Scrubbing Between Chords For Easy Movement

We all know the feeling. You’re jamming along on a tune and then it hits you…

This sounds really boring!

What to do? Well, there are lots of options, but a top contender for the one with the most bang for your buck is called “scrubbing.”

Here’s how scrubbing works:

When you scrub you move the notes of an  Ľukulele chord up or down one fret for a moment, creating dissonance before moving back to the chord’s proper location.

James Hill does this a lot for his jazz tunes. Check out Lyin’ In Wait from his album Man With a Love Song. At :09 he does a very obvious scrub into a chord. Not all scrubs are created equal!

An example:

If you were playing a G major and you wanted to do some scrubbing, here is what you could try. The first example just goes from a normal G and then drops down one fret, returning to the G on the next strum. The second is just the opposite:


Here’s one in a jazz situation:

This is just a simple C6 Ebdim7 F6 G9 progression, but with scrubs leading into every chord.


Some things to think about:

  • It’s a good policy to always “finish” your scrub by ending on the proper chord.
  • I find that a scrub below, in general, has a more normal sound. Scrubbing up is more “out.”
  • A scrub can use as many or as few strings as are used in the chord – there’s no need to find an alternate closed chord for it to work. If you want to scrub the 3rd fret of an open C, go for it!
  • The longer you stay on the “off” part of the scrub, the more tension you build.
  • Timing is everything with scrubs. It’s almost more of a rhythmic thing than a note thing.

By Brad Bordessa

I’m an ‘ukulele artist from Honoka’a, Hawai’i, where I run this site from a little plantation house in the jungle. I’ve taught workshops internationally, made Herb Ohta Jr. laugh until he cried, and once borrowed a uke to jam with HAPA onstage in my boardshorts. More about me

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