Reggae Strumming on Ukulele | Simple Tutorial

WHY LEARN A REGGAE SONG?

Reggae is an amusing music genre. Bob Marley, a Jamaican musician, popularized the genre reggae. Even though reggae sounds so simple, it may seem complicated for the beginners to play. Because of the off-beat and staccato technique, the guitar strumming can be onerous. Reggae gives you an uplifting feeling that any other music genre can provide. It is perfect for the summertime. Maybe you are planning on going out this summer with your friends, and you want to play some Bob Marley songs. The only instrument you have is a ukulele. But you are finding it very difficult to play the songs because of the unusual technique used in his songs. So we came up with this tutorial, which will guide you on how to play reggae strumming on ukulele.

UKULELE

Before we can begin our tutorial, you need to find the perfect ukulele for you. Let us get to know a little information about the ukulele. The ukulele belongs to the same family as the guitar called the lute family. It is a small guitar-like instrument with four strings. The strings used in a ukulele are nylon strings. There are seven types of ukulele. They are all different in size, length, and range. Soprano is the most common ukulele type. It has 15 frets, and Strings are G4, C4, E4, A4. The tuning is known as C6 tuning. There are other ukuleles like Pocket ukulele (16 in), Tenor (26 in), Concert (23 in). But for the sake of today’s topic, we are going to focus on Soprano ukulele.

REGGAE RHYTHM

Reggae was introduced to general mass by artists like Bob Marley, The Wailers, and Peter Tosh. It is an influence of calypso music, blues, traditional Caribbean, and American jazz. The Reggae consist of 4/4, offbeat, and staccato. The reggae tempo is slower than other Jamaica genres like rocksteady and ska. The guitar rhythm is played on the offbeat. It means on a 4/4 rhythm, downstroke will be played on 2 and 4. An up will be played when someone counts “and” right after saying 2 and 4. So in a “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and” we are playing down strokes on 2 and 4 and upstrokes on the “and” after 2 and 4.

REGGAE STRUMMING

Now that you have a basic knowledge about ukulele and reggae rhythm. We are going to learn how to perform reggae strumming on the ukulele. So we are going to divide this into two parts.  One will be a simple or the easier version, and another one will be the intermediate version. The easier version is only to work as a beginner lesson, but it is not an alternative for the actual reggae strum.

BEGINNER REGGAE STRUMMING TECHNIQUE

To begin with, we will work on the strumming technique. The technique will give you a sense of knowledge about the actual reggae strumming. For the tutorial, we will focus on the left and right hand individually. But in this strumming technique, our primary focus will be on the right-hand. Keep in mind as most of us are right-handed, we will refer left hand as the hand which we play chords with and vice versa.

Left Hand 

In this technique, you do not have anything special going on with your left hand. You will be just playing chords with your left hand. Put your hands on the fretboard comfortably tilted. Trimming your fingernail can greatly improve the sound, as it will be easier to push down the string. Untrimmed nails can be an obstacle when you will try to press down strings. Use the flesh on the top of your finger and a cm bellow where your nail starts.

Right Hand

I want you to open your right hand and leave no gap between the fingers. Now put your hand on the soundhole and cover it completely. Make sure your fingers are facing downwards. So now close your hands while the tip of your fingers makes contact with the strings. You want to curl the fingers inwards and make a fist. As you are doing this, your strings will vibrate and create a sound. As soon as you hear the sound, clap on all the strings and make it stop vibrating. This will allow you to create a note with a small duration also known as staccato.  This is an alternative and easier way of creating a staccato. So the two steps of playing reggae strumming are- 

  • Clap on the strings
  • Create a sound while taking your fingers inwards the palm 

ADVANCED REGGAE STRUMMING TECHNIQUE

Reggae genre has a very distinct sound. To be able to create that sound, you have to learn how to play reggae strumming the correct way. The right technique will concede you to create the same bouncy tone. For the advance reggae strumming, we will have to divide it into 2 segments. Because on the open and the closed chords, the reggae technique is different.

Closed Chords

Before we can learn reggae strumming on closed chords, We need to learn how to play muted chords. Without muting chords, we will not be able to create a staccato. To simplify the tutorial, we will take a look at each hand individually. It will allow us to get a better picture of what we are going to be doing with our hands.

Right Hand

Our right hand is not assigned to do anything other hand playing chords, unlike the other version. But we have to focus heavily on the strumming pattern. First, we need to pick up a strumming pattern. So let’s take 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & as our pattern. We will start with a downstroke on the numbers and an upstroke on the &. So downstroke on 1,2,3,4 and upstroke on the &’s.

Left Hand

While we play the reggae strumming, our left hand will be assigned to do two jobs. One is to play the chords, and another is to create the mute. To produce a muted sound, You need to rest your grip. If your grip is not tight enough, there will be no open sound, thus creating a muted sound. So to better understand how we will use our left hand we will follow the strumming pattern showed before. But for 2 and 4 instead of a downstroke, we will perform a mute. 

 Open Chords

For the open chords, our work for the right hand is the same as the closed chords. We are going to work on the same pattern we used in the closed-chord. It means downstrokes on the numbers, upstrokes on the &’s, and mute on 2 and 4. 

We are talking about open chords. Performing a muted sound is not possible using the technique for the closed-chords. It means when you will put your grip into rest. The strings will continue to play. It is because when you are resting your grip, you are not stopping your strings from playing. After all, they are played open and your fingers are not touching the strings. Now, this can create confusion on how we can perform a mute. So here comes work of pinky finger. Keep your pinky hovering half a cm off your fretboard. When you will need to mute, simply put a pinky finger on the strings. To be more coherent, you rest your grip for the closed chords. Use your pinky finger able to do the same thing for the closed chords.

Technique of playing reggae strumming :

DIFFERENT TYPES OF REGGAE STRUMMING PATTERN

Basic Reggae Pattern on 8th note

Our first pattern will be the most common reggae pattern. At first, we need to choose a few chords. For the first lesson, we will take A, D6, and E6 chords. Now what we are going to do is, we will play a staccato chord or muted chords on every &’s. So on an 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & count. We will do a downstroke staccato chord on each &’s. Make sure the tempo is right. For the D6 and E6, we are going to use the closed-chord muting technique. For the A chord, we will use the pinky or open-chord muting technique. Make sure you do not lose the tempo.

Video on this pattern :

Pattern 2

Our second pattern will be from a song. The song is “One Love” by Bob Marley. Let’s look at the chords first. The chords are C, Am, F, and G. The pattern is similar to the pattern I talked about on the reggae technique segment. We will play downstrokes on numbers. 2 and 4 will be staccato. For the 1st and 3rd & we will do an upstroke but for the 2nd and 4th & no chords will be played.

Chords

Strumming pattern 

How to play One Love :

GET BETTER WITH EXERCISES

Ukulele and Reggae goes perfectly which each other. There are many interesting and challenging reggae strumming patterns out there. We learned about ukulele and techniques you will need to play any reggae songs. We even worked on two reggae patterns. So now you are perfectly capable of learning any new reggae strumming on your own. One does not get better without practice. If you work hard, you will achieve your goals. So my advice to you is to surf the internet and try to learn as many as reggae songs possible. Or at least try to do it until you have complete mastery over it.

Another great uklele’s buying guides:

Further Reading

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