Strumming is an essential part of playing the guitar, adding rhythm and flavor to your playing.
Unfortunately, it can also be an extremely challenging aspect of playing, especially for beginners.
Developing the finesse and control to play complex rhythms consistently takes a lot of time and practice.
But what if I told you there were simple strumming patterns even beginners can learn right now in order to spice up their playing?
In this article we’ll share 3 simple strumming patterns to help you add rhythm and flavour to your playing today, regardless of your skill.
These simple patterns are designed to help you move away from basic down strumming and gradually build up your technique in order to move on to more complex patterns in the future.
Finally, we’ll also look at some awesome online tools to help you take your guitar playing to the next level.
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Before We Get Started: Understanding Timing and Strumming Patterns
Before we start looking at individual strumming patterns, it’s important to cover some basic theory about timing in music.
Any piece of music takes place over a period of time. This time is metered and measured using bars and time signatures.
There are a wide variety of musical timings out there, but the most important for beginners is 4/4 timing, also known as common time.
Common time, as the name suggests, is extremely popular and usually makes up the timing of most of the popular music you’ll hear on a daily basis.
All of the strumming patterns we look at below are in 4/4 timing.
4/4 timing is characterized by having 4 even beats per bar. These beats are quarter notes and are counted like this:
1 2 3 4 |
For the purpose of this article, we’ll break these 4 beats into 8th notes, or 8 individual counts, like this:
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & |
To get the most out of this lesson, we suggest playing the below patterns along to a metronome (set to an easy tempo like 60 BPM) using a single open chord, like E major, for example.
This will allow you to focus all of your energy on playing the pattern cleanly. Then, once you’re ready to step things up, you can increase the tempo of your metronome and try the pattern using multiple chords. Find more about improving your timing and rhythm here.
Strumming Patterns For Beginner Guitarists
So, now you understand the basics of 4/4 timing and strumming patterns. Now it’s time to start practicing.
Below are 3 simple strumming patterns you can learn right now.
Also, remember to follow the links at the end of this article for awesome online tools designed to help you step up your guitar game.
Strumming Pattern #1: The Alternating Strum
This is a really basic strumming pattern every beginner must learn.
Strumming patterns are basically made up of up and down strokes, and this pattern is a great way to learn how to play both fluently.
Here’s how the pattern looks on paper:
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
D U D U D U D U
Remember, play this pattern along to your metronome using just a single open chord and make sure you get clean, precise strums on all beats of the bar.
Understanding this pattern is really important for learning all the other patterns explored in this lesson.
It also provides you with the foundations of all the other strumming patterns you’ll learn as a guitar player in the future.
If this is too simple, trying muting the down stroke on beats 2 and 4.
Do this by either letting off the pressure in your fretting hand just enough so the strings don’t ring out or by muting the strings slightly with the palm of your strumming hand as you complete the down strum.
Not only will this make the entire pattern a bit more challenging, but it’ll also help spice it up a bit and make it more interesting for listeners.
Strumming Pattern #2: The Classic Pop Strum
This strumming pattern is really common in pop music as well as soft or acoustic rock.
It is very closely related to the first pattern we explored but uses rests to spice things up a little bit.
Here is what this strum looks like on paper:
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & |
D D U U D U
You’ll hear this strumming pattern (or slight variations of it) on a variety of pop songs, including Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison, Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd, and Green Day’s Good Riddance.
Again, while this strum might seem simple and repetitive, it is a really great pattern to learn.
Not only does it teach you how to incorporate rests into your strumming patterns, but it also gives you the foundations to play countless pop classics like those mentioned above and many more.
Strumming Pattern #3: The Classic Country Strum
This pattern has been made famous by country legends like Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and Dave Van Ronk.
It involves a simple bass note on the 1 and 3 counts of the bar, followed by down and up strokes on the rest.
The bass note is played by simply picking the root note of the chord you’re playing. So, if you’re playing an E major, for example, play the bass note by simply picking the low E string. Or, if you’re playing a G major, play it by picking the 3rd fret on the 6th string.
Here is what the pattern looks like on paper:
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & |
B D U B D U
This strum is really the foundation of most country and folk music and slight variations of it can be heard on tracks like Hang Me Oh Hang Me (made famous by the film Inside Llewyn Davis) and Blowin’ In The Wind by Bob Dylan.
The key to getting across that iconic country shuffle is by playing with a slight swing that emphasizes the up strokes of this strum.
To do this, try playing slowly and strumming the highest 2-3 strings of the guitar slightly harder on the up strokes.
How to Take Your Guitar Playing to the Next Level
The above patterns are a great way to expand your strumming technique and get you ready to play some popular songs across genres like pop, rock, and country.
But they’ll only get you so far.
To really spice up your rhythmic playing, we suggest taking up online lessons via specially designed platforms like JamPlay, Guitar Tricks, and more.
For example, JamPlay is an online guitar learning platform designed to help players of all levels hone their skills and techniques.
The software includes hundred of video lessons from expert players, including a unique Strumming Workshop that explores the ins and outs of countless strumming patterns.
Not only does the workshop explore patterns like the ones mentioned above, but it also features exercises designed to help you build up control and finesse in order to learn more advanced techniques used in genres like calypso. Visit the official website here: JamPlay.com
Sites like Guitar Tricks, on the other hand, also contain hundreds of video lessons for songs where you can take your newly learned strumming skills and apply them to countless songs from a wide variety of genres.
To learn more about where to go for expert online guitar lessons, check out our review page for comparisons of popular platforms and step up your guitar game today!