5 Essential Guitar Strumming Patterns

Want to learn strumming patterns? You’re in the right place! This lesson will show you EVERYTHING you need to know about strumming patterns.


In this free guitar lesson you will learn:

  • 5 must-know beginner strumming patterns.
  • The no1 strumming secret that will make you sound amazing.
  • 5 essential strumming tips that enhance musicality.
  • How to become a rhythm master!

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So, what are strumming patterns?

Strumming technique is what we do when we strum the guitar.

When we talk about strumming patterns we’re referring to the rhythm that we play when we strum the guitar.

Why is it important that I learn strumming patterns?

Strumming technique is a key fundamental in guitar playing which helps you to create music.

Guitarists don’t just learn to play guitar chords for the sake of it, they learn the guitar to play MUSIC.

Before we get into strumming patterns, we MUST learn how to strum a guitar.

Let’s look at a few fundamentals that you need to know to strum the guitar.

how to strum the guitar

Fundamental #1 You Must Have Good Posture

It’s best that we get the boring stuff out of the way first! No one likes guitar posture as it’s not the sexiest thing about guitar playing.

Despite this, it is one of THE most important things you can do when learning how to strum.

Make sure that, before you even strum a guitar, you:

  • Sit on a comfortable chair with no arms. (Your legs should be at a 90 degree angle and you should be able to move your arms freely.)
  • Don’t sit on a sofa, or a chair with arms or a kitchen stool. Even though this furniture is comfy it’s terrible for guitar playing!

There’s no right or wrong chair to sit on!

Just make sure that:

  • You’re comfortable.
  • Your arms can move freely.
  • Your legs are at a 90 degree angle.

If you follow these fundamentals, you’ll be rockin’ in no time!

For more lessons on guitar posture, go here: How To Hold A Guitar

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Fundamental #2 Learn How To Hold A Pick

Learning how to hold a pick gives you complete control over your strumming. It allows you to vary how loud or soft you can play and makes guitar playing easier.

Let’s go through a step by step guide of how to hold a pick.

Step 1) Do A Thumbs Up!

strumming patterns

Step 2) Place The Pick On The Top of Your Hand

Like this:

strumming patterns

Step 3) Clamp Your Thumb Down

strumming patterns

Fundamental #2 Make Sure Your Arm Is In The Right Place

When placing your arm on the guitar, make sure it’s on the ridge of the guitar.

Don’t put your arm directly on the top of the guitar, it needs to sit on front of the guitar.

This is your main strumming hinge. By doing this, it gives you free movement when you strum.

This photo is a great example of how your strumming position should look.

strumming patterns

Can you see how her arm is sitting on the ridge of the guitar?

Fundamental #3 Don’t Bend Your Wrist When You Strum

When strumming the guitar, your wrist needs to be straight. If it looks like a swan’s neck, you’re going to get into all sorts of trouble.

This is how your wrist should look:

strumming patterns

Can you see how the wrist is straight and not bent?

You should NOT be strumming from your wrist, your strumming MUST come from your elbow.

That’s where you get all the power from.

Learning How To Strum

When we strum the guitar, there are a few things to consider.

Make sure that:

  • Your wrist is locked is into place, with your elbow doing most of the work!
  • You’re holding your plectrum correctly.
  • Your arm should swing smoothly like a pendulum.

Like this:

Strumming patterns

Having these fundamentals in place accelerates our strumming progress.

To learn more about strumming technique, go here: How To Strum A Guitar

Down Strokes and Up Strokes?

When we’re learning about strumming patterns it’s vital that we understand the difference between down strokes and up strokes.

Many guitar players think that these two techniques are a mirror image of one another. However this isn’t the case, they are different.

Down Strokes

Having a good solid down stroke allows you to gain momentum when strumming patterns.

When you do a down stroke, it should feel like you’re pushing through the strings. When you strum downwards, push through the strings with your elbow.

You should move through the strings with one solid movement.

Up Strokes

Most players think, when you do an up stroke, you need to strum ALL the strings.

This simply isn’t the case. When you do an up stroke, you only need to play the top 3 strings.

If you strum all the strings on an up stroke, your strumming will become stiff and stale.

This isn’t what we want, your strumming needs to be free and light!

Down strokes are the driving force, where as up strokes add character and variety to your strumming technique. Up strokes should feel like a light flick gracing over the top 3 strings.

how to strum a guitar

Exposing Strumming Patterns

One reason why beginners often struggle with strumming patterns is because a lot of strumming patterns are often unclear.

There are a lot of people on YouTube who are guitarists NOT guitar teachers. They often explain how to play a strumming pattern like this:

Down, up, up, up, down,down, down, down, up, up, up etc.

This is fine, if you want to learn a specific song. However if you want to develop your musicality, learning bespoke strumming patterns is not the way to go!

We’re going to show you a universal strumming pattern which you can use for ANY song.

strumming patterns

The Universal Strumming Pattern

The most basic strumming pattern you will ever need to know is down and up.

This is all a strumming pattern will ever be!

By learning this basic strumming pattern it will allow you to develop your musicality quickly and efficiently.

We’re going to show you how to play this essential strumming pattern in 4 quick and easy steps.

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Step 1) Find The Beat of The Song

Every song has a beat, it always goes something like this:

  • Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap

It’s never:

  • Tap, tappety tap tap, tap tap tap, <pause> tap!

This is uneven. When you’re trying to find the beat to a song, the gap between each beat MUST be even.

If you can’t quite find the beat, there are few fundamentals you can listen out for.

When trying to find the beat of the song, the best thing you can do is, listen to the drums.

Specifically, listen for the bass drum and snare. This is what holds the groove down!

In more musical terms, we refer to the beat as the tempo! This is also known as ‘BPM’ this stands for.

  • Beats.
  • Per.
  • Minute.

strumming patterns

Want extra tips on how to play guitar? Check out this article by The Guardian: Learn to play guitar | Life and style | The Guardian

Step 2) Strum On Each Beat

Once you feel like you have identified what the beat is, strum a chord on each beat.

For this part, you only need to use down strokes.

However, make sure that when you strum, you play exactly ON the beat, not ahead, not behind, on! Try and lock into it 🙂

Let’s say we have four beats that go:

1 2 3 4

You’re going to strum directly on those beats!

Like this:

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Step 3) Add In Up Strokes

This is arguably the trickiest part of learning to strum, most people are okay with just playing down strokes. However their timing becomes off when up strokes are added.

When you add an up stroke, you want to be slap bang in the middle of each beat.

Let’s say our beat goes

1 2 3 4

You need to fit your up strokes in between each beat.

So now your strumming pattern becomes:

1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and

Like this:

Step 4) Double Your Strumming Pattern

You don’t have to do this, but if you can, it will take your strumming to the next level.

To do this, we’re going to double our strumming pattern. Most of the time, you won’t need this, but it comes in handy if you want to play faster!

For this technique, we’re not going to just play a bit faster, we’re going to DOUBLE the speed of our strumming pattern.

Listen to this audio clip to hear how the strumming pattern goes from normal tempo to double speed. Can you hear how it is EXACTLY doubled?

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