How To Take Your Strumming To The Next Level
Updated: Jul 12, 2021
Time flies! We are splitting the year next week in case you didn’t already know. I‘ve often used this analogy to explain this. The clock strikes midnight on January 1st and it’s the dawn of a new year. Imagine we are at the bottom of huge mountain… think Everest. We then start trekking to the top. Since recovering from the holidays we start thinking of new goals and things we want to accomplish in the new year. After short time we hike up to Valentine’s Day and climb into Spring. Spring cleaning anyone? Then in a blink we are through Easter pass and heading towards Mother’s and Father’s Day summits.
Then it’s in sight, the peak! In my metaphor it’s better known as the 4th of July (at least in the US). We made it to top! We smile and celebrate, look over the horizon and enjoy the epic scenery. Then we start making our way back down the other side of the mountain. It’s a pivot point where we start reflecting and preparing for the end of the year. There’s the beginning of a new school year, football, and then the Fall. The Fall ushers in the the holiday season of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Then on the eve of the new year we are ready to make the hike all over again! Today being July 6 officially means we are hiking back down the mountain.
Wow! Isn’t this year flying by? With all that said I wanna ask you about your ukulele goals. I wrote a resolution post at the bottom of the mountain… I mean at the beginning of the year. Have you been sticking with it? If not, no worries. We still have some time to whip it into gear! So in this post I will go over some sumptuous strumming techniques. These will make you sound like pro and make playing a ton more fun! Here are five to master as you hike down to the end of the year.
This one is a little controversial. Often confused with 'muting', string damping happens when you stop the strings from vibrating with its usual freedom, therefore "dampening" the sound so that a muffled type of tone is produced. Muting the strings is simple not playing the note at all. We can mute the strings by missing it when we strum, or lightly pressing on it with our chord hand so that it doesn't vibrate. When we damp, the actual pitch of the note is still evident. This technique also has a percussion aspect to it that adds flavor to uptempo songs. You can chuck/damp with either hand. Check out the video below to learn this amazing technique.
First off, some house keeping! The video bellow is 9 years old. Older than most of these ukulele YouTubers today. And in case you haven't already guessed it.... yes, that's me! So if the image and sound quality are sub parr, it is because I shot it on a camcorder! Remember those?
I thought I throw one my OG videos into the mix. Here I am teaching the Fan strum. A technique that all flamenco players know. This technique requires you to be able to strum with 3-5 fingers independently. With a flick of the wrist! This video is teaching the basic fan strum. If you want to take it to the next level check out the many flamenco videos out there.
(Oh, and I released this video in October 2012 around Halloween... just a heads up for a little funny scare at the end!)
Another rip from our flamenco cousins. This strum is a need to know strum. It is a fun strum to add to your ukulele repertoire. Be careful as it can be a bit addictive to learn and play. Thank Jake Shimabukuro for this one since he was the first to bring this strum to the ukulele mainstream back in the 90's! This one is hard to explain so just check out the video below. Just remember, not every song needs this! Haha!
Beatboxing? Well, beatboxing with the ukulele! James Hill brought this style of playing too the forefront with his take on Michael Jackson's 'Billie Jean'. Beatboxing is when the player
taps a beat on the ukulele body giving the impression of a drum beat... as they strum the ukulele. The different sounds they are able to replicate is astounding. Feng E's take on 'Billie Jean' is the evolution of James Hill's iconic version. This is next level so don't be discouraged if it takes you a while to learn. Boots and cats!
This is the mother of all ukulele strum patterns and techniques. Ironically everyone growing up in old Hawaii naturally played the ukulele like this. And if you were born after 1970 you had to relearn it (thanks Rock 'n' Roll)! The Hawaiian Style strum is tricky to figure out. When you hear it you are magically brought the shores of Waikiki! Nothing sounds quite like it. And when you watch someone strumming, it's almost an illusion. Seriously YouTube Hawaiian music (not Jahwaiian... haha!) and get mesmerized by the wrist action. And as a Native Hawaiian, I had to learn this strum. And in all honesty it was the hardest to master.
Check out local boy Aaron as he teaches you the Hawaiian Strum.
Did you get your bearings? I hope you don't get lost along the way. As we head down the mountain to the end of the 2021, it's my desire that you learn at least one of these amazing strum techniques. And if you get lost... trace your steps back to this post.
Keep jamming and aloha!