Strumming Patterns

A lot of beginner guitarists get confused about how to apply strumming patterns to songs

This is because they are often given songs with no instruction on how to play them

As a result I’ve written this article to give you insight on how to apply strumming patterns using examples

Songs can be written in the form of chord progressions which can be represented as TAB or as sheet music

As strumming patterns can be easily related to time signatures this article focuses on formats that are structured

In the following examples I will use sheet music as it’s always structured.

TAB can similarly be structured however it is inconsistent

Therefore I will cover some basic musical terms you will need to know in order to progress

I understand some of you use TAB however if you can learn these musical terms and how to apply the strumming patterns it will make your life easier and faster.

These musical terms will act as a map and you won’t even need to know the song in order to be able to play it

This article only focuses on strumming patterns that have a 4/4 time signature

Therefore the strumming patterns you use from this article for future songs will depend on their time signature

Musical Terms

Staff: Consists of 5 lines
Treble Clef or G Clef: A symbol placed at the beginning of each staff of music. When you see this sign you know the music is for guitar
Time Signature: Consists of 2 numbers. The top indicates number of beats per bar, the bottom the type of beat. Only concentrate on the top for this article
Bar Line: A vertical line drawn down across the staff which divides the music into sections
Double Bar Line: This usually marks the end of a song or the end of a section

Basic Strumming Pattern

This is one of the most basic strumming patterns you can do

guitar strumming patterns This down arrow indicates one down strum

The rhythm pattern below shows 4 down strums per bar

To help keep the beat, tap your foot as you count and strum. Remember to count evenly and in groups of 4

Applying Basic Strumming Pattern

See if you can now apply this basic strumming pattern with timing to the following diagram

As you can see the time signature is 4/4 which means 4 beats per measure

This rule is met with the 4 downward strums per measure

Use chords A and D as indicated

Remember to keep the strums even and to count in lots of 4. Repeat as many times needed

Down and Up Arrows

So far, we’ve only looked at downward strums

Upward strums are represented by an upward arrow

The way we count these is when the foot taps down we say 1 and when it goes up we say and when it comes down again we say 2, up and, and so forth

See if you can apply this to the above example. This rhythmic pattern is still 4/4 as you can see from the time signature

Remember to count and keep it nice and even

More 4/4 Strumming Patterns

Now that we get the idea of 4/4 strumming patterns

Here are some more rhythmic patterns to practice. In this example use the A chord

These examples consist of downward and upward strums

More Complex Strumming Patterns

Here are a few more complex strumming patterns to make your songs more interesting

Ghost Strumming Pattern

In this strumming pattern we have a broken downward arrow on the third beat

This means that the strum on the third beat is not played

When playing this type of rhythm pattern it is important that you continue the motion of your strumming hand on the third beat as if you are playing the strings in order to keep the flow even

16th Note Strumming Pattern

In this strumming pattern we have 4 strums that need to occur on one beat. This beat is known as 16th note strumming

In this example, this means you need to make 4 quick strums on the third beat

Triplet Strumming Pattern

In this strumming pattern we have 3 strums per beat. This is known as Triplet strumming

In this example, you need to make 3 down strums per beat, try and keep it nice and even

How to Apply these Strumming Patterns to Songs

So far, we’ve determined that the strumming pattern you use will depend on the time signature of the song

The strumming patterns in this article are all for 4/4 time signatures

The next step now is to get your favorite song in sheet music format with a time signature of 4/4 and play the chords above the bar on the right beat using one of the guitar strumming patterns we’ve covered

I’ve included an excerpt of ‘One Dance’ see if you can apply one of the strumming patterns to this song

We are only concerned with the time signature and the chords above the bar.

You can apply any of the 4/4 strumming patterns in the article to this example

Just remember to keep it nice and even, so tap your foot and count if you need to

For your reference the 104 in this song is the Beats Per Minute (BPM) this tells us how fast to play

For your information there are way more 4/4 strumming patterns then what’s been discussed so far

You should be able to find more patterns online or ask your guitar teacher

Finally Don’t get too caught up in which strumming pattern to use

Even if you only use the basic strumming pattern you are still technically playing the song

I certainly hope this article has given you some guidance and inspiration

Feel free to leave comments or questions in the section below