When you first start to play the ukulele learning different strumming patterns can be difficult. First off, you may be thinking how do I do this without my fingers hurting so much! The more time you spend practicing and playing your ukulele, the more you will get used to strumming and, we promise, your fingers will stop hurting. Let’s dig in how to strum a ukulele in the proper way in this guide.
You will naturally begin to learn how to strum the instrument over time. You can avoid getting your fingers hurt by developing calluses which will naturally start to develop over time. These build up resistance on your fingers and will eventually decrease their sensitivity to the strings.
While starting to learn the odd strumming pattern or two on the uke you will probably find it harder to find the sweet spot than you would on a traditional guitar. The great news is there’s plenty of guide out there on every topic imaginable including ukulele strumming, so you can learn to become a better ukulele player.
It’s very possible as a beginner that you aren’t strumming the ukulele in the proper way. Here we are going to discuss making better strumming patterns as well as getting your fingers to stop hurting too.
Using your Dominant Arm
You’re dominant arm and hand will be whichever one you right with. Choosing your dominant arm for your strumming hand may seem strange because the more intricate work goes on with the frets. However, it’s important to understand that your strumming hand is always the most vital, therefore should also be the most dominant.
Let’s look at it this way. If you mess up on the frets and fluff a chord or two then people aren’t very likely to notice. However, if you start to slow down your strumming speed or begin speeding up, that’s definitely something people will notice!
Strumming is one of the most fundamental aspects of playing any song on the ukulele. It’s important because there are a lot of genres of ukulele songs that have different strumming patterns over chord patterns.
The Right Strumming Posture
You will need to have the right posture to strum a ukulele in the proper way. It may seem like a strange place to start but get yourself in a sitting position and put the instrument down. Place your strumming hand in front of your body in the middle of your torso. This should be the place where your stomach meets your chest – that’s the sweet spot.
Now that you have your hand in the sweet spot, ball that hand up to make a light fist with your fingertips touching the inside of your palm. Make sure you’re not doing it too tightly – you don’t want to be pressing into your skin. Take your index finger and point it towards your left should. Then rest your thumb between the knuckle on your first and second fingers.
The placement of your fingers is important because you want flexibility as well as stability when you strum your ukulele. The proper placement will ensure that you are making clear sounds when strumming.
Hitting the Right Spot
After you’ve got your dominant hand and posture nailed you can finally pick up your ukulele. You want to get it into a position so that your index finger is sitting above the G-string on the ukulele. This is the area where the neck of the instrument meets the body.
The location we’ve described here is otherwise known as the sweet spot. Of course, there are different types of ukulele and each one will have its own spot. The important part here is to find the right spot so that you can make the most from your strumming sounds. If you have a soprano ukulele which is the most common type, the sweet spot will be located where the neck of the instrument meets the body.
If you have a larger uke then the spot you will want to find is usually between the end of the body and the soundhole. The best and most efficient way to find the right spot is to keep on experimenting and see which one will sound the best without putting any strain on you.
Strumming the Right Way
It’s common for your fingers to hurt a little when you first start practicing a strumming pattern. However, if your ukulele strumming continues to cause you pain then it could be that your not doing it right. Not being able to strum your ukulele properly while moving your arm could mean you are risking injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. This is completely preventable by keeping everything loose when playing a strumming pattern.
If you become tense and start to tighten up during your playing then the sound will come out a lot more robotic and you will notice your index finger plus your other fingers getting very tired of strumming very quickly. Whether you use your left or right hand you will want to use your wrist to do the main part of the strumming. You shouldn’t be using your whole arm. The up and down motion if you use your arm instead of your wrist will cause you tire out much faster when playing those strings.
You can practice isolating your wrist movements quite easily. Start moving your wrist and make sure that your forearm isn’t making any other sort of movement aside from rotating. You don’t need to strum any wider than the strings on your uke. If you start to do this strumming becomes a lot harder and you won’t be able to get a steady rhythm on the strings. You will tire your fingers out a lot quicker too.
When you strum downwards you want your nail to hit the string first. When strumming upwards the pad of your finger should hit first. This makes a well-balanced pattern between the more forceful down strums and the softer up strumming patterns.
Try to Relax
Playing ukulele chords should be a relaxing experience and this is something that should be reflected throughout your whole body. The relaxation isn’t just limited to your arms and hands you’re using to play. Your entire body should feel relaxed. It can be difficult to avoid tensing up while your playing and you probably won’t even notice because your concentrating on the pattern and the strings.
Not relaxing properly while you play means you will get tired a lot faster and it can also cause your fingers to hurt more. It’s important to make the effort and be conscious of relaxing. Start by releasing the tension out of your shoulders and arms before you begin to strum the instrument again.
It’s very common for beginners to press on the strings a lot harder than you need to. Try playing a note and see if you are pressing harder than necessary. There are various techniques you can learn to ensure you’re not putting too much pressure on your fingers.
Being able to strum properly is probably the most basic skill you need to master if you are planning on mastering the ukulele. By practicing patterns and getting the right posture you will be able to strum the instrument a lot better and you’ll be more comfortable while doing it.
Use our tips we set out in this guide to get better at strumming and don’t stress out if you don’t nail it right away. Take your time and improve your skills and flexibility as you go.