Learning a handful of guitar strumming patterns is essential for most guitarists. Yet so many 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.

I specialise in teaching older students the acoustic guitar (usually fingerpickers and strummers), but these tips apply to everyone.

I must say though, there are many areas where guitarists really struggle and I have outlined the 27 biggest ones (along with the solutions) in this post on how to play guitar.

Now then, it doesn’t matter if you are a folk player, a pop player, or a rock player, at some point you are going to want to strum the guitar.

…So let’s begin strumming, amigo!

3 Simple Guitar Strumming 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 strumming patterns are all taken from my Amazon book, The Ultimate Guide to Strumming.

(That book has countless five-star reviews – do ignore the one person moaning about it. Can’t please everyone, haha).

Anyway, the following guitar strumming patterns are 3 of the most commonly used patterns in folk, rock, pop, and indie music…

Although they are used frequently in genres ranging from neo-soul to progressive hardcore metal too, so it really is essential that you learn them (and these strumming patterns even cater to the goths too!).

Have a listen to all the strumming patterns in action. These are short chunks of songs or riff ideas that I have created over time using examples of all the strumming patterns.

…And if you can’t read the strumming charts below, take a look at our guide on how to read strumming patterns.

 

Strumming Pattern 1 – The Ultimate Strumming Pattern

 

guitar strum patterns #1 - ultimate

The standard notation for pattern #1

 

The ‘Ultimate Strumming Pattern’ uses a combination of quarter and 8th notes.

By the way, the name of this pattern was something I made up as a joke, but the name stuck with my students!

Anyway, it is worth getting a good understanding of these and making sure you’re comfortable playing them before attempting the strumming pattern (that is not essential, but it will help). For more help with rhythm, check out this video on sub-divisions for the guitar created years back, which is still very powerful now.

This 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’ strumming pattern that all guitarists can call on frequently when in doubt.

 

Songs That Use The Ulitmate Strumming 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 Strumming Pattern’ in Action

Pop

 

Chords used:
G Major, D Major, E minor, C Major
Play-along:
Capo 2nd fret
(G, D, Em, C) x 4

Rock

Chords used:
F5, E5, G5, A5, B5, C5
Play-along:
No Capo
(F5, E5, G5, A5, B5, C5 ) X 4

As you can hear in the above examples, the same strumming pattern gives you a very different sound depending on what ‘sound’ you are after. The overall feel is the same for both the pop and rock versions …but the end result is pretty different.

 

A REALLY common strumming pattern mistake I see a lot…

Before we move on to the next strumming pattern, let me ask, how many exact strumming patterns do you actually know how to play?

My experience of teaching beginners, intermediates, and even some players who have mastered many areas of guitar, is that they don’t know how to strum like a pro.

So now, let’s test you…

Stop reading for a second, pick up your guitar, and play me your favourite strumming pattern. Then come back and read the rest.

What often happens when I ask a student to play me a strumming pattern is…

I either get a blank look and they say they don’t know any, or they quickly panic and try to think of a song in their head and then play the strumming 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 strumming 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?

Well, keep reading as that is what this post is about.

Okay, let’s move on to pattern #2 and it’s a cool one…

 

 

Strumming Pattern 2 – The Indie Rock Strumming Pattern

 

guitar strum patterns #2 - pop rock

The standard notation for pattern #2

 

The Indie rock strumming pattern uses a combination of quarter, 8th, and 16th notes, so do get comfortable playing these before attempting this strumming pattern.

The accents on the 2nd and 4th beats are integral to this pattern. Loads of modern rock and pop songs use this pattern to great effect.

The first half and the second half of the pattern 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 beats 2 and 4. This makes it easier to play and gives the strumming pattern the more urgent sound that it requires.

 

Songs That Use The Indie Rock Strumming 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 Strumming Pattern’ in Action

Pop

 

Chords used:
A minor, F Major, C Major, G Major

Play-along:
Capo 2th fret
(Am, F, C, G)

Note: All bars in this example are split bars

 

Rock

 

Chords used:
F5, Ab5,E5, Bb5, C5

Play-along:
No Capo
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 strumming pattern’ give off the same vibe, but with totally different effects.

 

Strumming Pattern 3 – The Modern Strumming Pattern

 

guitar strum patterns #3

The standard notation for pattern #3

 

The Modern Strumming Pattern uses a combination of quarter, 8th, and 16th notes, so again do try to have a good understanding of these and make sure you are comfortable playing them before attempting this strumming pattern.

