6 Strumming Patterns Every Beginner Must Know

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Mastering beginner guitar strumming patterns is essential for any aspiring guitarist. This article teaches beginners how to play six basic strumming patterns that sound great on an electric and acoustic guitar.

Most beginners focus on learning finger patterns and positioning along the fretboard–it’s time well spent. 

Although the guitar is a two-handed instrument—the other half of the equation is strumming. 

On the surface, strumming can seem like a simple practice. However, the difference between noise and music is technique. 

And the intricacies of strumming are numerous. 

So what are the secrets to strumming like a pro? How do you read strumming diagrams? This blog arms you with everything you need to know.

What is guitar strumming?

Guitar strumming is a rhythmic stroking or sweeping technique that guitarists use to strike their guitar strings. 

There is an infinite number of strumming patterns. They affect the rhythm of a song and characterize various genres. 

You need to hinge from your elbow and rotate your forearm to strum. Many skilled musicians like to strum with their thumb, index finger, and middle finger, but today, we’ll focus on doing it a pick.

Guitar strumming tips for beginners.

For the most part, strumming is intuitive. You grasp the pick and strum in an upward and downward motion. However, like any technique, you can optimize the movement. 

Implementing and reinforcing the best habits is crucial–learning a skill correctly is easier than unlearning faulty practices down the line. 

Here are some tips to hone your strumming skills the right way:

  • Relax. Relaxing your arm makes strumming feel more natural and helps you flow with the music. However, that doesn’t mean being loose like a noodle. Strumming is a balance of fluidity and integrity. 
  • Use a light touch. Often, beginners need to grasp their pick more tightly. A tight grip can create tension in your wrist and forearm. It constrains the movement of your strumming and creates unnecessary friction on the strings. With a light touch, you can strum more effectively.

We dive into how to hold a pick in our blog, How To Properly Hold And Use a Guitar Pick. Give it a read!

  • Don’t strum all of the strings. Strumming doesn’t require you to strike all of the strings every time. More often than not, you only need to strike between two and four of them. Generally, you hit the lower, thicker three strings on the down strum (E-A-D) and the higher three strings on the way up (G-B-E).
  • Practice, practice, practice. As with anything else, practice makes perfect. Try out a bunch of patterns and work on them every day. The more you strum, the better you get. 
strumming patterns

How to read strumming diagrams.

Before playing strumming patterns, you need to know how to read them. Lucky for you, it’s pretty simple.

Strumming diagrams mainly include symbols like:

  • Down = ↓
  • Up = ↑
  • Mute = x

Now that you know how to read basic strumming diagrams—start practicing! 

We’ve put together a few basic patterns for you to try.

6 guitar strumming patterns ideal for beginners.

Applying a technique to your strumming can feel awkward at first. 

It’s like rubbing your stomach with one hand while tapping your head with the other. 

Your brain has to execute two different movements simultaneously. 

However, with some beginner strumming patterns, you can gradually ease your way to something more complex. 

Strumming patterns #1: Downward strumming

Let’s start with the most basic strumming pattern. 

Downward strumming is the more intuitive. When you’re just starting to play, your focus is on finger patterns along the fretboard. Often beginners tend to strike strum in a downward motion. 

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

↓   ↓     ↓    ↓ 

While you practice these patterns, you can also practice counting ‘1, and, 2, and, 3, and, 4, and strumming down for each number. 

Strumming patterns #2: Adding some upstrokes

Once you have the timing of your downward strum … down, it’s time to implement some upward strokes. 

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

↓ ↑ ↓ ↑ ↓ ↑ ↓ ↑

There is a different feel to sweeping upwards. On the up-stroke, you need to shift the positioning of your wrist slightly to pass over the strings smoothly. 

Strumming patterns #3: Adding some muting

Not that you’re familiar with the upward and downward strum. It’s time to mix things up! 

For this pattern, we’re bringing some muting. The strumming technique is the same. However, you need to lightly rest the fingers on your fretting hand on the strings to mute the guitar.

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

↓↑ ↓ x  ↓ ↑ x ↑

Muting adds a unique sound to your strumming. Musicians add muting to make creative rhythms in their songs. 

Strumming patterns #4: Southern Rock

Some patterns create a distinctive sound. The following pattern is quite common in Southern Rock. Give it a try!

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

↓    ↓↑     ↑↓

As you can see, there is a unique spacing between the strokes. How you space each strum can add can dramatically change the vibe of your song.

Strumming patterns #5: Light Rock

Let’s move on to a basic Light Rock pattern. This strumming sequence mixes in all fundamental techniques: downstrokes, upstrokes, and muting.

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

↓↑ ↓ x  x ↑ ↓ x

Like how that sounds? Another aspect of strumming to consider and practice is the speed at which you play the pattern—playing it slowly and quickly yields a different sound. 

Strumming patterns #6: Reggae

Let’s add a little bounce to your strumming with a basic Reggae. This pattern has more muting than basic strumming, which gives it the Raggae feel. 

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

x x ↓ ↑  x x ↓ 

These six strumming patterns should get you off to a good start. Once you have the hang of these, you should search for others—a quick Google search should yield some excellent results. 

Another thing to try is making up your patterns. Play around with the various techniques and try playing them at different speeds. 

The more you work on your strumming, the smoother it will be. 

Strum along.

Learning how to strum with proficiency is crucial in learning and playing the guitar. It dictates the tempo and rhythm and ultimately gives it a specific feel. 

While it may feel awkward to strum the strings in a calculated fashion, once you understand how things work, it dramatically affects your ability to play.

At JoyTunes, we help beginners and intermediate musicians build and learn the essential skills to play their favorite instrument. If you’re looking for a game-changing tool to take your guitar playing to the next level, check out Simply guitar. We pack tons of valuable information into compact lessons—so you can practice anytime and anywhere.