Strumming Patterns

A strumming pattern is a preset pattern used by a rhythm guitar. Here are few things to keep in mind as you play the patterns.

Ultimate Guitar
This lesson is all about strumming. Enjoy!

Strumming is way of playing a stringed instrument such as a guitar. A strumming pattern or strum is a preset pattern used by a rhythm guitar.

Compare with pattern picking, strumming patterns may be indicated through notation, tablature, up and down arrows, or slashes.

4/4 Songs ("D" represents a downstroke, "U" represents an upstroke)
            1 2 3 4       
Pattern 1 : D,D,D,D,DU
1 2 3 4
Pattern 2 : D,D,DU D,D,DU
1 2 3 4
Pattern 3 : D,D,UDU,DD,DU
1 2 3 4
Pattern 4 : D,UDUD,UDUD,DU
1 2 3 4
Pattern 5 : D,DU,UDU

3/4 Songs
            1 2 3   
Pattern 1 : D,D,D,DU

6/8 Songs
            12 3 45 6 
Pattern 1 : D,UDUD,UDU

If you notice, I have 5 different patterns for 4/4 songs, and only 1 pattern each for 3/4 and 6/8 songs. The good news is, most songs that you hear on the radio are in 4/4.

Here are few things to keep in mind as you play the above pattern:

1. If you are playing an acoustic guitar, make sure to strum directly over the sound hole.
2. On electric guitar, strum over the body (different locations will give you different sounds), not over the neck.
3. Make sure all strings are ringing clearly.
4. Make sure the volume of your downstrums and upstrums are equal.
5. Be careful not to strum too hard, as this often causes strings to rattle, and produces an undesirable sound.
6. Be careful not to strum too softly, as this will produce a "wimpy" sound.
7. Your pick should be striking the strings with a relatively firm, even stroke.
8. Think of your elbow as being the top of a pendulum; your arm should swing up and down from it in a steady motion, never pausing at any time.
9. Having said that, the bulk of the picking motion should come from a rotation of the wrist, rather than from the forearm. Be sure not to keep your wrist stiff when playing.

Once you become comfortable with these rhythms, try applying them to this chord structure:


I hope you enjoy my lesson and don't forget to rate this lesson. :)

13 comments sorted by best / new / date

    strumming is a way to build up tempo and rythmn with chords and rythmn sections for guitarist it can help with soloing too.
    Can you please help with explaining how to decide/choose which pattern (either 4/4 or 3/4 or 6/8) to use on what kind of songs?
    Can you please help with explaining how to decide/choose which pattern (either 4/4 or 3/4 or 6/8) to use on what kind of songs?
    So when deciding which pattern (4/4, 3/4, or 6/8) depends solely on what time signature the song is in. Counting the beats - is it 1 2 3 4 in a straight pattern means its 4/4. If the 'feel' of the count seems to lend itself to 1 2 3, then it's likely 3/4 timing. If you count 1 2 3 4 5 6 and their is an emphasis on 1 and 4, then it's clearly 6/8 timing. 4/4 songs can be everything from slow to fast rock. 3/4 tend to have a 'waltzy' kind of feel, and 6/8 songs are generally slow 'love' songs. Bottom line - if you try to strum a 6/8 pattern to a 4/4/ or 3/4 song (or by that rationale, any pattern other than the time signature set out in the beat), you will inevitably reach a point where you're behind or ahead of the '1' beat, and other muso's you're working with will be looking at you like you're on crack or something. Only one pattern will fit the beat. What you can then do within that pattern however is infinite.
    Ideas for more patterns? Where to look next? Thanks
    I have created an ebook based on strumming patterns. It's based on grade 1-3 rhythms and they are also used by more advanced players. Another way of finding patterns is to look at snare drum sheet music and use those rhythms. You can find some free ones here: you will need a basic knowledge of reading note values - you can get a free guide here:
    Hello. what does the number (e.g. 1 2 3) above the D & U represents? =Thank you.
    I'm new to guitar, but I'm pretty sure numbers are the beat. Get a metronome app, set the beat to 4/4 6/8 etc and you can hear the beats and strum to it. You need to adjust the speed to match the song.