It’s fair to say I’ve helped a few newcomers to ukulele in my time, whether that’s been my own kids or people that emailed me for some extra tips.
One thing I notice when it comes to rhythm though is that a lot of ukulele beginners are far too eager to stop strumming.
What I mean by this is, it’s very common for beginners to stop their strumming arm from moving if there’s no strum to be played.
It makes sense right?
When I taught myself to play guitar many moons ago I picked up an awful lot of bad habits but the worst of all was my timing, or lack of it.
I didn’t count beats, I sort of guessed where I should be playing. This meant that my timing was way off.
Start By Counting Beats
Eventually I got a guitar tutor and he taught me to count beats and tap my foot which is probably the most bang for buck than I’ve ever had in a single tip.
And this leads directly in to keeping your strumming arm moving.
Let’s take a look at a practical example.
The rhythm below misses beats 2 and 3, there’s nothing to play. This make it difficult to get your timing right after the first beat.
In the old days before I kept my strumming arm moving, I’d tap my foot for those beats, or nod my head or try and count them in my head.
Keep Your Strumming Arm Moving
It’s far better to make the action of the strum without hitting the strings.
By doing this your arm becomes your metronome, it helps keep the timing going even though nothing is being played.
It does sound simple, but it can be a little tricky at first if you’re not used to it.
Let’s simplify that rhythm a bit and have a go.
I’ve removed the up strums from the rhythm so now all we’re playing is a down strum on beats 1 & 4.
We’re going to strum down 4 times, but only catch the strings on beats 1 and 4. Aim for a nice consistent pace with your strumming arm.
Don’t worry if you do catch the strings accidentally, as long as you’re making a conscious effort to try and avoid playing them.
You’ll get better with time.
Say It And Play It
I always think it’s a big help to say it out loud.
In the simplified strumming pattern above, I would count that as: 1, miss, miss, 4. You’ll be moving your arm every time you open your mouth.
Try that now, it should really help.
Practice With Patterns You Already Know
Now for a little bit of homework, go back to some of the strumming patterns that you’re already familiar with and check to see if you’re keeping your strumming arm moving or not.
If you’re not, see if you can work this tip in.
It may take a little bit longer and you may find that you’re playing a little bit slower to begin with but you should notice a significant timing improvement in your playing pretty rapidly.
If you have any questions on this one, you can drop them in the comments on here or on the UkuleleGo Youtube channel.