Rake Technique On The ‘Ukulele

Here is an ‘ukulele technique that is so subtle that it could almost be missed. Raking is used all the time by guitar players, but not too often (from what I’ve seen) on ‘ukulele. Actually, the only player I recall hearing use rakes on an ‘ukulele is Aldrine Guerrero. James Hill plays almost the same thing with his mono strum. Notable guitarists who use rakes are John Mayer and SRV.

A rake is just a handful of muted notes on separate strings that fall before a ringing note. The raked strings can emphasize the following note with a “pop” that leads right into the ringing note. So the idea looks like this:

-->Ex 1. Ex 2.  Ex 3. Ex 4.
A |-----|----7-|-x---|-----|
E |---5-|---x--|--x--|-----|
C |--x--|--x---|---5-|--x--|
G |-x---|-x----|-----|---0-|

The “x”‘s are the muted strings and the numbers are just played normally.

This technique is milliseconds shy of being a mono strum. The difference is that a mono strum is played all at once (as a strum) and a rake is picked quickly one string at a time by rolling your finger or thumb down or up.

Here is a run-through of the above examples. I’ll give some fingering ideas, but it’s not a science. Just use whatever it takes to mute the raked strings and let the normal note ring:

  • Ex 1. – Depending on where I was coming from to play this rake, I would probably use my thumb over the top of the neck to mute the two top strings. I’d then fret the 5th with my middle finger. In another scenario I might use my middle finger across the top two. Or you could even use your thumb on the top string and middle on the 3rd.
  • Ex 2. – Again, I’d either use my middle finger or thumb, or a combo of both to mute and my 3rd finger to play the note.
  • Ex 3.If you haven’t noticed yet, the cool thing about rakes, and what make them easier to play then a mono strum, is that you only have to mute into the note. You don’t have to split your mutes around a note in the middle. Here I’d play the 5th fret, C string with my 3rd finger and just lay it over to mute the two bottom strings. To pick I’d probably use the back of my thumbnail and drag it up the string.
  • Ex 4. – This one is easy. Just mute the C string with your middle finger and drag your index up to hit the open G string.

This can be applied to any note to add a percussive edge.

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