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Strumming advice.

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


I'm wondering if any of you very cool people can give me some advice on actually figuring out strumming patterns of songs? I'm aware that there are already many threads on this, but I'm not so much asking for a specific song, as I am a few tips on making it easier. As right now, to be honest, I feel like a complete idiot. The only songs I seem able to learn are finger picking songs and when I try to tackle a strumming song, I just get completely lost. To me it never ends up sounding the same. I know that some people will probably say to just go with what feels right, that I don't need to be completely accurate. The problem for me though is, I do. Unless I get a pattern down 100%, I just won't be happy with it.

I've tried many things, even slowing down the recordings to snail-like pace and I still can't differentiate between a downstroke and an upstroke, or how many beats it has. I'm a beginner, but I really don't have a problem with the chord changes, barre or otherwise, it's just when it comes to strumming, I couldn't even figure out the most basic song. To this day, after I think, four months of practice, I still can't play one song that is completely strumming. It never sounds right to me. Unless of course, it's on this awesome site, in the song section. The problem there though is that, I don't really have a desire to learn any of those songs, they don't interest me at all. Which makes it very hard for me to stick to it.

Well, I'll shut up now, but if anyone has read this far, thank you and could you please offer me any advice or tips on how you, yourself, deal with this problem.

Trusted Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 64

Strumming comes completely naturally to me. I also believe that a strumming pattern doesn't have to be 100% exact as you hear it on the recording. I don't think that most guitar players write out their strumming patterns before recording, they just come up with something that feels right to them, so why should you bother copying them exactly? I realize this is of little help to you, because you want to get it right 100%.

OK, here's somethign that may be useful to you. Take your guitar and form a barré F chord, but press it liglhtly so that it is muted. Now, pick a tempo and wave your strumming hand over the string in this fashion down-up-down-up, etc, but don't actually hit the strings. Keep a regular tempo.

Now, what you do is sometimes hit the strings on a downstroke, sometimes on an upstroke, sometimes muted, sometimes with the full sound pressing down the F chord, or sometimes not at all while letting the previous strum ring out. By doing a combination of these things you will get the "feel" that you need for strumming. It is important to keep waving your strumming hand in an even tempo, whether you actually hit the strings or not. If you get bored doing this, try changing chords in between strums. Or you can try to strum specific patterns such as dmdud-du, or dmdudud-du, etc (d =downstroke, u =upstroke, m =mute, - =let ring). If you practice this often enough you will develop a certain feel for strumming patterns, and this in turn will make it easier to pick apart other songs.

Active Member
Joined: 18 years ago
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Topic starter  

Alright, thank you. I appreciate you taking the time to reply.

I'll dedicate all my free time to this, as I really have to make some progress before I go insane.

Noble Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 2167

Well since you didn't mention whether you're playing electric or acoustic, I'll assume acoustic. Can't really guess on the types of songs you're talking about though.

It really comes down to ear-training. But not the type where you see it advertised that you 'can have perfect pitch in 30 minutes' kind of thing. I'm talking about 'listening.' It's not as easy as you would think because there's so many levels of listening. In short, there is nothing to 'make it easier.' And it's not even about slowing a song down - not at first. You have to listen - HARD - to what's being played, until you can discern what's going on; until you can 'hear' the difference between upstrokes and downstrokes. They do sound different, but only slightly - depending on who the player is. Sometimes they specifically want it to sound even - both up and down strokes - sometimes they want to put more emphasis on the downstrokes or upstrokes. That's what you, as a player, must understand, and listen for, and finally discern. It takes listening, but really focused listening.

Now you must have some depth of hearing/listening/discernment by now otherwise you wouldn't have said that it doesn't sound the same to you (as on the recording). But to say that you can't find how many beats there are for the strums - that would take listening too - maybe without even having your guitar with you. Just *listen* and tap on a table or desktop or your knee, so that the rhythm gets embedded.

Again, there's no shortcuts to ear-training/aural training. It's just something you have to do, like being able to hear the difference between two pitches, knowing that there's 4 or or 8 beats to each measure. It's mathematical to a certain point, but then it has to become internalized - and there's no shortcuts or easy way to do that.

