Most guitarists spend a huge amount of time on everything EXCEPT rhythm guitar. They spend way too much time on chords, scales and just noodling around. So much so that they don’t have the time to work on some of the things that really count – such as rhythm guitar.
If guitarists were more efficient, most would be much better players in a much shorter space of time. One area that lacks any efficiency whatsoever is their rhythm playing, and in particular – strumming.
It doesn’t matter if you are a pop player or a rock player, at some point you are going to want to strum the guitar.
Ask yourself, how many exact strum patterns do you actually know how to play?
In my experience of teaching beginners, intermediates and even some players who have mastered many areas of guitar is that they don’t know what or how to strum like a pro. What I would like you to do is stop reading for a second, pick up your guitar and play me your favourite strum pattern. Then come back and read the rest.
What often happens when I ask a student to play me a strum pattern is, I either get a blank look and they say they don’t know any, or they give me a blank look, think of a song in their head and then play the strum pattern from that song.
Be honest, is this what you just did?
There is nothing wrong if you did, you just haven’t been made aware of the importance of being able to call on a variety of different strum patterns at will. How great would it be if you were able to strum a certain pattern on your guitar at any given time – and one that relates to a specific genre or feel you are after.
Most guitarists can do this stuff with chords i.e. They can play minor chords for sadder sounding music, or major 7ths for a more jazz feel, but they can’t do this with strum patterns, and to be honest the rhythm is often more important than the chords. (If you want to learn a cool, simple chord trick, check this out)
That being said, it is relatively simple for most guitarists with even just a bit of playing experience to learn specific strum patterns and practice them, and call on these at will when a certain song or style requires it.
Not only will it make you a better sounding player, but your understanding of rhythm will also improve, your timing will improve and your ability to create stunning rhythm parts of your own will increase dramatically. Many guitarists dream of becoming a session musician and why not?
It is possible. To do so though, you will need a big repertoire of strum patterns to call on.
3 simple strum patterns on to how to strum a guitar like a pro
We are going to keep it simple today and learn just 3. The following three strum patterns are all taken from my e-Course, ‘Strumming With Soul’.
They are 3 of the most commonly used patterns in rock, pop and indie music although they are used frequently in genres ranging from folk to metal too, so it really is essential that you learn them.
Have a listen to all the strum patterns in action. These are short chunks of songs or riff ideas that I have created over time using examples of all the strum patterns. If you can’t read the strumming charts below, take a look at our guide on how to read strum patterns.
Strum Pattern 1 – The Ultimate Strum Pattern
The Ultimate Strum Pattern uses a combination of quarter and 8th notes, so make sure you have a good understanding of these and are comfortable playing them before attempting the strum pattern. It is an incredibly popular pattern to strum on the guitar. It makes a good substitute for other more complex strumming patterns and is also a good ‘go to’strum pattern that all you guitarists can call on frequently when in doubt.
Songs that use The Ulitmate Strum Pattern
- Van Morrison – Brown Eyed Girl
- Green Day – Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)
- The Calling – Wherever You Will Go
- Foo Fighters – Times Like These
- The Fray – How to Save A Life
Listen to the ‘Ultimate Strum Pattern’ in action
G Major, D Major, E minor, C Major
Capo 2nd fret
(G, D, Em, C) x 4
F5, E5, G5, A5, B5, C5
(F5, E5, G5, A5, B5, C5 ) X 4
As you can hear the same strum pattern gives you a very different sound depending on what ‘sound’ you are after. The overall feel is same for both the pop and rock versions but the end result is pretty different.
Strum Pattern 2 – The Indie Rock Strum Pattern
The Indie rock strumming pattern uses a combination of quarter, 8th and 16th notes, so make sure you have a good understanding of these and are comfortable playing them before attempting this strum pattern.
The accents on the 2nd and 4th beats are integral to this pattern. Loads of modern rock songs use this pattern to great effect.
The first half and the second half are the same and often the chord change is made on beat 3.
