If you are looking to play the guitar, you will need to know some strumming patterns. Fortunately, there are so many popular songs that have simple patterns, that you’ll be able to learn in no time. But what are strumming patterns, anyway?
If you play a simple chord, let’s say, A minor if it will get rather boring to play it in the same way. Many beginners tend to play the strings only downward and it can sound dull. What you will need to do is to create a combination of downstrokes and upstrokes in order to create a more lively tune.
Most guitar players love playing solos so they jump to learning scales and practicing complex stuff. However, playing rhythm is equally important, and you won’t be able to become a good guitar player if you don’t have an understanding of it as well. There are several strumming patterns that will allow you to play almost any song. By mastering these, you will have a much easier time learning any new pattern, and you will be able to combine them easier. Furthermore, almost all the patterns I mention here will use a combination of the upstrokes and downstrokes, so you will need to practice them individually before you proceed to learn the patterns.
We will take a look at the most common and popular strumming patterns that appear in famous songs that you probably know already.
Things You Should Know For This Lesson
How To Count Beats
This guitar lesson uses a combination of quarter and eight notes. You should be familiar with the concept of counting rhythm. If you are not, please read my lesson Guitar Music Theory In Depth Basics make sure you understand the Rythm section.
Another thing that we are going to use here is muting strings.
The first one is with your right hand, where you will place your palm on all of the strings and strum without lifting your hand. This way, you will be able to strum all strings without them ringing and creating sound. You can do string muting with your right hand without holding any chord. The other thing you should try is creating a percussive sound with your right hand by lightly slapping the strings with your right hand.
The other way to mute the strings is by using your left hand. You will achieve this by lifting your fingers from the fretboard but not entirely. You should lift your fingers enough so the sound is not clear and ringing. If you slightly press the strings, they will sound muted and you will be able to achieve a similar effect. However, you should know that it is more difficult to play it like this, and it’s even harder to achieve it on the open chords. While it is always a good idea to learn both ways, you should focus on the first one if you never had experience with string muting.
Check The Tuning And Play In The Tempo
Ensure you set to the right tunning and a play with the right tempo. This what makes the composition sound like it should be if you ignore one of them it will song completely different.
By playing the song with a metronome you will ensure you will hit the chords at the right beat, and if you have trouble playing them at the original tempo you can always reduce the BPM (beats per minute) to the point you are playing the pattern correctly and build up to the original tempo. For this, I recommend the KLIQ MetroPitch which is a guitar tuner and a metronome in one device.
Simple Learning Pattern
The first one has downstrokes on the downbeat of quarter notes. This is the simplest strumming pattern there is. It is usually used when learning new chords.
The Punk Rock Pattern
The second pattern has eight notes and it’s played only with downstrokes. While it is not common to hear it on acoustic guitars, many punk and rock songs utilize these patterns with different note lengths. Of course, metal bands use a lot of downstrokes, but they play riffs instead of chords.
For example, you can find this pattern in the song Blitzkrieg Bop by The Ramones.
The Ultimate Strumming Pattern
If you ask me, this is the ultimate strumming pattern that can be played on every chord progression. You can try playing this pattern even on a single chord like Am. Try mastering it before you add more complex chords and progressions.
As you can see, there are four beats here and you will play a downstroke on the first beat, followed by a downstroke on the second beat. On the upbeat, you will play upstroke, and on the third upbeat, you will play another upstroke. Finally, the fourth beat is downwards, and the fourth upbeat is upwards.
One of the best things about this strumming pattern is that it can serve as a substitute for some more complex patterns. As you practice, you will notice that you can play this or variation of it in almost every song.
One of the popular songs that use this pattern is Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison.
Bruce Springsteen Pattern
This pattern is even simpler than the ultimate pattern. We will have a combination of downstrokes and upstrokes, but we will use downstrokes for every beat, and upstrokes for every upbeat except the first one. It is really simple, and you will undoubtedly master it in no time. Just remember to skip the first upbeat.
This strumming pattern is great for the beginning because you will be able to practice playing upstrokes and downstrokes properly.
The Ramones Pattern
We already encountered one punk rock pattern, but this one is slightly more complex. This pattern will require distortion and electric guitar, but you can still play it on acoustic since the hand movement is important. It is common in rock and punk music and you will need to practice palm muting if you want to play this genre. However, when it comes to strumming pattern, it’s rather simple since it is only downstrokes. The important part is in accenting each note and muting it after playing.
