How to Choose a Strumming Pattern – Learning 5 Basic Patterns

by | Aug 6, 2019 | Beginners | 0 comments

Here are some tips on how to choose a strumming pattern. So, there you are trying to learn a ukulele song. And you think, what strumming pattern should I use?

Tips on How to Choose a Strumming Pattern

How do I choose a strumming pattern? That’s a really good question with many steps. You will need to determine if the song is in duple or triple meter. You will also need to decide if the rhythms are swung or straight. This post will deal with basic go-to strums in 4/4 time, both swung and straight. 

It’s also a great idea to listen to a recording of the song to get an idea of what the accompanying instruments are doing. Ask yourself the following questions: 

Duple or Triple Meter

Is the song in duple meter or triple meter? (This means, does it feel like a waltz, or does it feel like a march and/or something you can walk to?) If you have sheet music you can look at the time signature at the beginning to answer this question. (4/4 and 2/4 are examples of duple meter. ¾ is an example of triple meter.) The reason you want to know the meter is that it will help you to know when to change chords. Chords tend to change on the first or third beat of a 4/4 measure and on the first beat of a ¾ measure. You will eventually accent (play slightly louder) on the first beat of each measure, so understanding the meter of the song helps you to learn the song and choose a strumming pattern. Also, strumming patterns for triple meter are quite different than for duple meter.

Straight or Swung Rhythm?

Is the rhythm of the song “straight” or “swung”? Straight subdivisions of the beat sound like this “ap-ple, ap-ple, ap-ple, ap-ple” Swung subdivisions sound like this: “Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.” A straight song will use even down-up strums. A swung song will uneven down-up strums. The down strum will be slightly longer than the up strum for swung music.

Whether the song is swung or straight will only matter on your up strums, because your down strums are all on the beat. The beat is steady, like your heart beat.  Like your heart beat, the beat in music is steady. The beat can go faster or slower, but will do that gradually depending on what you are doing. If you are sleeping, your heart beat is slow. If you are running, your heart beat is fast. Whatever rhythm you put within a beat can be fast or slow, but it will relate to that steady beat or pulse of the music.

Three Basic Strumming Patterns:

In this video, I’m going to teach you the three basic strumming patterns from which more complicated strums can be built.

Jenny’s Go-To Strum for Folk Music

For more folksy types of music, my go-to strum is: 

If you want to have a more rhythmic feel, you might add chunking on beats 2 and 4. Watch the video below to get a better idea. Follow along with your ukulele so you can practice learning this strumming pattern. I give lots of practice opportunities within the video and have a metronome going to help keep a steady beat. 


Jenny’s Go-To Strum for Everything Else

My go-to strum for almost everything else is:

You hear this strum EVERYWHERE! Watch the video below as I teach Rebecca this strum in the opening of “Over the Rainbow.” This strum takes some time to learn, but once you have it, you can use it almost everywhere. I have heard this strum referred to as “The Camp Strum” or “the Island Strum.”  It also sounds good with chunking.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post on learning 5 basic strumming patterns in duple time. Let me know what you think in the comments below. 

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