Allow me first to identify what this tutorial is not. It is a not a "how to play the ukulele" or a "this is a ukulele" post. It is for individuals who have the instrument or are interested the instrument, but are not getting the results they are looking for. There are plenty of "how to strum" videos, please watch those and practice often as they are great resources. I wanted to make this post because when I first started out over a decade ago, these techniques were used by my immediate peers but it took me much longer to adapt to the culture and pickup on the sublet details that can take your playing from good to great.
In the video below, I use the same song, but apply the different techniques to show you how to really get the most out of these 4 little strings. I recommend integrating 1 or 2 of these techniques per week.
Ukulele used: Pono TE-D w/MiSi Pickup
images from https://ukulele-chords.com/ (they have really nice free printable charts for chord positions)
Finger Picking – This can sound really great with the right song, one of my absolute favorite examples is: Jake Shimabukuro's While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Finger Rolls – They take a bit of time to get use to as well, but they once mastered they sound and look really cool. There are 2 ways to do this: The correct way is starting with Pinky, Ring, Middle, then to pointer finger, I prefer to reverse it because it feels more natural to me.
Lift Mute – This technique along with pinky mutes (using the left pinky to reach up and mute all 4 strings) are very dramatic improvements over a normal strum. Using the lift mute can take a lot of stress off the fingers while playing and practicing. If your fingers are killing you from your previous lessons, I strongly recommend learning this one. An easy way to think about it is to just press down only when you want to play the note. The slight squeezing motion is more comfortable than an all-out vice grip on the fretboard.
Chunking – This was one of the first techniques I learned years ago, and I use about 95% of the time while playing alone. It just sounds so good! It takes some practice to learn it (and hide it, like I do in the video), so I’ll happy to give provide additional help if needed!
3 String Strum (or Selective String Strumming) – This takes a lot of practice and the audio isn’t perfect in the video, but it can be used to place emphasis on certain strings. I like to use it for the bottom 2 strings and then add emphasis by playing all 4 strings. Another good way to use it is on the G chord, playing just the bottom 3 strings. Once mastered, you’ll be able to play just the notes you are pressing down on and avoiding the open top string (open G).
Finally, the Turnaround – This technique is used heavily in Hawaiian songs and it’s also found in Blues songs. A turnaround is a series of notes that lead back to the beginning of a pattern. I like to use it by playing a chord pattern twice and on the second time play a short picking pattern to break up all the large portions of strumming.
For my next ukulele tutorial, I’ll teach a full beginner+/intermediate level song where we use a lot of these techniques, so stay tuned!
I will try to upload to DTube again later, it currently would not accept my submission :/