At least you can hear the difference between the record strumming and what you're strumming. Investigate that; delve into it a bit more. Are you strumming faster or more often than the record? Slower? Between the other guy's strums? Why isn't matching. Listen and find out why it isn't matching. There really is no 'silver bullet' for this; you have to listen, even to the point of forgetting about actually strumming along for awhile. Put the guitar down and listen to the tracks. Imagine the guy standing in front of you, strumming the guitar - what would it look like? Down strums hit the bass strings first so there would be a thicker, louder sound (normally), while upstrokes hit the high/thin strings first, giving a lighter, softer sound (normally).

Listen to the beats; strong beats, weak beats, the drummer hitting the highhat evenly but opening them up on the strong beat of each measure. Cymbal crashes after every 4th or 8th measure maybe. Does the rhythm guitarist strum with the high-hat or the kick drum. Does he strum a loud strum on the downbeats? That kind of thing.

Hope this helps.

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

That helps greatly, thanks very much. I also appreciate the reply.

I'm playing an acoustic and it's pretty much acoustic songs I'm trying to figure out. I'm not sure if they would be considered advanced or basic or in between or anything. That's actually what I'm working on now, training my ear, at least, I think so. You're right, I understand there is no quick or easy way, but the advice I've received in this thread has actually already helped. So I'll stick at it and ask myself those questions next time I attempt this, which will be in a few minutes, no doubt!

Anyway, thanks again.

Famed Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4459

Demo gave you some great advice there, although it will take some work to get there. Something you might want to try is instead of stressing about getting the exact strumming pattern down try starting with a straight eighth note pattern and see how that goes. for many songs just that basic pattern will get you going and as you feel more comfortable you can mix up the strums as needed.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!

Noble Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 2261

If I'm having trouble working out a strumming pattern, I generally try to get it right on paper before I try and play it. I make 8 or 16 very faint marks on a piece of paper and then move my pen along them in time with the music, so that from start to end takes as long as one bar of music. Once I've got the speed right, focusing on the end of the pen watching the marks flash past helps me make sense of the timing. I then make the marks for the strums darker and try to check it visually with the music. If I'm happy with that, I'll start with the first strum being a downstroke, and fill in all the marks with whatever stroke it would be for an alternating pattern (ie, x-xx-xxx becomes D-DU-UDU, xx-x-x-x becomes DU-U-U-U). Then it's time to suck it and see, but it's normally a good basis to start from at the very least :) - Guitar Chord/Scale Finder/Viewer

Honorable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 557

as i said in a lot of similar threads learning to strum requires a lot of patience and a few excercises.

First you have to learn how the most common strummin patterns sounds because only if you know this you could recognize if your target song employs a similar pattern (that's where a tutorial cd come handy)

secondarily you have to learn to play them correctly (again a tutorial cd or metronome will help you a lot)

third: listening to the song try to determine which is the beat resolution or in a nut try to understand if the pattern is based on eight notes or sixteen ones or about triplets (blues). Generally (but it's not a rule) you could try this:

rock songs: straight eight notes pattern with all downstrums dd/dd/dd/dd
folk an country songs: syncopated eight notes like d/du/u/du
slow numbers: sixteen notes pattern like dd/ddu/dd/ddu
blues: shuffle pattern or triplets

four: remembere that as long as you play with the correct beat resolution you could choose any pattern you like and still sounds good so it is not so determinant to nail the original one



p.s. send me a pm if you wish a liste of songs with their suitable patterns

Illustrious Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 8184

i'd say with a vast majority of strummed songs, if you just play straight up and down, then when the strum comes where you're playing a downstroke, so is the guitar player, and same with upstrokes. this means that downstrokes occur on the beat and half beat, while upstrokes occur in between. if there's no strum, then it's probably being muted or a phantom strum occurs where the hand is moving but no strings are being played. it's easier to play this way.
there are sometimes exceptions. punk and metal usually just uses downstrokes. for acoustic guitar, though, the up n down pattern is prevalent.

how i got good at rhythm guitar is by simply trying to play as many different rhythms as i could come up with. any kind of rock or hip hop beat, or those annoying cheerleader claps or marching band drumline rhythms. i've probably played the bo diddley beat a million times. also, when you come up with a beat, get it steady, get comfortable with it, then change it a little bit. get comfortable with that, then change it again. keep going. get comfortable with syncopation. play on only the off-beats. play rhythms that are uncomfortable and learn to groove on them. learning to drum can help, or just ripping off drum patterns and playing them on the guitar works.

