If you’ve played guitar for any amount of time, you’ve probably gathered that strumming is a pretty important piece of the puzzle — the guitar is considered a rhythm instrument after all. So to help you navigate these daunting rhythmic waters, we’ve created a guide to help you play ten of the most popular strumming patterns on the guitar.
Throughout this guitar lesson, Kent and Ayla will guide you through increasingly challenging strumming patterns that span various genres and styles. We’ll start things off nice and easy, so you can get the core of the technique down, and move our way down to a few busier patterns that can really add some flair to your playing. We’ve also added a popular song that uses each strumming pattern, so they’re even easier to wrap your head around. Go grab your guitar and let’s get to it!
By the way, if you want to take your rhythm guitar playing to the next level, be sure to check out Sami Ghawi’s brand-new course on Guitareo, Rhythm & Groove. Click here to learn more.
We’ll kick things off with the most basic strumming pattern out there. To play it, you’ll strum down on every beat as you count from one to four. This strumming pattern may seem a little too simple to have any use, but you’d be surprised how popular it is in music. When you’re feeling ready, try playing along to the song with the sheet music below.
A song that uses this strumming pattern: Boulevard Of Broken Dreams – Green Day
Next up, we’ll be changing our quarter note pattern into an eighth note pattern. To do this, you’ll need to add one down strum between each of the beats — essentially, doubling the first pattern. The best way to count this out is by adding an “&” between each number: 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
A song that uses this strumming pattern: Best Of You – Foo Fighters
Here’s where things start to get a little more fun. This is probably the most famous strumming pattern of all time because it pretty much fits over any song that’s in 4/4. If you want a strumming pattern that’s perfect for playing campfire tunes, this is the one to master.
A song that uses this strumming pattern: Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison
If you’ve seen any of Sami Ghawi’s lessons here on Guitareo, then you’re probably already familiar with this strumming pattern. It’s essentially an eighth note strumming pattern played with alternating up and down strums, however, there’s a twist. On the 2 and 4 of every measure, you’ll play an emphasized muted strum. This muted strum actually emulates what a snare drum would do in a typical drum beat.
A song that uses this strumming pattern: Proud Mary – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Depending on who you are, this is either going to be a pattern you love or hate. To learn how to play this one, try listening to the example and following along rather than completely relying on the provided sheet music. It’s a longer pattern, but it’s surprisingly easy to play once you get a feel for it. Even though it’s primarily used in this one song, elements of this strumming pattern can be adapted to fit just about any other song in 4/4.
A song that uses this strumming pattern: Wonderwall – Oasis
Up until this point, our focus has been on songs with a time signature of 4/4. Here’s a handy strumming pattern that you can use to play in either 3/4 or 6/8. The pattern is quite short and easy to remember, so you shouldn’t find it too challenging to get under your fingers. It’s a loop that consists of one quarter note, followed by four eighth notes. Be sure to emphasize the first beat of the pattern each time it comes around.
A song that uses this strumming pattern: Breakaway – Kelly Clarkson
We’ve finally arrived at the part of the lesson where we start getting into some of the more advanced strumming patterns. The Soca is a popular Puerto Rican rhythmic pattern used in Reggaeton. It’s an excellent strumming pattern to use when you want to encourage your audience to get up and dance!
A song that uses this strumming pattern: MIA – Bad Bunny & Drake
This rhythmic pattern is commonly used in Cuban music, and it’s another dance-inducing way to strum the guitar. We’ll use a bar chord for this one because of how important muting is. To nail the correct feel, you’ll need to release pressure on the chord after each strum — your aim should be to make a tight, stabbing sound.
A song that uses this strumming pattern: Faith – George Michael
No respectable strumming pattern list would be complete without a good reggae pattern. This one is very similar to the quarter note pattern you learned at the top of this list, but instead of playing on every downbeat, you’ll play only in between each beat. To take it a step further, try and lay back on the beat a little bit and strum as late as possible (while still being in time, of course!) This little adjustment is what gives reggae guitar its signature laid-back groove.
A song that uses this strumming pattern: Three Little Birds – Bob Marley & The Wailers
Last but not least, we’ve got a funk strumming pattern for you. Funk is a notoriously challenging genre when it comes to rhythm, so don’t worry if you can’t get this one down right away. To get started, you’ll need to work on playing a tight sixteenth note pattern with your strumming hand.
Once you’ve got the hang of that, you can start allowing the chords to come through in strategic places. We’ll illustrate this with a guitar part you probably know.
A song that uses this strumming pattern: Long Train Running – The Doobie Brothers
And with that, you now know the top ten most popular strumming patterns of all time. Congratulations!
When listening to your favorite songs, you’ll notice that strumming patterns aren’t always perfectly consistent — they’re more of a loose framework. So feel free to take some liberties and expand (or simplify) a pattern here and there to make it your own.
It’s also important to note that it’s usually better to master a handful of your favorite strumming patterns rather than try and learn every single one. So don’t be afraid to skip over a few patterns in this list that you aren’t really vibing with.
If you’d like to dig even deeper into playing rhythm guitar, we’d suggest checking out Sami Ghawi’s brand new course on Guitareo: Rhythm & Groove
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