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How to figure out strumming patterns for songs?

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(@rottet)
Active Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 4
Topic starter  

I am fairly new to playing (about 6 months now) and I love it. Have gotten to the point where I can play and change between enough open chords to play many songs. The problem is that my playing usually doesn't sound like the songs (sometimes a little, sometimes not at all). OK, so my chord changes are still a bit weak...Anyway, I believe the main problem is with properly strumming a song. Does anyone have advice on how to determine the strumming pattern for a song. What to listen for? Maybe this is just a lack of my music theory knowledge??? Occasionally a tab will have the strumming pattern and it is totally different than what I had tried before I had the pattern. Any idea what I may be missing?

There are 10 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who don't.


   
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(@margaret)
Noble Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 1675
 

Hi Rottet,

I'm still pretty much a beginner myself, and unfortunately, I don't have any great words of wisdom for figuring out strumming patterns. I'll be eager to read any other responses you get to this question, as it's a question I've had as well.

There are a few songs that I've heard SO many times in my life (Maggie May and several CCR songs come to mind), that the strumming patterns just seem innate as I can distinctly "hear" the full band/recorded version in my head as I play the chords.

For everything else, as beginners, we may have to just ask others for a suggested strum pattern for a particular song, and try that out until it feels natural and we start inserting our own variations that feel right.

Margaret

When my mind is free, you know a melody can move me
And when I'm feelin' blue, the guitar's comin' through to soothe me ~


   
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(@rodders)
Noble Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 1086
 

Here is a good site for strumming patterns. Gives you loads of examples. I have found it very helpful in the past.

http://www.grouptherapy.guernsey.net/strumming.html

By the way, welcome to GN rottet :wink:

Be excellent to each other & party on dudes!
http://www.soundclick.com/bands/pagemusic.cfm?bandID=686668


   
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(@maxrumble)
Honorable Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 441
 

Your question is one that comes up often.

I personnaly think it is a combination of a good ear and knowledge/skill of the many different techniques that cause particuar sounds. Basically it will slowly get easier until you can pick it out easily. I remember playing with a friend a few years ago who is a fantastic player. He taught me a song and, even though I was using the same strumming pattern, and playing the same chords as him, the difference in sound was dramatic.

There is no magic bullet with strumming, basically it will come.

Playing with more skilled players as often as possible and paying attention to what they are doing will help.

Good luck.

Cheers,

Max


   
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(@j-rock)
Estimable Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 78
 

It took me a year or two to be able to do it at all, But what I do is get a good tab for the song I want to learn. Making sure that they are all chords I can play. Then I listen to the song without the guitar in my hands and I just tap on my leg or the desk, in rythm with the guitar. Sometimes I'll even write down.......DA DA DADADA DADA or whatever. Then I'll pick up the guitar and with muted strings I'll strum it and try to get a feel for it. Then I'll try to play it with the chords and try to figure out the up strokes and down strokes. It's a long process but once you can figure out strumming patterns the sky is the limit. Good luck.

I can look back with a smile, knowing that my ambition far exceeded my talent.


   
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(@chuckster)
Prominent Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 938
 

I use a similar system to J Rock as shown to me a couple of weeks ago.

Listen to the song closeley a couple of times to try and pick out the guitar part and the rythm. Then with the song playing mute all the strings and strum up and down striking the strings on every up and down stroke in time with the music. keep going like this until you get a steady rythm going then listen to the beat of the song you will find that it should become quite intuitive as to when you should be playing a downstroke and when you should be playing an upstroke. It does become easier with practice. Try it with lots of different songs and in most cases you should be able to pick up the corect pattern. Doing it with the string muted removes the worry of chord changes while you are concentrating on the rythm. Once you are happy with the rythm you can then try it with the chords.

The reason I was told for doing it like this is that the right hand keeps the rythm throughout the song and it should keep moving up and down at the same timing throughout the song striking the strings at the appropriate time. The problem with trying to learn specific strumming patterns is that you try to stick to the pattern and the rythm can get lost if you religiously try to follow for example D Du Du. The trick is to keep the right hand moving.

This has worked for me since I learned this trick. Would be interested to hear other peoples views on this.

8)

I've had a lot of sobering thoughts in my time.
It was them that turned me to drink.


   
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(@misanthrope)
Noble Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 2261
 

This has worked for me since I learned this trick. Would be interested to hear other peoples views on this.
I always use mutes too, or occasionally the tonic chord of the key if it fits better. For example, sometimes there's muting in the pattern and I find it much easier to learn muting as part of the strumming pattern - in fact I find it quite hard to seperate the two. :)

I've taught a few people a few things, and one friend in particular I've been helping out regularly since he started - I always make them all keep their right hand moving. I've been known to be quite evil about it too, making them play just one strum in four bars and keep time by keeping the hand moving :twisted: It might be boring, but it works and it works quickly.

