We can’t imagine someone has held a ukulele or any stringed instrument for that matter and didn’t have the urge to chunk strum on its strings. If your hands are itching to pick up this technique, continue reading while we let you in on all the tips and tricks to become a pro.
What’s Chunking? or Palm Muting?
A chunk, palm mute, chuck, and chop are all synonyms to the same technique, which refers to the movement of your hand to strum and mute the strings at the same time, producing a percussive sound.
This is a technique that’s been adopted in many ukulele music and songs to achieve that heavy metal tone or add a scratchy style to the beat for a slight percussive effect.
In simple English, it’s a way of making your ukulele sound like a drum by preventing the strings from ringing out. That’s why you’d want to pay extra attention when playing this technique with a drummer in the band.
How to Play a Chunk Strum on Ukulele?
Now that you’re familiar with what chunking or chucking is exactly, let’s get down to business.
To produce that chug-chug-chug sound, you have to do a strum then muffle the sound immediately with the fleshy part of your palm.
As you know, strumming consists of up and down strokes. Chunking is done instead of the downstroke. So instead of going “up-down-up-down,” you’ll go “up-chunk-up-chunk.”
To get the technique right, instead of using your index finger to downstroke on the ukulele strings, use the middle and ring finger of your strumming hand while supporting them with the rest of your fingers. Just before the sound of the note comes out, dampen the strings with the edge of your palm.
Another method to do that is using the side of your thumb while it’s pointing downwards. Either way, the most important thing is to move your strumming hand quickly enough to silence the tune before it comes out.
If you follow these instructions and still hear the sound of your strum full and clear, you might be exerting much pressure on the strings. In this case, try using less force when coming down on the strings.
Chunking doesn’t require much force, so if your hand aches or your wrist feels sore, try doing it again with more loose and relaxed motion.
Spot a Chunk on a Musical Notation
Whether you’re reading a ukulele tab, chord diagram, or standard notation, an X mark represents a chunk sound.
Usually, strumming patterns are shown as ↑ or ↓ arrows. When a small “x” is written above the note, that means you should play it muted. However, a big “X” above or in place of an arrow represents a palm mute.
Time to Get to Action!
We’re sure that by now, you’ve got the hang of the chunking technique, at least theoretically. What’s left is that you go search for your ukulele and begin strumming some chords and muting them.
Our advice is to do it slowly at first, then pick up speed once you start hearing that soft, crispy chunk sound you’re aiming for.
A good strumming pattern for a beginner to practice on is: up-chunk-up-down-up-chunk. Do it multiple times until you feel you’re doing it naturally with no effort.
Remember that if you start collecting tension in your wrist or forearm, you’re not doing it right. Go over the steps again and make sure your palm is relaxed and that you’re using the fleshy part of your thumb to mute the strings.
Ready to take your music sound to the next level? Practice chunking now!