Strumming Patterns

Strumming patterns for guitar beginners

One of the very first things – if not the first thing – you want to wrap your hands around as you begin to learn electric guitar, is to understand and be comfortable with some basic guitar strumming patterns.

And sure enough, one of the most common questions you can come across on places such as Yahoo Answers, goes something along these lines: “Can someone please help me with the strumming pattern to … I can’t figure it out.” (included is one or more songs the asker wants you to explain).

Often times the same people have tried to decipher a guitar tab for the same song/s without getting any closer to nailing the fundamental strum pattern of the tune.

Before we go any further with our guitar strumming lessons, there are two things first to be aware of…

The problems with guitar tabs

Tabs (short for tablature) for guitar can be understand as a simplified notation system and a visual representation of the notes on the fretboard. When done correctly by someone with experience and knowledge, a tab can provide you with a good, basic overview of how to play a song.  So far so good.

However, there are at least to things which often creates problems for a beginner on guitar. One is the fact that guitar tabs many times have been written by people who doesn’t “quite” get it right. At times there are so many mistakes in the tabs you find, it is not even funny.

Another thing is that the tabs miss one very important thing, the rhythmical values – the element of time and timing. These are things which is integrated in proper musical notation.

In short, you will either need to learn how to pick up things and play by ear, and also learn proper musical notation. Tabs will only get you this far, and can in fact become a real stumbling block as you begin to explore the guitar.

You have to hear as well as see the strumming pattern!

The thing that often amazes me, is how some folks think they can fully explain a rhythmic figure in words – like down, down, up, up, down, up. Seriously, how do you explain rhythm in words? It will fail miserably … unless of course it is accompanied by the proper visual and auditory representation (sight and sound) from a video or guitar teacher :-)

Picking up a basic strumming lesson

Here are some things to get you on your way to learn guitar strumming.  First pick a song which has clear sound as well as picture. It should also be pretty straight forward, slow to mid tempo, without too many instruments and complicated vocal arrangements and rhythm or tempo changes.

Now, let us assume you have learned the guitar chords to the song and can play them effortlessly. Without being concerned at all about chords or notes, begin to listen to the rhythm and how the main rhythm guitar is being strummed. Now, while you mute the strings with your fretting hand, use your pick and try to follow that rhythm! Just remember, no notes, just the pick making rhythmic figures across the strings…

If you are uncertain or confused at this point, then simply watch the great, first video below from the good folks at Next Level Guitar – it’s very informative and to the point. Oh, and even though some of this stuff is played on an acoustic, it is equally important and may just as well be done on an electric guitar :-)

Now, as you tag along, you may begin to notice how there are certain accents or rhythmic shifts- places where the chord or notes seems to be hit a little harder? For instance (in a basic 4/4 song pattern), is the first beat being more accented? This is very common… Again you will notice how this may be done in the below video.

Here are more informative and easy to follow guitar strumming lessons form the good folks at Next Level Guitar, remember to check them out when you have the time! There really is a huge amount of good, solid stuff to be picked up there.

More guitar strumming tips

Some other points to remember is to use the arm more than the wrist when you do basic strumming patterns. However, you need to be loose in the wrist so that you also involve the wrist in the strumming! If your arm and your wrist is rigid, then your strum patterns will be stiff and rigid too…

If you begin to be tired as you play along, then just take a short brake  and shake loose. It helps to let your arms hang down while you shake your hands and fingers lightly for a period of time. Remember also to do some fingers and hand stretching exercises form time to time!

The pick should be held firmly, but not overly tight, between your thumb and first finger. Too tight and you become rigid and tired fast – too loose and you’ll likely drop the pick and also have problems driving that steady rhythm home. Like everything else, this is a matter of practice over a period of time.

Like one of the above videos mention, you will eventually need to learn how to dampen the strings. Both hands can dampen the strings in various ways, including also palm muting. String damping techniques is used amongst other things to create accents and variations, and thereby interest, to your guitar strumming.

Keep it simple! Remember, some of the patterns used to strum a guitar in certain song can be very complex and have many shifts and variations. Don’t be afraid to keep things more basic and to simplify things if you get overwhelmed or confused!

Happy strumming and humming :-)

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23 Responses to “Strumming Patterns”

  1. Joss Wilford Says:

    Good blog and good write up about getting a guitar strumming pattern down. Thanks!

  2. Cas B. Says:

    I agree. people wanting to have basic strumming patterns explained is somewhat lame. Really, what’s the big deal about learning this stuff on your own?

  3. Heath Brokerville Says:

    TY! very helpful information and opinion on various strumming techniques; helped a lot.

  4. Jens LeCoture Says:

    Thanks for sharing your guitar strumming ideas!

  5. George A. Bringer Says:

    Nice blog and solid information about guitar strumming techniques. Thanks!

  6. shane Says:

    Splendid post! I’m having trouble with a the strumming part on a certain song as we speak and this information came in handy for me – quite a pair of fresh eyes on the topic so to speak.

  7. Clarence Ramirez Says:

    Hello, this is a genuinely good blog post about guitar strum patterns. Very helpful information to a semi-beginner like me – thank you!

  8. Lester J. Wootman Says:

    Thank you for sharing this info regarding how to work out the rhythm patterns and strumming the guitar. A light bulb sort of went off in my head :-)

  9. aug Says:

    Just like strumming – learning to play chords on the guitar is very important for beginners, it is one of the first things a person need to do when deciding to learn acoustic guitar. Many thanks for this!

  10. B. Ward Says:

    Loved this write-up and your ideas about strum patterns!

  11. Howard Yourkajev Says:

    Thank you for this subject on how to strum and play the guitar. I have a keen desire to learn more. This is a good resource for me.

  12. Dom Wennelied Says:

    Really appreciate you sharing your views on how to strum a guitar.

  13. sikis izle Says:

    If someone can translate this article to Romanian I will appreciate so much. I will check this out later.

  14. admin Says:

    Since you speak English, feel free to be my guest. Or perhaps you were simply after a cheap, off topic back link … the one I deliberately deleted?

  15. Alesha Maestri Says:

    Really cool written post, I think I will bookmark it :-)

  16. Noel J Gormand Says:

    You actually have a quite a few really useful suggestions about how to strum here. Thanks!

  17. Keith C Says:

    Thumbs up – thanks!

  18. Arnold Person Says:

    Hello, can I possibly use your article about strum patterns on my website with a linkback?

  19. admin Says:

    Sure, feel free – and happy strumming! :-)

  20. Nell Says:

    Great web page, loved the strumming tips. Thanks!

  21. Henry B. Wyldon Says:

    Just want to jot down a quick note to express gratitude for the great instructions you are giving here about the subject of learning how to strum properly. I’m looking forward to more reading and learning material here. Again, thanks a lot for your time and effort!

  22. Fleming W Says:

    Greetings and thx for this unique good information and facts about how to strum. Probably saved me some headaches… :-p

  23. Ron Spradley Says:

    Hi there! This reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept talking about how to strum this and that song :-)

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