ChordsAndScales.co.uk - Guitar Chord/Scale Finder/Viewer


   
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(@rottet)
Active Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 4
Topic starter  

Thank you all. Your comments are all helpful. Now it's time to apply. I guess the first thing I need to learn is to have Patience --- maybe that will be the first song I practice my new strumming knowledge on.

There are 10 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who don't.


   
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(@artlutherie)
Noble Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 1157
 

I rarely use the exact pattern used on a song I pick a pattern I like and make it fit. House of The Rising Sun is one I do with a bass strum pattern that totally changes the mood of it in my opinion. Yet people still know it when I play it.

Chuck Norris invented Kentucky Fried Chicken's famous secret recipe, with eleven herbs and spices. But nobody ever mentions the twelfth ingredient: Fear!
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 Kaz
(@kaz)
Active Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 9
 

Hello, it's nice to know that many beginners have strumming issues. I for one have had it since the very beginning when my friends told me to learn even the simplest of songs, I had trouble. I found this thread very helpful and I am definitely going to try these excerises and visit the link that Rodders has suggested.

Thanks!

"Music can be like perfume, it's almost a scent, you know, where the right smell changes an environment and makes life more bearable." ~ Imogen Heap


   
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(@biker_jim_uk)
Honorable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 536
 

Here is a good site for strumming patterns. Gives you loads of examples. I have found it very helpful in the past.

http://www.grouptherapy.guernsey.net/strumming.html

By the way, welcome to GN rottet :wink:

and I recommend signing up for the free lesson on there too, you get a couple of songs, sometimes with video and NO pressure to buy


   
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(@Anonymous)
New Member
Joined: 1 second ago
Posts: 0
 

For some songs you could remove the vocals with Audacity so you can hear the guitar better. HERE is a tut to show you how.


   
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(@johnkline)
Active Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 12
 

rodders gave an excellent site which helped me out a lot too.
Basically the first 6 months your figuring out chords and how to change them fluidly,
then the next 6 months you think you need to know the exact strumming pattern of a song, but you soon learn many different strumming patterns will fit a song and still be recognizable. (try this with one song you know well as an example, run through different strumming patterns with the same song)
After about 8 months, Then you think you can sing and play and then wonder "damn I can't do both at the same time!, how is this possible??"
At about the 1 year mark you can sing and play songs, and the more you learn the easier a new song becomes to do both.
Between 1 year and 18 months you can figure out a strumming pattern and songs by ear on the radio, or at least figure it out while viewing a tab, and listening to the song while playing along.
After about 18 months, you decide to learn to how to play solo, and you feel like a beginner all over again...
(maybe at 2 years one can write their own song)

Oh wait, that's my story...

John


   
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(@matteo)
Honorable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 557
 

Hi

here is my 2 cents

Premise: in most cases it is quite difficult to discerne the exact strummin pattern of a song since most records include several different guitar parts played togheter, neither it is not necessary to play the exact same pattern of the song to make it recognizable by listeners since in most cases what really make the difference is the melody of the songs not the chords or the rhtyhm. Otherwise it is important to play a pattern that can be applied to the basic rhythm of the song.

first of all you should learn to play a few different strummin pattern: at least you should learn a couple of 8notes patterns, a couple of sixteen notes ones and at least one shuffle pattern. To do that you should use some tutorial cds or Internet sites where you could hear how they sound (of course the more strummin patterns you know and can play the better for you)

secondarily you should listen to the songs you'd like to learn and try to decide if they arebased on eight notes or on sixteen ones (if it is bluesy you should have no trouble at all to recognize it!). A quite simple way to do so is:

a) identify the main beats of the songs (if you listen to the drums you should listen 1-2-3-4 or 1-2-3);
b) tap your foot with each beat;
c) try to understand how many notes are played for each beat: if it seems that there are more than 2 notes in at least one beat, the song resolution is based on sixteen notes;
d) play the song alongside the record with a proper strummin pattern (whatever eight notes strummin pattern you wish if the song is based on eight, each sixteen notes strummin pattern you can play on the other case)
e) once you can play it with a basic pattern try to find a different one, maybe closer to the original recordings

Cheers

Matteo


   
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(@amira)
Estimable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 78
 

i'm more of a natural singer than a natural guitar player... so sometimes i listen to the song and learn how to "hum" or sing the strumming pattern like it's the melody of the song... most time, if i can hum it, then my hand can strum it. :wink:

i'll give you an example... gig a ging ging giga giga ging ging... would be dudddududd see simple. :D


   
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