Acoustic Guitar Lesson: Guitar Strumming Patterns

Strumming, for a guitarist, generally is used specifically to refer to when a guitarist loosely plays a series of basic guitar chords with the same rhythmic set of up and down strokes.  One common mistake among beginner guitarists is to use guitar strumming patterns in place of proper rhythmic control or to try to regulate any guitar into a strumming pattern.  This is usually only used for more background rhythm parts, and shouldn’t be confused with acoustic guitar lessons on techniques that are intentionally more precise.

Loose vs.  Sloppy

Strumming is usually a very style of guitar playing, but that isn’t the same as playing sloppy.  The actual rhythm should still be precise, with the loose falling in the slight ability to hit or miss a couple of extra strings with each stroke.  If the bottom three strings are targeted in a stroke, it is fine for only the bottom two sound, but if the stroke completely misses, then that should be taken as an indication that the playing is too sloppy.

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Basic Eighth Note Strumming Pattern

The most basic strumming pattern used is the alteration of down and up strokes for eighth notes.  From this basic pattern, a few different patterns can be made simply by leaving out some attacks in the guitar strumming pattern.  Here are some examples:

Guitar Strumming Pattern 1

The patterns shown in this acoustic guitar lesson can be played using any of the basic guitar chords.  The focus should be on developing an even rhythm and consistent flow of guitar strokes.

Strumming Stroke Timing

One common mistake that should be avoided is to use the stroke patterns as a way of maintaining timing.  A guitarist should be able to place either stroke at any time for the desired attack.  Down and up strokes do have a slightly different flavor to the sound, and sometimes it can sound better to use the same stroke twice rather than alternate.  The best way to develop the ability to use either attack on demand is to practice patterns that aren’t based around the basic down and up stroke pattern shown above.   Below gives a few examples of strumming patterns to try out.

Guitar Strumming Pattern 2

There are far, far more patterns that can be developed outside the basic up and down pattern as well, which is the point of practicing these types of patterns.  The variety of potential patterns expands greatly by being able to perform up and down strokes on demand in any necessary rhythmic position.

Dynamic Strumming Parts

One aspect of guitar strumming patterns that should not be overlooked in an acoustic guitar lesson consists of the options available to create a more dynamic sounding rhythm part.  An interesting guitar part doesn’t necessarily need a lot of basic guitar chord changes, but just playing dynamically with a single chord can be quite interesting tonally.

The main dynamic that can be altered are primarily volume oriented.  Mixing together full chords, partial chords, and a stroke with all the strings muted can create a volume dynamic without changing the actual chord being played.  It is much more captivating to listen to a guitarist playing around with stroke dynamics than to hear one playing full chords continuously.  Even though strumming is usually only used for the more background guitar rhythm parts, it can still make for some fairly interesting aspects to a song, particularly once blended with the other instruments.