Today we’re covering two right hand techniques that are essential to achieving an authentic sound in bossa nova comping. I cover both in the video above.

The first technique to work on is learning to play chords by plucking the strings instead of strumming them. This may feel strange to you if you’ve only ever strummed your ukulele. You may sometimes feel worried your fingers won’t find their ‘home’ position against the strings on the way back down. Remember you don’t need to lift your fingers much when you do this plucking motion – try to keep your hand hovering over the strings as I demonstrate in the video. This will help keep your hand well-aligned.

If you’ve never tried this before, it’s a good idea to start with open strings, since this means you can focus on your right hand. With all open strings, you’ll be playing a C6 chord (a major triad with a major 6th, in other words the notes CEGA).

Your goal is to produce a clean sound from each string and you’ll have to experiment with how much pressure you apply in each finger so that you produce a nice blended sound for each chord. You should also experiment with dynamics – try to play gently and then see how loudly you can pluck a chord, so that you develop a sense of how to control your comping volume.

The second important technique is muting with your right hand when you come back down. You want to let the strings ring for as long as the rhythm requires it, and then bring your fingers back into position, ready to play. This will mute the strings, which is essential in achieving different comping patterns.

This type of comping is used extensively in Brazilian music, but is also very useful for modern jazz comping styles and for many other styles of music. Have fun trying this out!


Would you like to chat about this lesson?

Come on over to my Discord server to chat with me and other folks who are passionate about playing jazz songs on ukulele. It’s free to register for Discord if you don’t already have an account, with no strings attached. Discord is very easy to use and lots of fun.