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Listening for strum patterns

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Active Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 5
Topic starter  

I am practicing chord changes by trying to play along with live music that I have on my computer. My problem is that for some reason I can't exactly determine the strumming of the acoustic guitar when there are other instruments playing and especially when there are vocals. It's easy to find the chords for my favorite songs, like Dire Wolf for example, but I rarely find descriptions on the rate and direction of strumming them. Any tips would be appreciated!

Also, the specific song I am having a lot of trouble discerning the strumming is Grateful Dead playing an acoustic Dire Wolf on October 9th 1980, even though I thought it would be easy to pick out at first.

Noble Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 1468

play it how it sounds to you and don't worry about reproducing it exactly how the Dead did it.

Prominent Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 973

Hi - Welcome to the forum.

About your problem with hearing or finding the strum pattern. Do you really need the exact pattern as used by the song's guitarist? Why not just use any strum pattern with a suitable rhythm? If you can't hear the original strum, you're unlikely to find it on any tab sites either. The only time the strum pattern is mentioned is if it's a distinct rhythm that's an important feature of the song, e.g. the end section of "Stairway to Heaven".
Otherwise 'improvise' - which will also improve your musicianship at the same time.

Eminent Member
Joined: 22 years ago
Posts: 29

The Grateful Dead would probably have almost never played the same strum pattern more than once anyway :) Just try a few strum patterns until you find one that feels good.


Use the Big Muff, Luke

Reputable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 225

Take a look/listen here:

Maybe you could work your way through them to try and find the one that you think is closest?

I plan to work through these myself. I tend to rely on D/Du/udu for pretty much everything, but when I play James Blunts You're Beautiful I just seem to 'go with it' and something appropriate (to my ear anyway) seems to come out. Couldn't write the 'strumming pattern' down though, I just kind of do it.

I remember not having any idea about strumming and I think Matt Guitars lesson got me moving.

Along with that dreaded word - practice!

Honorable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 557

hi mate

strumming is one of the most debated topic in this forum. If you use the search option you could find several posts full of tips. In a nut what really matters it is not to replicate the guitarists's strumming but to understand which is the song main rhythm (listen to the drums to get it) and being able to play a suitable pattern with steady time. This is the crucial word: steady! Until you are not able to play steady patterns your songs will always sound unrecognizable to casual listeners. Having said so in most cases it is up to you to decide which pattern to use (also in a lot of recordings there are several guitar parts so it is not always easy to discerne the rhythmic one).

i.e. if you decide that the song is played with 8th note resolution any of the following pattern will work well


of course the final result will be slightly different but it will be your version of the song.



p.s. it is very useful to have a tutorial cd with a few strummin patterns recorded just to understand how they should sound and to learn to recoignize them by ear