L6 : Special FX

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

In levels 1-5 of the strumming section on this site you’ve learned all the foundational nuts and bolts of strumming. This level tackles some special effects that can add finesse and shimmer to your strumming. Some of these techniques, like rolls/rasguado, can be added to almost any style or song, while others, like scratching, are necessary in more complex genre strumming (funk and reggae). These genres are addressed more fully in the AE sections (Areas of Expertise), but for now we’ll just focus on the raw techniques.

Scratching Dead Strums

x = scratch, dead strum or pinky mute

Scratching, a muted percussive sound inbetween sounded chords, can be accomplished in two ways:

  1. Lift the pressure off of a barre chord, or any chord that involves all four strings, so that the strings are still touched lightly with your fingers, but are not fretted, and continue strumming.
  2. In the case of chords with one or more open strings, mute the strings by lightly placing your pinky over all four strings (pinky mute) and continue strumming. Other fingers may be used to mute the strings besides the pinky.

Roll, AKA Rasguado

R = roll / rasgueado of your choosing (4, 5, 8 or 10 finger)

Rolls can be substituted for any downstroke. There are many ways to do a roll, but the most common roll is the 4-finger roll which is masterfully demonstrated in this video by Aldrine of Ukulele Underground.

You’ve got the Touch

T = a touch (a downstroke that lightly brushes strings 4-3)

Think of this as the anti-accent. Anytime you’d like to de-emphasize a downstroke in a pattern you can substitute a ‘touch’ by lightly striking strings 4-3 (G & C) or even just string 4.

I THought I Saw a Dragin’

Dr = downstroke with drag
Pr = downstroke dragging the thumb

Instead of quickly flicking your finger across the strings, put a little pressure behind the downstroke and drag them across. This is an easy, but wonderful sounding alternative to the much more difficult ‘roll’ technique. They are not identical in sound, but very close. The thumb variation is more subtle.

Slap, Tap and Knock

Sl = slap
Tp = tap
Kn= knock

Quite possibly the simplest thing you can do with your ukulele is to give it a slap, tap or knock in place of a downstroke. Slaps are done with the palm, taps with the nails and knocks with the knuckle. Some players weave complex patterns of this kind of thing into their strum patterns. Check out this awesome video from Craig Chee demonstrating an advanced ‘golpe’ technique. As you experiment with this, you’ll want to tap/slap/knock all over your uke and find the spots that sound the best to you.

Double Dutch

Πp = downstroke followed by the thumb
W = double upstroke – thumb followed by index

Place your index and thumb just a little apart and use both for either a downstroke or an upstroke. Depending on how far your fingers are apart will determine whether the strum sounds like one emphasized stroke or a strum with a tagged delay. Combine this technique with a roll and you’ve created a five-finger roll that packs a little more oomph.

Faster Please

Add some sixteenth note down up strumming to a portion of your pattern. Sixteenth notes are notated without spaces between them so that:

  • ΠVΠV = One Beat, taking the same space as Π – or Π V
  • Other variations include Π–ΠVΠVΠ–, –VΠV, –V–V, Π––V and ΠV–V (common beats in bold)

CHALLENGE

Earn your Strummer Level 6 patch by demonstrating at least five the above techniques in the context of a strumming pattern. Some example patterns are given below. You may use a song or songs you are working on to demonstrate the strums, or one of the chord sequences you’ve learned so far. Demonstrated strums should keep a consitent beat with no noticeable pauses between chords. Patterns may be played straight or swung.

Π V x x Π V x x (folksy scratch strum)
T – Π V T – Π V
T – Π V T – Πp V
T – Π V Π V Π V
T – Dr V – V Π V
T – Pr V – V Π V
T – R V Π V Π V
T T Π V T T Π V
Π – Sl V – V ΠVΠV
Π V Sl V Π V Sl V
Kn Kn RVΠV – V Π V || – V Π V – V Π V
Π – ΠVΠV ΠVΠV Π V
Π V TpVΠV Π V TpVΠV (tap with MAE: middle, ring, pinky)
R Π Π Π R Π Π Π
R Π ΠVΠV R Π Π Π
R–ΠV Π Π R–ΠV Π Π
Π W Π W Π W Π W
T – Π V – W Π V