Update – these days I teach this using all downstrums except for the quick 16th note upstrums on the ‘a’ of beat 2 and 4. This makes it easier to play and gives the strum the more urgent sound that it requires.
Songs that use The Indie Rock Strum Pattern
- Blur – Country House
- Eagle Eye Cherry – Save Tonight
- Red Hot Chili Peppers – Dani California
- Shawn Colvin – Sunny Came Home
- Oasis – D’You Know What I Mean?
Listen to the ‘Indie Rock Strum Pattern’ in action
A minor, F Major, C Major, G Major
Capo 2th fret
(Am, F, C, G)
Note: All bars in this example are split bars
F5, Ab5,E5, Bb5, C5
F5, Ab5,E5, Bb5, F5, Ab5,E5, C5
Note: All bars in this example are split bars
Both the pop and rock versions of the ‘indie rock strum pattern’ give off the same vibe but totally different effect.
Strum Pattern 3 – The Modern Strum Pattern
The Modern Strum Pattern uses a combination of quarter, 8th and 16th notes, so make sure you have a good understanding of these and are comfortable playing them before attempting the strum pattern.
Songs that use The Modern Strum Pattern
- Oasis – Live Forever
- Passenger – Let Her Go
- Bob Dylan – Knockin’ on Heavens Door
- Ed Sheeran – Skinny Love
- Radiohead – Fake Plastic Trees
Listen to the ‘Modern Strum Pattern’ in action
E minor, Cadd9, G, Dsus4/F#
Capo 6th fret
(Em, Cadd9, G, Dsus4/F#) X 4
Drop D tuning (D5, E5, A5, F5)
I hope this guide helps you learn how to strum a guitar like a pro. Once you get good at learning the above examples it is key that you learn how to adapt your guitar strumming patterns which will allow you to blossom and develop as a rhythm guitarist.
Leave a comment below and let me know what your favourite strumming pattern of all time is!
Which chords have been used in the examples?
Hi Ella, The article has been updated to show you all the chords in all 6 examples. If you want help with the chord shapes, most of them are shown in this chord chart post
Well done, friend! Could you tell me the content of your new book on strumming and when it will be available?
I home hear you soon
You can find out more about the Strumming With Soul e-Course here:
If you have any questions about it, fire away! I`m always about to answer.
I would like to copy the audio for strum patterns so I can listen to them and practice.
Is there any way to copy and paste the ones listed to my desktop so I can do this. I tried to highlight, copy, etc. but could not get them.
Help would be appreciated.
Hi Phillip, You can get the audio above (along with more) as a download in the eBook – Strumming 101: How To Strum Your Guitar Like A Pro! on this link:It costs just $1 at the moment.
What does e and a stands for in Indie rock strum pattern?
Hi Shubh. Check out this other post on `How to read strumming patterns`. It`s all there for you.
I found the Indie rock pattern confusing even after reading about the es and ahs.
Try splitting the bar into two halves. (The first half and second half are the same).
Work on one half at a time and play it slow. Since creating this post, I have realised that many students prefer to play the first upstrum as a downstrum, so that would be d d d Du for the first half (and then repeat to complete the bar).
ian barnett says
As a relative beginner, i tend to strum with my fingers. I mainly play on an acoustic guitar, would you recommend getting used to playing with a light pick?
regards – Ian. B
Hi Ian, Yeah, give it a go. Thin picks are great for starting out.
Everyone has a slight preference (at the very least) whether to strum fingerstyle or using a pick, but there are some songs I play where I prefer to to strum with a pick, so yeah, give it a try, but don`t stress too much if you don`t enjoy using a pick just yet, you can always come back to it later. In fact, many do.
Thanks, Danny. Great help. Agreed. I’ve realized recently (and simultaneously) (a) the importance of mastering strum patterns and (b) my complete dearth of knowledge or practice in the rhythm arena. Will use these three patterns for practice.
In the intro, there’s an aside that reads “(If you want to learn a cool, simple chord trick, check this out).” Should this link somewhere?
