Strumming patterns make up the basis for all guitar songs. There are some simple strumming patterns you can use with no capo guitar songs that will help you learn much faster. Here we are looking at acoustic guitar strumming patterns and what they are to help you hone your playing skills.
A strum pattern lets you take a simple chord and change it up so that it’s no played in the same old boring way. Many beginners will start out strumming downwards but this can make your instrument sound dull. By learning a strumming pattern you can combine up and downstrokes so that the tune sounds much more lively.
It may be tempting to jump straight into your scales and guitar solos because you want to play more complex pieces on your guitar. However, being able to master a pattern means you will have much better rhythm and will improve your understanding of music theory too.
There are many strumming patterns that are featured in many modern and classic songs. By getting a good grasp of the patterns we are featuring in this list, you will have a much easier time picking up a new song to play. Almost every pattern we are going to go through here use a combination of down and upstrokes so you need to practice both of these before jumping straight into the strumming patterns.
We are featuring five different strumming patterns in this article which are progressive. This means that every pattern builds off the previous one you learned just before. If you are not a complete beginner to the guitar then you may already be familiar with some of the more basic strumming patterns we feature in our list. We would still encourage you to follow along with the plan to the end and not skip any of the patterns. This is because we are giving out some top tips that will help you enhance your guitar playing skills and become a more well-rounded guitarist overall.
Before You Begin – What You Need to Know
In our guide, we will be using both eighth and quarter notes. You need to make sure you understand rhythm well and that you are familiar with both of these notes. Most songs use a 4/4 time signature which means you will be counting out over four beats. Each of those four beats is split into quarter notes. We will depict each guitar strumming pattern as below:
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
Another technique used here is string muting. This is when you take your right hand and place your palm onto all of the strings. Strum the strings without lifting your hand up. In this way, you can strum all of the strings without making them ring out.
You can also do string muting with your left hand. This is achieved by lifting all of your fingers almost entirely off the fretboard but not completely. The amount you raise your fingers should be enough so that the sound won’t ring out clearly. Slightly pressing down the strings mutes the sound and achieves a string muting effect too. Using this technique makes it much harder to play and you won’t be able to achieve open chords as easily. While it’s good to have various skills in your back pocket, try to focus on the first method we mentioned.
Tuning and Tempo
You have to make sure that you’re guitar is in tune and that you are playing in the right tempo when practicing guitar strumming. By ignoring these important details you can make a song sound completely wrong. Try playing along with a metronome so that you are hitting the right chords on the right beat. Reducing the BPM for trickier patterns can also help you play correctly and then slowly build that tempo back up again.
Reading Strumming Patterns
Throughout this piece, you will notice some different symbol which we use to notate the guitar strumming. The symbols below represent the downstrokes, upstrokes and muted strum patterns you will see here.
- ↓ – Downstroke
- ↑ – Upstroke
- ✻ – Mute
Pattern 1: Downstroke Strumming
Let’s start out our list by looking at the all downstroke strumming pattern. This may seem a little basic for you but it’s a really key part of your learning and guitar playing. You can tell where all of the downstrokes are by the down arrow depicted above each of the beats. Never discount an easy strumming pattern like this because it is a really important one to know as a guitar player. The simplest things have to be learned well so you can become better.
↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
We know that this is easy but it really is an essential part of your learning journey that can help you develop your overall timing. Getting your metronome and pulling up a simple track and then strumming downwards using the eighth notes is how you can practice this. Keep an eye on your timing and make sure all of those eighth and quarter notes are spaced out evenly.
Another technique you can work on using this strum pattern is your dynamics. This is where you play softly or loudly, to begin with, and then gradually increase or decrease your volume to add flavor into your playing. Beginner guitar players tend to play slower when you play quietly and then speed up as you get louder so this is a good lesson in controlling those dynamics.
Pattern 2: Up and Down Strokes
We’re going to use the same rhythm here as we did with the previous pattern but instead of just downstrokes we’ll alternate both up and down with the strum pattern. You can see where you will be playing the upstrokes by the upwards arrow above the and symbols. As you begin strumming you will notice that you strum downwards on the numbers and upwards on the ‘ands’. This is another strumming pattern that forms a strong guitar playing foundation.
↓ ↑ ↓ ↑ ↓ ↑ ↓ ↑
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
A common mistake many newcomers to strum patterns will make is that they tend to hit every string on an upstroke. On a downstroke, this is a common thing to do but when strumming up, you want to hit just the top three to four strings. This makes it a lot easier to play your upstrokes when there’s a lot of strumming happening throughout a piece.