Reputable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 323

Hey Matt

Just reading the post on strumming, this is something I have difficulty with, I can play along with a lot of cd's (love Beatles and 60's and 70's stuff) but quite often I find I am nearly always using the same strumming pattern D D DuDu seems to work quite well over a lot of songs I like.
p.s. send me a pm if you wish a liste of songs with their suitable patterns

I would appreciate a list od songs with patterns to try out..

Also if I was to practice these patterns with a metronome what bpm would you suggest for each strum?
rock songs: straight eight notes pattern with all downstrums dd/dd/dd/dd
folk an country songs: syncopated eight notes like d/du/u/du
slow numbers: sixteen notes pattern like dd/ddu/dd/ddu
blues: shuffle pattern or triplets

Also if someone could do a video to demonstrate these would be good :D


I know a little bit about a lot of things, but not a lot about anything...
Looking for people to jam with in Sydney Oz.......

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

I have to thank everyone for the advice in this thread. Practiced a lot yesterday and I can already notice some good improvments, so thanks for that.

Anyway, I may aswell ask, even though I may look like an idiot, as to me the strumming pattern in this song sounds quite simple, I just cannot nail it. Even with a video of him playing the song!

Now, not the first 39 seconds, thats part of another song. But from 40 seconds onwards, is one of the songs I'm trying to learn, my favourite song actually, so I'm determined to get it down. However if anyone could give me a helping hand, that would be great too. I don't expect anyone to write out the entire thing, as it sounds like it changes quite often, but just maybe from 40 seconds 'til 60 seconds? After one minute my mind just completely switches off, no clue what he's doing, but the start would be an excellent um...starting point, I guess. From 40 seconds onwards that is. Incase anyone figures out the first pattern, which would be great, just not what I'm looking for right now.

Thanks to anyone if they can help.

Honorable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 557

ok here is my list, take it as a starting point since it is not the Holy Bible :D . After a few tryings everyone could find out better patterns

N.B. There are several other possible suitable patterns. The suggested one sometimes are not always the exact ones palyed on original recording, but in some cases are the simplest. Regarding bpm they are approximated since I did play most of the songs only along the original recording