Hey Holly, glad it was useful for you. We have all been there. I spent way too long trying to be a melodic player and not spending nearly enough time on rhythm in the early days so don`t worry; the key thing is you know what to work on and now you`ll make great strides I`m sure. Thanks for the heads up on the link too – that is fixed.
Eric beaudoin says
Hey, lik ethe article.
I was wondering about the indie strumming pattern:
d – u – D – d u d – u – D – d u
for me this seems weird because I am used to alternating D and then U.
but the and in 1, is an up stroke where i expected a down. and also the and in 3.
d – d – D – d u d – d – D – d u
not sure if this is done like this for the brighter sound of an upstroke?
Also you noted dani California, but I believe their strumming pattern is:
d – d – D – – u d – d – D – – –
Which is similar but they have a few 16th note rests don’t they?
Which way should I play them?
I kind of feel like using an up stroke on the 3rd and 11th sixteenth note throws off my hand motion.
I guess I will practice both ways and see how it works for me!
Hey Eric, thanks for the insightful comment.Yeah Dani California is actually a little different to the indie rock strum. Not much but enough to change the feel, so I have now removed it from the list.
When it comes to 16th note strumming, you go with what works for you. Some people prefer method 1 as you described, some like yourself prefer method 2. These days I`m finding more and more students like method 2 more as it is a little easier to get the groove and sounds a little more energetic.
I want to study strumming. Do you have DVD ? I want to buy them
I have an online course (but not DVD as yet) which you can find out more about here – Strumming With Soul – Strum The Guitar With Technique, Passion and Power
Can I store online courses that I can study them later?
If I store them in cell phone. So can I study them in IPad and laptop?
Thank you so much
Hi Cherry, the courses are stored online – you can login in anytime to use them and you will have lifetime access. There are also some downloads that come with it too which are really useful. Hope that helps.
OMG… I have stumbled upon a VERY useful, helpful, ‘bookmarkable’ and awesome guitar-tutoring website here. Really, I just wanna say THANK YOU so much. With this meaningful random discovery, I will be able to add ‘understandable’ strumming patterns to some of my ‘rather’ popular chord contributions on Ultimate-Guitar.
You are so awesome. Four thumbs up (from my hands and toes… LoL) from Malaysia here! X3
Thanks again, Teach! XD
Hi Dan, i think indie strum pattern is wrong, you put “up” in the first “and”, and in the movement this use to be “down” you understand me?
Hi Pedro, thanks for pointing this out. These days I teach this strum pattern the way you mentioned and have changed the article above to note that. Thanks for reminding me I need to do this!
I am an absolute beginner! I bought your online strumming course and I have been practicing with a metronome. I can’t believe how much my strumming has improved in such a short time! Easily the best value for money as far as strumming courses. I especially liked your grouping like patterns into variations, that not only allow easy memorization but it also allows one to play three or four patterns in a song. Great work!
Dan Thorpe says
Hi Michael, thanks for the comment. That’s great to hear. You have hit the nail on the head with what I set out to achieve with the course and it sounds like you have done fantastically well. Thanks for getting in touch and keep up the great work. Strumming done well is awesome!
Hi Dan, I am a beginner and don’t understand why in the strumming patterns some of the letters are capital and some are lower case.
Could you explain to me why this is?
Dan Thorpe says
Here is what that means:
Upper case – strum louder
Lower case – strum a little softer
There doesn’t need to be a big difference between the two but varying the volume like this can add a bit more class to your strumming.
Taylor Cobb says
Hey Dan, thank you for a well written article. I appreciate that you explain the importance of learning strumming patterns to then play with great time and feel to be a great guitar player, as to not get caught up with solely learning different chord shapes without regards to rhythm. Well explained!
Additionally, great idea to share three strum patterns and how they are incorporated in pop songs. Well done!
Kelly Harrell says
What strumming pattern would you use for I Kissed a Girl by Katy Perry?
such amazing blog I really want to learn guitar but didn’t find the perfect way this blog help me a lot thanks for posting keep sharing such amazing blog post