Songs That Use The Modern Strumming Pattern

  • Oasis – “Live Forever”
  • Passenger – “Let Her Go”
  • Bob Dylan – “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”
  • Ed Sheeran – “Skinny Love”
  • Radiohead – “Fake Plastic Trees”

 

 

Listen to the ‘Modern Strumming Pattern’ in Action

Pop

 

Chords used:
E minor, Cadd9, G, Dsus4/F#

Play-along:
Capo 6th fret
(Em, Cadd9, G, Dsus4/F#) X 4

 

Rock

 

Chords used:
Drop D tuning (D5, E5, A5, F5)

Play-along:
No Capo

 

A Quick Summary of the 3 Most Important Guitar Strumming Patterns

I hope you enjoyed this post and you enjoyed the examples of these three guitar strumming patterns.

Remember, on the guitar, most guitarists have a solid base of “stock” ideas.

For example, many guitarists are pretty good at chords and can play minor chords for sadder-sounding music, or major 7ths for a more jazzy feel…

…Yet they can’t do this sort of thing with strumming patterns.

…But to be honest, the rhythm is often more important than the chords. (If you want to learn the most important chords though,  do check out this guitar chord chart featuring the 32 essential guitar chords.)

Why You Need to Learn Some Strumming Patterns on the Guitar

Really, it is relatively simple for most guitarists to make BIG changes to their playing with strumming.

A few specific strumming patterns such as these and some practice so you can play them in your sleep will set you up for the rest of your guitar-playing days.

Not only will these strumming patterns make you a better-sounding player, but your understanding of rhythm will also improve, the timing of your songs will improve, and your ability to create stunning rhythm parts of your own will increase dramatically.

It is possible. To do so though, you will need a solid repertoire of strumming patterns to call on.

I hope this guide helps you learn how to strum a guitar like a pro. Once you get good at learning the above examples, try to learn how to adapt your guitar strumming patterns – doing so will allow you to blossom and truly develop as a rhythm guitarist.

Leave a comment below and let me know what your favourite strumming pattern is from above!

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Comments

ella
June 25, 2015 Reply

Which chords have been used in the examples?

Danny
June 30, 2015 Reply

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
Thanks
Dan

Bob
September 2, 2015 Reply

Well done, friend! Could you tell me the content of your new book on strumming and when it will be available?
Bye
I home hear you soon

Bob

Danny
September 18, 2015 Reply

Hi Bob, thanks for the comment. You can check out my book on Amazon for much more on strumming called The Ultimate Guide To Strumming If you have any questions about it, fire away! I`m always about to answer.

Phillip
February 13, 2016 Reply

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.

Dan
February 16, 2016 Reply

Hi Phillip, You can get the audio above (along with more) as a download in my book on Amazon called The Ultimate Guide To Strumming Thanks! 🙂

shubh
July 9, 2016 Reply

What does e and a stands for in Indie rock strum pattern?

Dan
July 12, 2016 Reply

Hi Shubh. Check out this other post on `How to read strumming patterns`. It`s all there for you.

Eric
July 18, 2016 Reply

I found the Indie rock pattern confusing even after reading about the es and ahs.

Dan
July 24, 2016 Reply

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
September 21, 2016 Reply

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

Dan
September 21, 2016 Reply

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.

Holly
January 3, 2017 Reply

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?

Thanks,
Holly

Dan
January 3, 2017 Reply

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
February 23, 2017 Reply

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!

Dan
February 28, 2017 Reply

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.

Cherry
March 21, 2017 Reply

I want to study strumming. Do you have DVD ? I want to buy them

Dan
March 21, 2017 Reply

Thanks for the comment. You can check out my book on Amazon for much more on strumming called The Ultimate Guide To Strumming Thanks! 🙂

Cherry
March 21, 2017 Reply

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

Dan
March 26, 2017

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.

plain_83
December 18, 2017 Reply

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

Pedro
December 30, 2017 Reply

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?

Dan
January 4, 2018 Reply

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!

Michael
December 3, 2019 Reply

Hi Dan:

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
December 4, 2019 Reply

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!

DEE.
January 1, 2020 Reply

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
January 12, 2020 Reply

Hi Dee,

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.

Dan

Taylor Cobb
March 15, 2020 Reply

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
August 3, 2020 Reply

What strumming pattern would you use for I Kissed a Girl by Katy Perry?

Sofia
November 18, 2021 Reply

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

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