song original recording resolution Suggested pattern Other possible patterns approx bpm
horse w/no name shuffle B/du/B/d d/du/u/du or also du/du/du/du 110-120
knocking on heavens' door sixteen bb/ddu/bb/ddu D/du u/D/du u 70
tangled up in blue sixteen dd/ddu/ud/ddu bb/ddu/bb/ddu or D/d..u/ud/du 95-100
if not for you eight d/du/d/d/d/du/d/du (2 measures pattern) d/du/d/du 110
blowin in the wind sixteen bb/dudu/bb/dudu bb/ddu/dud/ddu 80-85
tambourine man (Byrds) eight du/du/u/du d/du/u/du 120
tambourine man (Dylan) sixteen bb/ddu/dub/ddu bb/ddu/bb/ddu
summer of 69 eight d/du/u/du dd/dd/dd/dd 125
heaven sixteen bb/ddu/bb/ddu d/du u/d/du u 75-80
back to you eight with anticipatated chord changes d/d/du/du/u/d/du/du d/d/du/u/u/d/du/du 120
feelin alright sixteen bb/d..u/ud/ddu bb/ddu/bb/ddu 100
three marlenas eight with anticipatated chord changes d/d/du/du/u/d/udu (2 measures) d/d/du/du 110
margaritaville eight b/du/B/du b/du/u/du 105-110
happy x mas eight b/du/du (3/4!!!) b/d/d 100?
imagine eight with some sixteen dd/dd/dd/dd bb/ddu/bb/ddu 75
stand by me (ben e. king) eight d/u/du/d d/du/u/du 110
stand by me (john lennon) eight dd/dd/dd/dd
riders on the storm eight du/du/u/du du/du/u/d 110
love the one you're in sixteen ddu/uu/ddu/ddu dd/ddu/dd/ddu 95-100
shot the sheriff sixteen bdu/bd/bdu/bd bb/ddu/bb/ddu 95-100
no woman no cry sixteen bb/ddu/bb/ddu bb/ddu/dub/ddu 80
heart of gold (intro) eight b/dd/dd/dd 85
heart of gold (verse) sixteen bb/ddu/bb/ddu bb/ddu/dub/ddu 85
alabama sixteen bb/ddu/bb/ddu 80-85
out on the weekend sixteen bb/ddu/bb/ddu bb/ddu/dub/ddu 75-80
one sixteen dd/ddu/ud/ddu d/ddu/ud/ddu 85
sitting on the dock of the bay eight with anticipatated chord changes b/d/du/du b/du/u/du 100
wish you were here sixteen D/du u/dud/dudu bb/ddu/bb/ddu 65
hurt (johnny cash) eight dd/dd/dd/dd 70-75
folsom prison blues shuffle b/du/b/du 110
eleanor rigby eight dd/dd/dd/dd d/du/u/du 120-130
leaving on a jet plane eight d/du/u/du 90-100
brown eyed girl eight d/du/u/du 120?
wild world sixteen bb/ddu/bb/ddu bb/ddu/dub/ddu 75-80
father and son sixteen D/ddu/D/ddu bb/ddu/dub/ddu 75-80
country roads sixteen bd/dudu 110-120
let it bleed eight d/du/u/du 120
dead flowers eight d/du/u/du 120
I'm free eight d/du/u/du 120
honky tonk woman eight d/du/u/du 120
mother little helper eight bu/du/bu/du b/du/u/du 130?
sweet virginia shuffle du/du/du/du b/du/du 120-130
spider and a fly shuffle du/du/du/du b/du/du 120-130
little baby shuffle du/du/du/du b/du/du 120-130
wild horses sixteen d/d..u/ud/ddu bb/ddu/dub/ddu 75-80
angie sixteen bb/ddu/bb/ddu bb/ddu/dub/ddu 75-80
sister morphine sixteen bb/ddu/bb/ddu bb/ddu/dub/ddu 75-80
shine on you sixteen bb/ddu/bb/ddu bb/ddu/dub/ddu 75-80
you can't always get what you want sixteen bb/ddu/bb/ddu bb/ddu/dub/ddu 75-80
like a rolling stone sixteen dd/ddu/dd/ddu bb/ddu/dub/ddu 95-100
love in vain eight b/d/d (3/4!!!!) 75
lucky man eight b/d/d (3/4!!!!) b/du/du (3/4!!!) 70
journeyman (iron maiden) eight d/u/du (3/4!!!)
nothing else matters eight b/d/d (3/4!!!!) b/du/du (3/4!!!) 70
unforgiven sixteen dd/ddu/dd/ddu bb/ddu/dub/ddu 95-100
where did you sleep that night (nirvana) eight d/u/du (3/4!!!) b/du/du (3/4)
man who sold the world eight d/du/u/du 100
pennyroyal tea eight d/du/u/du 70-75
come as you are eight d/du/du/du/du/u/du (2 measures) 100-110?
about a girl (verse) eight d/du/du/du
about a girl (chorus) eight d/du/du/du/du/u/du (2 measures)
polly eight d/du/du/du
proud may (creedence) eight d/du/u/du
have you ever seen the rain eight d/du/u/du
who'll stop the rain eight d/du/u/du
up around the bend eight d/du/u/du
heard it through the grapevine eight with anticipatated chord changes b/d/du/du b/du/u/du 100
travellin band eight d/d/du/du 160
molina eight d/d/du/du 160
suzie q eight d/du/u/du 120
lodi eight d/du/u/du 120
green river eight d/du/u/du 120
born on the bayou eight d/du/u/du 120
looking out my back door eight bu/du/bu/du b/du/u/du 130?
long as I can see the light sixteen bb/ddu/bb/ddu 75
johnny be goode eight du/du/du/du 165
wanted dead or alive sixteen d/d..u/ud/ddu dd/ddu/ud/ddu 75
every rose has its thorn sixteen d/d..u/ud/ddu dd/ddu/ud/ddu 75
I remember you sixteen d..u/ddu/ud/ddu dd/ddu/ud/ddu 80
forever (kiss) sixteen dd/ddu/dd/ddu 85-90
goin blind (kiss) sixteen dd/ddu/dd/ddu dd/ddu/uu/dudu 80
patience eight d/du/u/du 90-100?
sweet child o mine eight d/du/u/du d/du/u/d 120-130
take it easy eight d/du/u/du d/du/u/d 120-130
peaceful easy feeling eight d/du/u/du d/du/u/d 120-130
tequila sunrise eight d/du/u/du d/du/u/d 100
already gone eight d/du/u/du d/du/u/d 130
lyin eyes eight d/du/u/du d/du/u/d 110
hotel california sixteen dd/ddu/dd/ddu dd/ddu/uu/dudu 80
desperado sixteen dd/ddu/dd/ddu 70-75
after the thrill is gone sixteen d/d..u/ud/ddu dd/ddu/ud/ddu 70-75
new kid in town eight d/du/u/du 100-110
lady in black sixteen dd/ddu/dd/ddu 80-90
sunrise sixteen dd/ddu/dd/ddu 85
stealin shuffle du/du/du/du 130
wizard sixteen d/d..u/ud/ddu dd/ddu/ud/ddu 75-80
tales sixteen d/dud/du u/dd 75-80
rain eight d/du/u/du
easy livin shuffle du/du/du/du 180

