Lesson Description

For more tips on improving your strum and other beginner tips, check out the full Ukulele 101 course.

In this lesson you are going to learn how to strum your ukulele

1. Take your pointer finger and point to yourself.

2. Be sure to relax the pointer finger and don't let it lock up.

3. Point to the ground and then point to yourself. This is the motion for the basic strum.

4. Bring this motion over the strings until it starts to make noise. You want to graze over the strings.

5. Try to get faster and work towards a cleaner sound.

Here's an exercise you can do to practice your strumming.

1. Count to 4: 1, 2, 3, 4 and add down strums to each number
2. Add up strums in between each number.


  1. I don’t know if you can teach this old dog new tricks. Been playing a guitar all my life some 50 years, and I can’t get out of the habit of strumming with my thumb. Any advice?

  2. Thanks for all the feedback! This all really helps me 🙂

    I see that some people use their thumb and some their index finger, and that both can be fine. I gravitate toward using my four fingers (minus thumb) in the downstrum and the nail of my thumb on the upstrum. But I haven’t seen anyone else say theybuse 4 fingers, and I get a scrapy sound which I think might mean there are too many nails, so I though I’d ask what you think of this technique.

    Thanks again!

  3. my problem is when I strum on the ukulele my finger keeps getting cut on the fret board when I strum up. Should I just let my finger heal and then practice keeping my finger farther away from the fret board?

  4. Is it wrong if I lead my down strum with my middle finger and lead the up strum with my thumb? For some reason I feel like my pointer finger gets caught in the strings when I try to do an up strum and it doesn’t seem to flow as smoothly.

    1. Hey Genna!

      There are definite benefits to strumming up with your thumb, but it all really just comes down to the type of style and tone that you’re going for. We suggest using your pointer finger, mostly because out of all of their fingers, most people have the most control over their pointer finger to begin with. Also because, with the right positioning, you can achieve a good blend of tone between nail and skin on both the up and down strums. Using mostly nail gives you a brighter, harder tone with a little more volume, while using the flesh of your finger yields a more mellow, softer tone. By using the side of your pointer finger on both the up and down strums, you can easily adjust the angle so that you blend the volume that you get with your nail with the less harsh, smoother sound of your flesh.

      When you use your middle finger to strum down and your thumb for the up strum, you’re getting mostly nail on both strums. If that’s the sound and tone that you’re looking for, than it’s perfect! But it also requires more movement of your forearm, so if you ever want to do songs that have a faster strumming pattern, you’ll have to work a little harder at it.

      Usually, if any of your fingers are getting caught in the strings, it’s just a matter of relaxing that finger (don’t be too stiff, just be really relaxed and loose), and positioning your hand so that it’s not so close to the face of your ukulele (ease off on the pressure you’re applying by moving your strumming finger away from the strings). The tip of your finger should just barely graze the strings.

      One thing that may also really help with controlling the position of your strumming hand is to make sure that the forearm of your strumming hand is gripping the bottom edge of your ukulele, pressing it to your body. This way you’re not using all of the muscles in your arm to keep your strumming hand in the proper place, you sort of have an anchor to keep your hand steady, right where it needs to be. Try everything out and let us know how it goes! Have a great one, Genna, & keep strummin’!

      -Aaron (& the UU Staff)

  5. I strum with my thumb and often it scrapes against the side of my ukulele and makes a small scraping noise. Is that normal or should i stun higher along the neck? Or should i use a different finger?

    1. Hey Angela!

      Feel free to use any finger that feels natural to strum with, but if you are hitting any part of the ukulele unintentionally, it’s more likely that you need to play with the distance that your hand is from your ukulele. So instead of moving it around (strumming closer to the neck), try backing off on the amount of pressure that you are applying (move your hand away from the ukulele), so that your finger is just lightly grazing the strings. Your finger should also be loose and not stiff.

      The reason that we suggest that you use your pointer finger to strum is because when using the proper strumming position (watch the video above), it actually minimizes the amount of forearm movement that you need to use, and allows you to apply an even pressure across all four strings. As with anything, do what works for you, but be sure to try many different approaches before settling in on your own personal style. Hope that helps!

      -Aaron (& the UU Staff)

  6. This video is great. Since my daughter now has a ukulele of her own, I’ll have her watch your video as a beginner lesson :), I’ll also make sure she watches the 5 minute lesson as well.

  7. Hey, just got my uke for Christmas but I am really struggling! I now sort of play guitar so will this help? Also do you have any tips for beginners?

    This video was much appreciated so thank you so much,
    Lucy 🙂

  8. I use an Alaska pick on my index finger due to arthritis in that finger. It makes strumming painless. Do you advise against finger picks? It is similar to having an acrylic nail but a bit more bulky.

  9. For strumming, i use my thumb i know it’s not how it teaches you but I find it easier and to me it sounds the same

  10. Hank, fender makes a tuner that works on guitars, bass, ukes, cellos and violins. Ft-004 is the number on it. We got ours for cheap enough

  11. Hi, I tried to strumming but now I have no skin left on my index finger. Is there a way to strum without tearing your finger off?

  12. Hi Hank. Most people who have been playing for a while can learn to tune by ear. For those of us that are still learning, if you have a guitar shop near your home they will usually tune for free (provided you chat & make friends with the salesperson). Most sales people are happy to help cause eventually when you do buy a digi tuner, you get it from them. Send email requesting UU to make a video without a tuner since It is possible to do. good luck.

  13. Hello there. When comes to strumming, is it that I strum all 4 strings or just certain strings?
    And do I strum on top of the sound hole or at the last part of the frets?
    For you information, I’m using Samick UK – 50, Concert type, The store keeper said it’s okay for a beginner to learn with a concert.
    Hopefully, you can reply asap. Thank you.

    1. Any tuner will work as long as it has the notes: G C E and A. Some cheap guitar tuners do not have all the notes though most do. We have a tuner in the store that is easy to use and works well with ukuleles because it fits nicely into almost all uke cases.

  14. For some reason my finger keeps catching the top string making a horrible sound 🙁 I recall you saying to not let my finger lock up and I am loosening it. Do you have any other tips to stop that?

    1. It sounds like you’re digging in a little too deep. Try relaxing your finger and when strumming you want to be twisting your wrist and not moving your arm so much. If you hold your finger up and pretend your nail is like a clock face, when you strum, you want to be hitting the strings on your down strum with the 1 o’clock part of your nail.

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