Cuatro Strumming

Course: Introduction to the Cuatro for Ukulele Players



The Cuatro strumming world is full of what is known as “Frenados” and “Repiques”, we will navigate through the most common ones and you’ll have the opportunity to explore the strumming world with us and see if you like what you hear. (hopefully!)


At its very base, strumming is the same as with a Ukulele, down/up movements using the index finger or all fingers at once.  But there’s more of it, its bigger body allows musicians to apply percussive resources and techniques that are very impressive to the public.

The following video shows a basic strumming with the Cuatro, using some of the percussive techniques and also frenados and repiques:


There’s a whole science behind Frenados and people spend months trying to master the two basic ones: frenado up and frenado down.

You’re maybe familiar with the Frenado down, as this one is used on the Guitar, and sometimes on the Ukulele, it consists of chunking the strings when doing a downward movement. Let’s see this frenado being made with a Cuatro:

The other basic Frenado is Frenado up, this one is probably the one you’ve never used before. This technique would take you a little bit to master so don’t worry if you cannot get it at the first try.

The frenado up is made with both thumb and index fingers together.  In the following video you’ll see how this technique is executed for the cuatro:

Both Frenados are the base for many different percussive resources and they combine to create interesting rhythm patterns.  The double frenado, for example, is used in a particular genre called “Gaita” which is played in the west coast of Venezuela.

Try to master the frenado up and you will be able to navigate the world of Cuatro Genres and Rhythms with ease.  In the next lesson, we will see a few of the popular genres that are played with the Cuatro.


Fingerpicking is a crucial part to understand if you want to play the Cuatro like the professionals.  The Cuatro has both roles as a harmonic and a melodic instrument and you can make the best out of the instrument by mixing these two techniques: fingerpicking and strumming with frenados.

Listen to one of our teachers explaining how to properly do the fingerpicking technique with a Cuatro:

Fingerpicking by Professor Adriaan Van Nieuwkerk

Listen to this fingerpicking example:

With these basic techniques in mind, you will be able to start practice with your cuatro.  Some exercises and songs are available in the last part of this course.

Let’s now learn what are the different music genres that you could play with the Cuatro. We will see some of the most typical cuatro songs and will watch videos of cuatro masters and professionals playing both the accompaniment and instrumental songs.

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