7 Essential Ukulele Strumming Patterns

Strumming in time is essential to playing your favorite songs; however, with so many strumming pattern variations to choose from, it can be confusing and frustrating to know where to start. Let’s go over some terms and the 7 essential ukulele strumming patterns that you can start playing today.   

Essential Ukulele Strumming Patterns

Reading Strumming Diagrams:

Some diagrams contain notes and arrows that indicate whether to strum up or down. It is also common to see another notation containing an incomplete box or “staple” shape that indicates a downstroke and a V or a “carrot” shaped symbol that indicates an upstroke.  

Strumming Pattern #1:

Common Time or 4/4 Strumming Patterns:

Common time is also known as 4/4 time, which means that there are 4 beats counted in a single measure and the quarter note gets the beat.  Essentially, you count to 4 and then start over with each measure.  For example, the diagram below has four quarter notes in a row.  If you are just getting started and trying to work on chord transitions, this is a great place to start before trying a more complicated strumming pattern.    


Strumming Pattern 2: 8th Notes

The next step would be to subdivide, or to break the larger beats into smaller parts.  A quarter note split in half now becomes an 8th note, which creates more rhythmic variation.  To create this, you will strum down and up and count as follows:

Strumming Pattern 3:  The Syncopated Strumming Pattern

Mastering the 8th note strumming pattern lays the foundation for using a tie.  The tie featured in the strumming pattern below will literally tie two 8th notes together almost creating a skip or a “shuffle” like feel while strumming.  The entire strumming pattern contains 8th notes and the & of 2 and count 3 are tied together. 

Strumming Pattern 4: The “Island” Strumming Pattern

The Island strumming pattern is easily the most recognizable and most common pattern used for dozens of songs.  The pattern is almost identical to strumming pattern 3 mentioned above; however, the first beat is a quarter note rather than two 8th notes.  

Strumming Pattern 5: Adding 16th Notes

Adding 16th notes to a strumming pattern adds even more subdivision and rhythmic interest.  The strumming pattern below combines 8th notes and 16th notes that can be used for dozens of songs if the syncopated and/or the “Island” strumming patterns don’t suit the song that you are playing.  

Strumming Pattern 6: 3/4 Time

Because not all songs are in common time, it is essential to introduce other time signatures used in music such as 3/4 time and 6/8.  Common time, or 4/4, time contains 4 beats in a measure and the quarter note gets the beat.  3/4 time contains 3 beats in a measure and the quarter note gets the beat.  It’s also known as the “waltz” meter.  Below is a common strumming pattern that could be used for dozens of songs in 3/4 time.     

Strumming Pattern 7: 6/8 Time 


A song in 6/8 time has 6 beats in a measure and the 8th note gets the beat.  The strumming pattern sounds very similar to the strumming pattern in 3/4 time; however, they are counted differently.  

It may be surprising to find out that one strumming pattern from the list above actually goes perfectly with a dozen of your favorite songs!  Now that we’ve taken the mystery out of strumming and you’ve learned the 7 essential strumming patterns on the ukulele you may be ready to try some fingerpicking. <<

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