        Easy to understand. I’m just beginning & appreciate help at this time. Thx a bunch Claire

    • Malee

      big thanks Brett. Your strumming lessons inspire me!! I won’t give up.

  3. Anonymous

    Perfect strumming pattern is Down-Down-Up-Up-Left-Right-Left-Right-B-A-Select-Start :-)

  4. Betty Larman

    I have been closely watching your fingers when strumming and can’t quite see whether you are using the thumb to both go down and up or down the with thumb and up with the index finger or down and up with the index finger.

  5. David Harrison

    Hi Brett,
    A belated thanks for your free Ukulele Lesson Book , my son (6yrs) is slowly gaining more interest in playing. So much so that his older sister (12yrs) can now be heard learning to play his Ukulele.
    I am going to pass on your booklet to her and see what magic might unfold .
    Thanks again for all your efforts
    Dave

    • Hey Dave, you are very welcome. It’s amazing how contagious the ukulele is! So glad to hear the family is joining in on all the fun. Definitely feel free to pass my booklet along.

  6. Renato

    Hi Bret,
    I just bought the Makala Dolphin Uke, do I need to change the strings to a carbon for e better sound?
    Many thanks,
    Renato

    • I’m afraid I don’t understand your question, Renato. If you are asking about changing from the default strings on your new uke, I recommend swapping out and putting some new fresh strings on like Aquila strings. Sometimes new ukuleles come with not so great sounding strings.

  7. Ira

    How do we know what kind of strumming pattern we need for a song ?

  8. John Connolly

    I need to learn the Reggae Strum to play “Red Red Wine.” I can clap it but not sure how to strum it.

    I would be so grateful if you could tell me , please.

    Thanks

  9. Amy Q

    Did you know you sound exactly like Christian Slater? If I close my eyes, Christian Slater is teaching us Ukulele tricks.

  10. Cristina

    Hi, I am a beginner and I love “honululu baby” song. Which strumming pattern would you suggest?
    Thanks a lot. Love your videos!!!

    • Cristina, I always recommend starting with simple down strums at first, and then, as you get more comfortable with the song’s chord progression and how the chords fit with the melody, try adding in up strums, much like the patterns I’ve outlined above.

  11. Jack

    Hi – fantastic website, you’ve taught me a lot already!

    Something I keep having problems with though is my fingers getting caught in the strings on the ‘up’ strum. I can’t work out whether to use one or multiple fingers. My nails are short but somehow the ‘up’ strum is never even and I lose my rhythm when I try it. Can you suggest any techniques?

    Thanks for any help!

    • Hi Jack, this a pretty common challenge for beginners, so I want to encourage you to keep working at it and practicing. You’ll be sure to notice improvement! At the same time, if you find your finger(s) getting stuck in between the strings on your up strums, chances are that you’re digging into the strings a little bit too much, or you’re not staying loose and relaxed enough. It might help to think that it just requires a little bit of contact from your fingers to strum the strings. Think about just grazing the top of strings. For now, focus on strumming lighter and more easy. Most of all, keep practicing at a slow tempo to get that strumming nice and even, and then from there, speed it up.

  12. Lorena

    I really enjoyed learning the different strokes I live in New Zealand and the type of Ukelele im learning on is a Cook Island hand crafted Ukelele made from the coconut shell it hasa unique sound. Perhaps I would be better off getting a more main stream style too learn on what do you think.

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