Pattern 3: Muted Pattern
The next pattern in our list is very similar to the second one we mentioned here except now you will be using the muted string technique we mentioned at the start of the piece. We use the muted strum technique because it gives the guitar a different sound which makes it seem like a percussionist is playing along with you. If you listen to a drummer play this pattern you will notice they hit their snare on the second and fourth beats. With the guitar, it’s the sound of that snare drum that you want to emulate.
Before we take a look at the pattern let’s make sure we’ve got the muted strum technique down. Whenever you do a downstroke strum that needs to be muted, you let off some of the pressure on your fretting hand. Before you strum the strings, mute them by placing the fleshy part of your palm onto the strings.
The strumming pattern we are using here is your basic eighth note pattern that alternates. We’ve included a muted downstroke on the second beat. The pattern is repeated for the third and fourth beats too. It’s very similar to a strum pattern using two beats and then you continue to repeat it consistently throughout the exercise. By looking at the image we’ve provided, you can see where you will mute the strum over the numbers two and four.
↓ ↑ ↓ ↑ ↓ ↑ ↓ ↑
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
Because the muted strings will probably be a brand new technique for you feel free to slow this pattern right down to get it played right. Once you know how to mute the strings properly it’s a skill that can be used throughout all of your guitar playing.
Pattern 4: Rests and Strumming Patterns
In our penultimate strumming pattern, we’re going to add in some rests to really start challenging your guitar playing skills. Up until this point, we’ve been playing the strings on every single note but now we’re going to leave some out which is where your rests will be.
Every other pattern we’ve mentioned so far in this article has been using a skill guitarists and musicians refer to as the constant strumming technique. This is where the patterns have a strong alternating rhythm to them where the guitarist will be constantly strumming the strings with no rest in between. The following pattern is exactly the same as this technique, it just leaves some of the notes as places where the musician will rest. You’re fingers and strumming hand will thank us later!
↓ ↓ ↑ ↓ ↓ ↑
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
Take a look at where the first and is on the image above. Have you noticed that the stroke symbol has gone? If you were playing this a regular alternating strum pattern then an upstroke would be here as it has been in the patterns we’ve mentioned earlier in this piece. This time there is no strum. Make sure to bring your strumming hand back up on this hand but be careful not to play any of the strings. This upward motion should be kept going throughout even though you won’t actually be playing anything on these strokes.
When you begin to learn patterns like this then it can be a great tip to count to yourself out loud as you play. This helps you keep track of what note you are on so that you don’t miss a rest or a strum. You may also find it helpful to exaggerate the basic strumming motions as well because this can help you stay on rhythm.
Whenever you work on strumming patterns for rhythm guitar or normal guitar you must remember to stay relaxed and loose. Keeping a constant motion with your strumming hand may cause you to tense up but this should be avoided because it can affect your overall playing. Remember that when you are playing each of the upstrokes in the pattern you won’t be playing all of the six strings together. Just hit those last few strings to make it sound right.
Pattern 5: Complex Resting Pattern
Our last strumming pattern is a bit harder than the other patterns we’ve given you here. You may have guessed this from the use of the word complex. We will use the constant strumming technique here as well which you are already familiar with. When you look at the pattern you will see that you will be resting on the third beat and this time it will be on a downstroke instead of an upward strum. As you begin playing make sure you are leaving out the third beat downstroke but make the motion with your hand. The rest of the pattern uses your regular alternating strokes to make up the rest of the section.
↓ ↑ ↓ ↑ ↑ ↓ ↑
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
It’s really important to remember that whenever there is a rest like there is on the third beat here, you have to keep the strumming motion going. Even though you’re not playing the strings, the motion will help you keep your rhythm in check.
If you are a new guitarist there’s a fine balance you will want to find with strumming patterns. You have to hold onto your pick so that it won’t fly away if you are strumming harder on the strings but you also want to remain loose enough so that you don’t go tense. Tension in the elbow or wrist will lead you to play incorrectly and the fluid strumming motion will be compromised. If you have trouble being loose you can pretend that there’s something on your fingertip that needs to be shaken off. This loosens up your wrist and elbow enough to keep the strumming fluid.
Applying These Patterns
Now that you have five of the most basics strumming patterns in your repertoire, you can master them perfectly. Once you understand how each of these patterns works and can nail the techniques we’ve shown you above then you can use them to play your favorite songs. You may even want to start creating your patterns for better practice and rhythm training.
Strumming patterns can easily be dressed up or down depending on the type of song you are playing. Feel free to add in muted strums and accents wherever you want to so that the constant strumming technique becomes barely recognizable. Whenever you practice these patterns we would recommend you use a metronome or even a jam track to play along with. It’s always a really helpful thing to apply a jam track to your practice because it feels like you’re playing along to real music. This will only help to sharpen your skills and make you a better guitarist overall.