If we take a look at one of the best songs by the Ramones, I Just Wanna Have Something To Do, we will notice that the song is in four-four tempo, and it has eights. Similarly to the previous examples, the strumming pattern will look like this
This is the strumming pattern for the intro of the song, and other parts of the song are a bit different. It might sound strange that we initially mentioned that you shouldn’t play using downstrokes only, and here we talk about doing just that. These patterns are not that common on acoustic guitars and for acoustic players. They are more popular with electric guitars where you can spice up the sound by adding more drive. If you listen to heavier music like heavy metal, you might have noticed that there are a lot of downstrokes for riffs, and James Hetfield from Metallica is known for his downstrokes and incredible speed he can achieve using only this technique.
This one is a bit slower, so you will have an easier time practicing it. It is popular for ballads since it will create a perfect atmosphere for the song. One of the best things is that there usually won’t be any chord changes between the beats, so you will change chords at the end of the pattern instead.
One of the prime examples of this song is Let It Be by the Beatles. Similarly to the previous examples, we will use a common tempo with eights.
As we can notice here, the strumming pattern is basically two D D U combined, and after the fourth beat, you will switch the chord. The pattern is fun and easy to play so you will master it in no time.
In this pattern, we use the first two notes as a quarter, and the next four are eights. We will play downstrokes on the first and second beat and then play a downstroke on the third with an upstroke on the upbeat. The last part is the same as previous with a downstroke on the fourth beat, and an upstroke on the last upbeat.
This strumming pattern is used in the song Patience – Guns ‘n’ Roses.
The Mess We’re In Pattern
While there are times where you can play the entire song with only downstrokes, it will usually sound dull. However, the combination of downstrokes on every beat and upstrokes on upbeat is something you can always try. One of the variations of this simple strumming pattern can be heard in the song called This Mess We’re In by PJ Harvey and Thom Yorke from Radiohead.
This combination is interesting because we have two upstrokes following each other.
Losing My Religion Pattern
One of the most recognizable songs from REM is “Losing My Religion” and offers a variation of the muting strumming pattern. If you mastered the Passenger, you won’t have any trouble moving to this strumming pattern.
As you will soon realize, the song is also a modification of the simple up-down pattern with only a few muted strings, and the first quarter note, while the rest are eighths.
While playing in four-four tempo, you will be able to play with four quarters, one quarter and six eighths, two quarters and four eights, and so on. Furthermore, you can try muting the strings yourself to see what interesting pattern you can create.
Thinking Out Loud Pattern
The pattern we see will start with a regular down strum, and continue. The second bit is downstroke but with muted strings or with a percussive slight slap, followed by an upstroke. Finally, we have another slap on the strings. While this might sound confusing, once you hear the song it will become much easier and clearer for you.
Thinking Out Loud is a great way to improve additional, a bit more advanced, the technique for playing acoustic guitar.
Proud Mary Pattern
Proud Mary by Creedence Clearwater Revival is another song that uses string muting in it’s strumming pattern. This song has a simple down, up. Down pattern. However, On the 2nd and the 4th downbeat, you need to downstroke and mute the strings (slight slap).
The song is one of the best songs ever created, and it has quite simple chords, so it’s one of the best songs for beginners as well.
Of course, you could play the song using only upstrokes and downstrokes and it will still sound amazing. However, we recommend using muted notes to add that unique rhythm to the song. This strumming pattern is used for the chorus, and the intro is a bit different, but if you master this one, you will have no problems figuring out the first part of the song.
Stuck In The Middle Pattern
This strumming pattern uses down and upstrokes on the first beat. On the 2nd, 3rd, 4th downbeat you mute the strings and on the upbeat you strum up.
As you progress in your guitar learning, you will notice how fun the strings muting techniques are, so you will keep adding them yourself even in the songs that are played without them. However, Stuck In The Middle With You by Steelers Wheel has even more muted strings that the previous examples, and it goes like this
This way, we will play the only downstroke on the first beat, and all the rest of the beats will be muted. On the other hand, we will play all the upbeats normally, to create the well-known vibe of the song.
Free Fallin’ Pattern
Another interesting pattern that is rather easy to play is for the song Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty. As you can see, there are only downstrokes and all you have to do is count carefully and you won’t have any issues. The song is easy to play, and the strumming pattern is perfect for any beginner.
Playing rhythm guitar requires a lot of strumming. With enough practice, you will eventually stop paying attention to them and just play any song. Furthermore, even though we mentioned songs that are played using popular strumming patterns, you can still try to add variations and experiments. They aren’t something that is written in stone and can’t be changed. By experimenting with patterns and techniques, you will create something that is unique and beautiful.
Besides, these are great for beginners and learning and practicing, but you should never fear to play something differently if you believe that it sounds better. Each of these patterns can be played on both acoustic and electric guitar, so you will be able to practice regardless of the type of instrument.
Finally, there is only one thing that is more important than patterns, and that’s practice. You will need to spend a lot of time trying them out, and eventually, you will be able to play any of the patterns we mentioned with ease.
If you found this article useful you may want to save this pin below to your Guitar board