Happy Helpful Guide to the Ukulele – Step 2: Left Hand and Right Hand Coordination

Step 2: RH/LH Coordination

The Step 2 video breaks down the nuances of coordinating strumming with your right hand, and forming chords with your left hand. It can be tricky to think about the up and down motion of strumming with your right hand at the same time your left hand is opening and closing to form chord shapes. Through the Guide exercises, you will establish this coordination, as well as find your strumming “sweet spot”.

Right Hand:

  • The right hand is responsible for causing the strings to vibrate and produce sounds of different volume and quality.
  • Use the flesh of your fingers or the nail at different speeds and forces.
  • Strike the strings just above the soundhole by the fretboard to achieve a “sweet spot”.
  • Notice how strings are stiffer near the bridge and more flexible near the soundhole. To get comfortable holding the ukulele while moving your left fingers and right hand, try the following exercises.

Exercise 1: left hand open

  1. Hold the ukulele neck loosely in your left hand (LH), close to the nut.
  2. Rest your right thumb on the 4th string, that is the string that is closest to you (also called the G-string).
  3. Move your right thumb in a downward motion. The flesh strikes each string slowly, one at a time until it hits the bottom string (also called 1st string, or A-string).
  4. Repeat more rapidly, to hear all four strings vibrate.
  5. Downward movement with your thumb is called the downstroke or down strum.

Exercise 2: left hand closed

  1. Close your left hand gently so that the four fingers are resting on the four strings. All strings should be muted, making no sound.
  2. Use your right thumb to execute a down strum. It should sound percussive.

exercise 3: left hand open, left hand closed

Repeat the above exercises 1 and 2 alternating between open and closed left hands. Now, try two down strums for each left-hand position.

Left hand closed (to mute)

ukulele strumming

Left hand open (to let all 4 strings vibrate)

ukulele strumming

exercise 4: strumming

  1. Start with your left hand open. Execute four down strums.
  2. Close your left hand. Execute four down strums.
  3. Practice more down strums, counting 1, 2, 3, 4.

See table below.

ukulele strumming

exercise 5: accents

  1. Same as exercise 4, but with accents on the first count
  2. Repeat the four-counts, but, making the first down strum louder than the next three.
  3.  We represent capital D for a loud downstroke and small d for a regular sounding downstroke.
  4. Elsewhere, you may find a down-pointing arrow or  representing the downstroke.

ukulele strumming

exercise 6: accents on 1 and 3

  1. Repeat exercise 4, with accents on counts 1 & 3
  2. Now, try varying the above exercise by emphasizing the down strum on counts 1 and 3. See table below.

ukulele strumming

exercise 7: accents on 2 and 4

  1. Repeat exercise 4, with accents on counts 2 and 4.
  2. Repeat by emphasizing counts 2 and 4. This is also called putting the accents on 2 and 4. See table below.

ukulele strumming

exercise 8

Repeat exercises 1-7 using the nail of the right index finger instead of the flesh of the thumb.

ukulele strumming

exercise 9

Repeat exercises 1-7 using nails of all four fingers of the right hand.

ukulele strumming


  • It is important to keep a steady, even beat when practicing these exercises to prevent speeding up or slowing down.
  • Once you have the right-hand movement under control, you can focus on the left hand for choice of pitch (melody) and chords (harmony).

How would the above exercises sound if you get your ukulele in tune!


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