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How to Play Ukulele: Calypso Strum

When you think of ukulele, there's a certain strumming pattern that we often associate with sandy beaches and tropical islands. This is what we call the "Calypso Strum" - although it's often been called the "island strum", or sometimes the "rock strum". Whatever you know it as, once you learn to recognize calypso strumming, you'll notice it’s a very popular pattern for playing ukulele. For a classic example, check out "Jamaica Farewell" from Harry Belafonte:

Throughout the song we can hear the calypso strumming pattern, and it immediately gets us in the mood for a cool drink somewhere in the island sun. It has a great warm sound, and if you play ukulele you'd be wise to learn this classic technique since it can be used on so many great songs.

Sarah Maisel demonstrates how to play this classic strumming pattern in the video below. This just a sample from the ukulele lessons at ArtistWorks (which you can find more info about here):

Here’s how it goes: down, down, up…. up, down, up. That's the strumming pattern. You start with a Down Strum using your index finger, and then follow it with another down stroke using your thumb. As Sarah says, “it’s almost as if the strum last twice as long.” So remember:

Down Down Up... Up Down Up

Notice how the calypso strum can add a nice percussive element to your playing. Sarah over exaggerates this in the video so you can really get a feel for how this strum sounds. Using this method, you can make any song have a more “islandly” feel! 

As an example Sarah shows you how the calypso strum would sound on a simple chord progression of C to G7.

You can do this strum in a swing or straight style, depending on what kind of sound you’re going for. Try each style out for yourself and see how it feels! If you're having trouble with getting this pattern to sound natural, just keep practicing! It may some time for your fingers to remember what to do without having to focus on it so hard, but it will get easier.

how to play ukulele: calpyso strum

Learn ukulele online with Sarah Maisel and Craig Chee at ArtistWorks. Not only will you have access to all of Craig and Sarah's in-depth ukulele lessons, you'll be able to get direct feedback on your playing when you submit your practice videos. Made possible through the pateted process of Video Exchange Learning®, it's the best way to learn online! 

Learn more about ukulele lessons at ArtistWorks

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