Beginner Guitar Strumming Patterns
Beginner Guitar Strumming Patterns to Give You the Rhythm & Timing of a Pro
As a guitar player, you need to develop your guitar strumming hand to play in-sync with a beat. Rhythm is so important to get to grips with early on so your rhythm will be seamless and second nature, like breathing (or is that first nature?).
The strumming pattern you use determines several things, but the most important is when to change the chord.
I’m going to take you through 4 different strumming patterns, each one progressively more complex, but an essential foundation of rhythmic guitar strumming. You’ll be learning upstrokes and down strokes with your plectrum (or “pick”).
The first essential pointer is to relax your strumming hand. A tense hand will sound like it is – rigid. Moreover, a relaxed hand is more rhythmically versatile. Almost let momentum carry the strumming hand up and down.
A way to tell if you are doing it, right is to check your wrist is doing most of the work here. Your arm should support the movement, but your wrist joint should provide the advantage for the strumming.
If you are playing an acoustic, strike the strings over the soundhole, a little more towards the neck of the guitar.
If you are playing an electric, the positioning is the same, but you will be strumming over the first pickup.
Guitar Strumming Pattern 1
For this exercise, no wait, I hate that word! For this…section, I want you to play along using the A major chord.
We’re going to start with a simple downstroke pattern. I want you to count in groups of 4 to help you keep your rhythm and perhaps put more emphasis on your guitar strumming on beat number 1. Look at the diagram below…
Each arrow pointing down represents one downward (towards your legs) strum of the guitar – in this case, each strum is downwards.
Play this rhythm track below to get an ear for the sound…
That’s a simple 4/4 guitar strumming rhythm used commonly in rock and pop music (not important to know that).
Now, onwards and upwards…
Guitar Strumming Pattern 2 – Making Things a Little More Interesting!
Once you have mastered the basic guitar strumming rhythm and you think you have a solid timing you should learn to combine those down strokes with upstrokes for a more accessible rhythm.
Still playing the A major chord, let’s look at our next strumming pattern.
I know this sounds lame, but play the A major chord and sing along with the “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 1, etc.”
You are filling in that small gap in-between those initial down strokes with an upstroke.
Notice how I have put emphasis on the downstrokes – this supports that strong 4/4 rhythm, especially in rock n roll songs.
The guitar clearly sounds more percussive and versatile thanks to those added upstrokes.
Ok, if you are following this, you are doing great. It’s time to move on another step…
Guitar Strumming Pattern 3 – Skipping a Beat
First – For this pattern, I’m using the G major chord as detailed below…
You have heard of that cheesy phrase “my heart skipped a beat” – well to add a little spice to your guitar strumming rhythm you can consistently leave out a beat in the bar.
Say it to yourself: “one-two – two, one two – two” but strum the air with your strumming hand as you did with pattern 2 (the rhythmic motion of 1 2 3 4). Take a breath in between the two twos!
Look at the diagram – where the X lays just mimic a downstroke, do not actually play it. All you are really doing here is what you did in the second strumming pattern but taking out a downstroke every three beats.
Have a listen to make things clearer…
This one will take a little more practice if you’ve just started to learn, but start off slow, work from the first strumming pattern again if you lose your rhythm and keep building on it.
The next step is to just combine the two last guitar strumming patterns together to create a kind of alternate rhythm (still within 4/4 rock n roll though!)
Guitar Strumming Pattern 4 – The 4/4 Combo
I’m using the D Major chord for this example as detailed below if you’re still learning chords…
Some really well-written songs with interesting chords can keep the same rhythm all throughout and not become boring, but it helps to liven up the rhythmic aspect of any music.
See how they fit together?
With this particular time sig, everything’s done in groups of 4, so changes are made to coincide with the start of a new 1 2 3 4…
Ok, so it’s not really a rhythm you would attach to your next number one smash hit record, but it’s good to learn rhythm variations to get your guitar strumming hand co-ordination up to scratch.
How About Inventing Your Own Rhythms
Draw out a diagram similar to the ones you have seen on this page with up and down arrows representing the up and down strokes, plus any symbols you want to attach to a certain rhythm characteristic.
Try taking out beats consistently, e.g. every 4th beat does the normal upstroke but does not hit the strings to “miss that beat”.
Keep the rhythm constant so your hands will stay in sync with what’s going on.
If you feel like you are losing the timing, think back to that second pattern, 1 2 3 4, up down – keep that strong 4/4 rhythm branded in your mind to start with.
You can look at more complex strumming patterns and time signatures in other areas of this site for genres like funk, jazz, and heavy metal!
Experiment with guitar strumming patterns and see if you can change it for what may be the bridge or chorus of a possible song (rhythmically). The more comfortable and relaxed you feel the better.