Learn to play ukulele : How to read strumming patterns?

How to read strumming patterns?

How to read strumming patterns? feedback
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There exist two different ways of writing strumming patterns: the traditional way (based on music theory), and the alternative method, using "up/down". If the alternative notation became famous for its simplicity, it also lacks of accuracy, and we deeply encourage you to learn how to strum using the traditional notation...

Traditional notation:

Here is how it looks like:

strum symbols


It's a really simple system of notating rhythm witch doesn't require any special skills or talent. You just need to understand how it works:

  1. 4/4 is the time signature (also known as common time), it tells you there are 4 beats in a bar, and that every beat is a quarter note. If you don't see any time signature, you can safely assume that it's in 4/4 time,

  2. Rhythm slashes are the strokes you need to play with your strumming hand,
  3. There are different kind of notes that lasts for different amount of beats:
    • whole note lasts for four beats,
    • A half note lasts 2 beats,
    • A quarter note lasts 1 beat (you can fit 4 of those in a bar)
    • A eighth note lasts 1/2 beat (we can fit 8 of them in every bar, or 2 for every beat)
    • Sixteenth notes lasts for a 1/4 or a beat, and we can fit 16 of them into a bar (4 for every beat)
    • Rests indicate silence, they have the same note values as their respective notes.
    • Signs above stand for downstrokes ("^"), and upstrokes ("V")

  4. In 4/4 time, you have 4 beats in a bar, represented by the 4 numbers at the bottom. You play downstrokes on them.
  5. In order to have two consecutive downstrokes, you also need an upstroke in between the 2 downstrokes, represented by "&" symbols in between 2 numbers. You play upstrokes on them.
  6. You play two strums per beat (up and down).

Understanding how these notes work will help you to learn much faster, as you'll be able to see the rhythm...


Alternative notation :

On internet, you'll often see strumming patterns noted as text, like "DDUUD". It's probably the easiest notation you can think of: it basically only uses "D" for downstrokes and "U" for upstrokes.

Here is how to read these strumming patterns:

  • D : down strum
  • U : up strum
  • / : slight pause or skip a strum
  • x : Chop Strum (chunking, muting)
  • D or U, D or U : emphasize the strum (sometimes in uppercase...)
  • (space) : rest

That being said, keep in mind that there is NO standard rules for Up/down notation.


  • It is essential to work any strumming pattern with a metronome if you want to learn you to play in time,
  • keep your strumming arm swinging up and down in a steady motion, whether or not yourre hitting the strings.
  • Make sure that you count when you play, it will help you a lot going forward when subdividing the beats,
  • Tap your foot on the downstrokes, this will help you with your internal clock,
  • Leave chord changes for later, just grab a basic chord (ie. C:0001) and first get comfortable with the strumming pattern. Only add a chord change once you have the strumming pattern sorted properly.

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