I love messing around with funk rhythm on ukulele, I treat it really loosely and probably almost never play the same rhythm twice. It’s great to experiment with and it should do wonders for other areas of your playing when you get to grips with the basics.
When playing funk on ukulele you’re going to be playing a lot of muted strums. This will give you a really strong percussive sound throughout and it will help to emphasise those strums where you’re not actually muting. It’s a really distinct style and loads of fun to play.
The first thing you need to do is to get really comfortable with playing 16th note strumming. This means for every bar you’re going to be strumming 16 times alternating between down and up strums. To help you count this out use the following…
1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e & a 4 e & a
It really does help to say this out loud while you’re playing. Do it really slowly to begin with. You should be strumming at every point of the count – down strums will come on the numbers and the &s. Up strums will be on the e and a’s. It’s a little tricky to begin with, but again take it really slow and you will get there.
Mute The Strings
The next step is to throw a muted chord into the mix. We’re going to use a bar chord so that we can easily mute it by just taking the pressure off the fretting hand. Make sure your fingers are still touching the strings but not actually pressing down hard enough for any of the individual notes to sound. On the tab shown below a muted note is shown with an X.
Now play the rhythm you learned earlier with the muted chord. Again make sure you’re really comfortable with this, keeping the right pressure with your fretting hand and a steady rhythm with your strumming hand.
Now for the cool bit. Keep playing the rhythm whilst holding the muted chord but this time we’re going to squeeze down your fretting hand intermittently and then release it back again so it’s in the muting position. Keep that rhythm going throughout. Sounds cool doesn’t it?
Here’s a couple of very simple variations to get you started. The more comfortable you get with this technique the more complex your patterns will become.
Now have a go at coming up with some of your own, there are so many possibilities with this style.
If you’re struggling to get this down I’d recommend going through my list of 32 ukulele strumming patterns until they become second nature before revisiting this page.