Cheers and let me kow any mistakes


Estimable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 168

When learning new strumming patterns from listening to the original track...

I get my hand into a pendulum motion in time with the beats of the song... usually 4 downstrokes (and 4 upstrokes)per measure for a song in 4/4 time. | Dudududu | Dudududu | Dudududu | Dudududu | etc... (this can also be 8 downs and 8 ups in 4/4 time but the idea is the same)
watch the guys strumming hand in the video to see the correct timing of the pendulum motion.. this quickly becomes second nature..

Now, start by playing every upstroke and downstroke in time with the song... it sounds boring and monotonous, right ?
The trick with cool strumming patterns lies in the strokes that are omitted..

Your hand will keep moving up and down with the same speed and rhythm but you need to listen for when NOT to actually strike the strings on the way through your strumming action.

The first strumming pattern that he uses looks like this | d D d D | duDuduDu | d D d D | duDuduDu | (the accented beats are in uppercase-- this is where the snare drum would most likely be)...
Notice in the 1st and 3rd measure he doesn't play the upstrokes (but his hand still comes back up in the regular motion, he just doesn't strike the strings on the way through)

I actually found it quite hard just now to write out where the up and downstrokes are... I usually come up with my own patterns... and never think about how they look on paper.

I get my strumming hand in a pendulum motion, like i mentioned, and then play along with the song.. You can hear where the gaps are in the strumming so these are the beats you don't play.. as long as your hand keeps the steady pendulum of up and down in the right timing, practically anything pattern you play will sound good... listen closely to copy his pattern exactly, if thats what you want....

DemoEtc's advice about listening for the beats and the difference between the up and downstroke is very good.. As long as your hand is in the same pendulum motion at the same speed as the song you copy, you will know whether you have to play an upstroke or a downstroke based on the direction your hand is travelling.

Sorry if this is confusing.. but i don't know how else to describe it.

Good Luck


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

Thanks, J. I appreciate you taking the time to do that. I'd repay you in some way if I could, but I'm not sure if I have much knowledge!

I'll take the advice on board aswell, glad I started this thread, has been very helpful so far.

Estimable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 168

No worries, glad i could be of some help.

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