I’ve seen so many people on online forums asking for help on how to play a specific strumming pattern for a specific song or people asking myself and others to type out the strumming pattern. However, if you want to be able to figure out strumming patterns on your own, we need to approach it with a slightly different mindset. Let’s break this down into three simple phases and elevate our strumming pattern game.
Phase 1: Hearing the Rhythm of a Strumming Pattern
Instead of constantly thinking of a strumming pattern in terms of “down, down, up, down, up, etc” I want you to think of the rhythm of the strumming pattern. That means listening to the rhythm of the strumming pattern and trying to get it locked in your head. This will be tough at the beginning but I would recommend not even having your guitar with you when you start this. Try to sing along with the rhythm because the main goal here is to be able to get that rhythm stuck in our head before we move on. Phase 1 is by far the hardest part of this lesson! Make sure to put in some good time and practice! Another recommendation is to find a video online that outlines a strumming pattern then listening to the song to see if you can hear the rhythm of it in the song.
Phase 2: Moving Your Strumming Hand with Beat of Song
Now that we have the rhythm stuck in our heads and we can sing or clap along with it, we need to continuously move our strumming hand at tempo. This means that we need to move our strumming hand down and up along with the beat of the song. If you were to count along with the song, try to think of where the “1, 2, 3, 4” would be. These are called downbeats. Not ironically, we do a down strum whenever we would count a downbeat.
Just like you move your hand down whenever you count a downbeat, your hand will move up in between the downbeats. These beats are called the “and’s” or “+’s” as many people know them. Try counting out loud, “1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +” and move your hand with the beats. Match the tempo of your counting to the tempo of the song and then let’s move on to phase 3!
Phase 3: Picking the Strings with the Rhythm and Beat
Strumming hand moving at tempo? Check. Rhythm of the song in our head? Check. Let’s put them together! The way we do this is by putting our pick to the strings along with the rhythm of the song. Our hand will continuously go up and down along with the beat of the song but we only want to put our pick to strings in line with the rhythm we hear in our head.
This will definitely take some practice! The biggest thing to remember is to ALWAYS keep your strumming hand moving! This will allow you to naturally strum along with the rhythm and not even have to think about “down, up, down, etc.” You won’t have to think about which strum to use because you will naturally be playing the rhythm and your hand will always be moving.
Once you’ve gotten these basic fundamentals down, I think you’re ready to take the plunge into how to learn a song. I’ve written a great lesson about how to surprise your partner with their favorite song right here!
My Brain Hurts
Although these are three simple phases to learning this technique, I know it won’t be easy to follow this in a purely written explanation. That’s exactly why I’ve created a completely free 5-day course that includes a video lesson on this exact same topic. I will send you 5 great lessons over the course of the next 5 days and all you need is an email address. What have you got to lose?! Check out my course and be strumming like a pro in no time!
If You’re Ready for the Next Step
If you’re ready for the next step and want to see great videos of me walking you through this process, I recommend my “Fundamentals of Guitar (Book 1 of 3)”. It not only shows you what you need to know about strumming, it will put it in context while learning some popular songs.
Keep rockn’ and I’ll see you later!