Advanced Topics: Strum Patterns

So the Default Strum Pattern will serve you perfectly well in 80% of the songs we play in the RIT Ukulele Club. Sometimes it tries to fake you out by showing up at double speed, which just means you play it twice as fast. However, there are so many songs out there that can be improved upon by exploring different strumming patterns. For example, take Riptide by Vance Joy

DD– UDU-DD– UDU-DD– (repeat forever) or simplified: DD– UDU

When you listen to the song it can be easy to tell that the strum pattern will be pretty different. Especially in the introduction:

So why should we play DD– UDU instead of D-DU-UDU? For one, we would want consistency when performing as a group. Two: while the Default Strum Pattern sounds perfectly fine, it also makes the song less exciting. Riptide has a riff that sort of jolts you awake– the Default Strum Pattern gives the song a much calmer, sitting-on-a-beach feeling (as ukuleles do). However, if you’re looking to perform a slow, deconstructed cover of the song then the Default Strum Pattern may be the clear winner. In the end it’s up to you which strum pattern you would prefer, be it a strong DD– UDU start or a calming D-DU-UDU flow.

There have been moments in RIT Ukulele Club history when an arrangement assigns two different strum patterns to be played at the same time. In Jim Arnold’s arrangement of On Top Of The World by Imagine Dragons, there were two overlapping strum patterns, two overlapping singing parts, two overlapping clapping-percussion patterns, and a fingerpicking part that lasted the entire song. Yes it was very confusing. But it is one of the best arrangements we’ve performed in club history. Luckily on their own, the strum patterns were not difficult to pick up.


The first would be D-D-D-DDU (or similar) and the second would be D-D-DU-D (or similar).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *