Today, we’re gonna talk about 7 beautiful guitar strumming patterns you can practice right now!
Here’s the kicker:
I checked 50+ random songs with excellent rhythms, and these 7 patterns happened to be at the TOP.
And if that’s not enough:
You’ll also learn how to improve your rhythmic skills and learn tips on how to get better at strumming!
If you’re already a professional, I’m sure you know some (if not all) of these patterns.
In this article, I will teach you 7 awesome guitar strumming patterns. At the same time, you’ll learn how to enhance your strumming skills!
There are no pre-requisites when learning these kickass guitar strumming patterns!
Strumming Exercises are commonly overlooked.
Beginners usually focus on chords then forget about strumming. (I still remember, I’m guilty.)
Having a rhythm guitarist in a band creates a more “full” sound, and probably the most important.
You can even sing along when you’re playing the rhythm and harmony.
It sounds easy for lots of reasons. But to be honest, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
I’m sure you’ve heard of extremely complex guitar rhythms that are hard to play along.
Which is why it’s a great idea to keep practicing your strumming techniques early on.
How to Strum a Guitar? (Properly)
The most important thing about strumming is to get the timing right.
For some of us, timing is a b*tch, eh?
Don’t worry, we’ll do this step-by-step.
We’ll start by talking about beats or rhythms.
For now, I will only talk about the 4/4 beat.
4/4 beat simply means each measure should have a total of 4 quarter notes.
Basically, the counting of this is 1, 2, 3, 4.
To correctly strum, or at least practice strumming, is to tap your foot with the beat.
It’s the same as moving your head like it’s dancing to the rhythm.
Tap Your Foot (Rhythm Practice)
I have a little exercise for you.
Listen to this beat, and tap your foot on the clicks (1, 2, 3, 4).
If you have your own metronome, you can use that.
By the way, I’m using an app as my metronome. You can download it if you don’t have one yet.
When you tap your foot, that’s called a downbeat.
Lifting your foot is called the upbeat.
Here’s the best part:
We’re gonna try that with 2 rhythm exercises with a guitar.
When practicing strumming, it’s better to mute the strings first.
Practice one thing at a time.
. . .
Play that metronome again.
This time, while tapping DOWN your foot, you have to strum DOWN as well.
You also have to bring your strumming hand UP on the UPBEAT (without hitting the strings, aka “ghost strum“).
Same thing as the first exercise, but this time you have to strum UP on the UPBEAT.
So the beat will now look & sound like:
Down strums on the numbers, and up strums on the &s. (The foot taps are still on numbers)
That’s the basic strumming exercise that you have to add in your daily exercise if it’s not there yet.
Make sure to continually move your hand up and down (with the beat), even if it’s a ghost strum.
Guitar Strum Notation
You might be wondering:
What are “>, x, or _” in the strumming patterns? Or what’s better: arrows vs. DU?
Well, that’s what we’re gonna discuss about in this section!
There are four different ways in which the guitar strumming patterns are visualized. There may be more but these are the most common.
(1) DU Notation
It doesn’t really have a name for it, so let’s call this DU notation.
D stands for down strum, and U is for up strum.
(2) Arrow Strumming Notation
The DU and arrows are pretty much the same. The 2nd is just using symbols instead of letters.
The arrows notation is usually used by ultimate-guitar.com, where you generally find chord charts for a song you like.
Look at this comparison:
(3) Tablature Strumming
Tablature is more specific, especially if there’s a fingerpicking in the music.
Basically, it tells you what strings to strum (or pluck) on that specific beat.
Although sometimes, symbols used in this notation can also be used on the DU and Arrow Notation.
(4) Standard Notation
Standard notation is harder to understand if you have no music theory background.
It’s also harder for beginners because (sometimes) it doesn’t say whether to strum up or down. You have to rely on your hearing skills for this one.
A quick tip:
It is usually up strums on the 2nd eight notes or (&).
I like the use of the combination of both tablature and standard notation.
For starters, it’s more accurate.
It specifies whether to play it loud or soft, to sustain or not, etc. Sometimes, its also specified whether to strum up or down.
And if you know music theory, you can even play the piece without listening to it.
However, it’s a good idea to learn all these notations, for you will encounter them all on your musical journey.
For the sake of this guide, I will use DU notation because it’s the most common out there. I’m sure you’ve encountered it a lot.
Guitar Strum Symbols
Other than Up strums and Down strums, there are some other symbols you may encounter.
“Shhhh” mute (x)
The x symbol can be seen on top, below, or by itself.
If it’s with an up or down symbol, you have to strum while palm muting.
X alone, sometimes called chuck, means to tap (in order to mute) the strings. It’s also like a drum beat.
By definition, the accent is like a more robust attack on that particular note.
You’ll usually see the ‘>’ symbol on top of the strum (or below).
Sometimes, you might see DuduDudU.
The uppercase is the same as having a ‘>’. IF AND ONLY IF the other DUs are in lowercase.
It’s quite similar to a chuck, but not exactly. In fact, the best analogy for this is a rest note.
Correction: not analogy, it really is a rest.
If you see this symbol, unlike the chuck, you have to lightly tap the strings to mute them without making a “sound.”
You can also remove your fretting hand lightly to pause or mute the sound.
Sometimes, this dot is displayed as a pause symbol just like in ultimate guitar.
Here’s a strumming pattern with both mute and rest symbol.
Bass Note Strumming (D)
An underline on a strum symbol (D) means you only have to hit the bass strings and miss the rest.
This is also (sometimes) displayed as a smaller arrow.
Without Pick vs. With Pick
If you don’t know, they have significant differences both in feel and sound.
Depending on the style you’re aiming for, you’ll surely have your own preference.
The main difference I hear is well you guessed it, sound.
If you strum with a pick, it sounds more robust.
While with fingers or thumb per se, it sounds softer.
Of course, these are just the very basics.
Here’s the kicker:
If we’re talking advanced, both of them have intricate techniques.
With picks, you can play impressive solos in the middle of the song (without removing your pick). And that is gonna be incredibly hard with just your fingers.
An example with fingers is a fingerstyle technique. Basically, you use your 5 fingers to pick certain strings (individually or simultaneously) with strumming along the way.
There’s even a more advanced strumming technique with fingers. But I won’t go in detail, let’s talk about that another day.
So, what does this mean for you?
Well, early on, you can choose to play with or without a pick. Or perhaps learn both and just select your style later on.
How To Strum A Guitar With Pick?
1. Let Loose
When holding your pick, make sure that it’s not too tight. It has to be a little loose, with your hands relaxed.
Just enough so that the pick won’t just fly away.
While holding the pick in between your thumb and index finger, try adding more space to the pick.
This will allow the pick to have more room to “move” when you strum.
The ideal for pick for strumming is light picks.
2. The Good Angle
There’s also an angle when strumming with a pick.
Make sure your fingers (strumming hand) is pointed to the guitar.
For a down strum, your pick should slightly be angled up.
When doing an up strum, the pick should slightly be pointed down.
If your pick is perpendicular to the guitar, it will just sound nasty (and hard to play).
How To Strum A Guitar With Fingers (Without Pick)?
1. Thumb Strumming
You can strum with just your thumb.
With thumb (flesh), the resulting sound is much softer than using a pick.
Although it’s not ideal for other types of music.
You can angle your thumb, on up strums, to play the strings with your thumb’s nail.
Just the right angle, so you’re not catching the strings in between your nail and finger.
With this technique, you can get both a soft and robust sound.
2. Index Strumming
Now, strumming with your index finger.
You can play a really soft sound with just using the flesh of your index finger.
You can also use the flesh and nail technique (nail for down strum and flesh for up strum).
3. Pick Imagination
Best one so far:
The ideal way is to hold your thumb and index finger together as if you’re holding a pick.
This technique is what I use the most when playing.
Think about it:
Using “pick imagination,” your strums can both be loud and soft.
Simply because you can use both the naily sound and the fleshy sound in up and down strums.
For down strums, you can use the nail of your index finger to make it loud.
On the one hand (thumb), you can use the nail of your thumb for the up strum.
Hence, a louder sound.
Here’s the thing:
There are many ways to strum using your fingers; you can even have your own method.
If you have your own technique, comment below if you want to share it with everyone.
Furthermore, you can use combinations of these techniques depending on what you’re playing.
Here’s the deal:
The most crucial thing is it feels comfortable for you, and it sounds good.
7 Awesome Guitar Strumming Patterns
We’ve come now to the icing on the cake.
For these patterns, I’ve added songs that use this pattern to try it yourself.
I’m also gonna use the DU notation so that it’s easy for you to understand.
1. Super Basic
I called this super basic because, well, it’s straightforward.
It looks plain, yet it sounds good, depending on the BPM.
Here are the songs that use this strumming pattern:
2. Ballad (2 versions)
This guitar strumming pattern are actually one of the most common out there.
I found 2 versions (which may be more).
Here are some songs that use the ballad strumming pattern:
3. The Ultimate Strumming Pattern
Dan from guitardominion.net called this pattern, “The ultimate strum pattern.”
I can see why.
Here are the songs you can try:
4. Skip 1st up
Literally, what I call it.
It’s simple, yet it’s lively music.
5. Stop and Stare (Personal Favorite)
Have you ever heard this song by One Republic?
It really has an exciting and easy strumming pattern.
To be honest, this is one of the songs that I practiced on my beginner journey.
I don’t have names for the other two.
But, if you have a clever idea, please let me know in the comments.
Guitar Strum Techniques + Tips
For most beginners, I usually see them strumming the guitar “angrily.”
If you’re not one of them, then you’re doing an excellent job!
On the other hand, here’s what I mean:
Not precisely like Jake, but you get my point.
Tip 1: Frankie Says, “Relax” (Your Strumming Hand)
First off, you have to relax your strumming hand. It will sound better.
Try playing the guitar gently, as if you’re brushing it.
Unless, of course, the song is really aggressive in which you have to strum loudly.
Tip 2: Constant Strumming Technique
You have to make sure that your hand continues with the up and down movement.
It should look like your hand is moving with the beat.
Tip 3: You Don’t Have to Hit All The 6 Strings on Up Strum
At least hit the first 4 strings when doing an up strum.
Most of the time, it will sound better.
Then again, it depends on what sounds right for you. This technique, however, is frequently used by many guitarists.
Tip 4: Don’t Move Your Whole Arm
This is particularly important for fast strums.
Imagine if you drag your whole arm (down) further away from the strings, going back up will take longer time.
Obviously, that’s not ideal for strums with sixteenth notes (or shorter).
This will also avoid unnecessary fatigue to your arm.
Tip 5: Add Accents, Chucks, or Pause on Some of The Strums
If you take any simple strumming pattern and add a chuck or accent, it’ll sound better!
Tip 6: Add Dynamics
You can add dynamics, according to the piece or to your liking.
It will give the song a more emotional turn.
For example, if you use the same “loudness” for the whole song, don’t you think it’s boring and kind of emotionless?
Try to go from a soft sound on intros or verses and loud on the chorus.
Did you try it?
Sounds good, eh?
Of course, there are different ways to implement dynamics to your songs. You can experiment on your own and find out what sounds the best.
Tip 7: You Can Anchor Your Hand on the Pickguard
Unfortunately, this only applies to a few strumming techniques.
(Or maybe I’m just having a hard time doing this with some techniques.)
This anchoring technique is beneficial for thumb strumming.
It will help improve your accuracy, especially if you’re a beginner.
Tip 8: Keep Practicing!
This is probably the most redundant tip I’ve given everyone that’s been reading my guides.
I know it’s redundant, but it’s also the most important.
Keep practicing, it’s the only way to improve.
And don’t forget to have fun while practicing!
Guitar Strum Songs
Here are 50+ Songs with great guitar strumming patterns.
There are gazillions of songs there with awesome strumming patterns. For now, these are the songs that I found.
Here’s the kicker:
Some singers even have wonderful rhythm songs such as Taylor Swift and Shawn Mendes.
You can listen to their song and try to transcribe the guitar strumming patterns for their song.
Final Words of Advice
You can, nay, SHOULD practice the guitar strumming patterns that I’ve provided.
It’s not complicated, and they all sound fantastic!
Don’t you agree?
If you’re a beginner, practice your rhythm while using a metronome and tapping your foot.
Trust me on this one.
Rhythm is hard for some people (me), and it takes practice to actually get the timing right.
Try practicing random guitar strumming patterns to improve your skills.
In fact, this strumming exercise should be on your guitar drills.
I use this Web App to generate random strumming patterns for me. (I plan to create my own, so stay tuned.)
Keep on strumming, and have fun!
If you have any questions or additional information regarding this, please let me know in the comments.