A strumming pattern is a prescribed order in which to strum the strings of the guitar. Learning guitar strumming patterns for songs is one of the most common tasks for beginners and intermediate players who have mastered basic chords.
- The Fundamentals of Guitar Strumming Patterns
- 1. The Straight or Down-Stroke
- 2. The “Swing” or Accent Stroke
- 3. Multiple Down-Strokes with an Upstroke in Between
- 4. Multiple Upstrokes with a Downstroke in Between
- 5. Alternate Picking: One String at a Time
- 6. The Alternating Picking
- 7. The Reverse Picking
- 8. The “Spiral” Picking
- 9. Zap-Stroke (aka Zowie Stroke)
- 10. The Double Stroke (aka Double “Zowie”)
The first thing to remember about guitar strumming patterns is that there are many ways in which they can be applied– you can create your own, choose a predefined pattern that comes with an instructional coursebook or download, learn them by ear as you play along with a song, or learn them through trial and error. Whether you consider yourself new to playing guitar or just looking for some fresh approaches to learning popular songs on your instrument.
The Fundamentals of Guitar Strumming Patterns
The following is a list of the 10 most common guitar strumming patterns that have been widely used in music and include the essential guidelines behind each one. These are the primary styles of strumming that are taught to beginning players and serve as a foundation for the more advanced techniques.
1. The Straight or Down-Stroke
The fundamental concept behind the down-stroke strumming technique is that most guitarists start from the bottom of the neck and work their way up. This is similar to the bass guitarist style of strumming, but it’s possible to use it for guitar as well. The basic rule for down-stroke strumming is simply that you start at the bottom and work your way up using a downward motion. It’s a simple and easy way to start a song out that can be used in many different settings.
2. The “Swing” or Accent Stroke
These types of strumming patterns are usually performed using an accent stroke or muted strum, in which the rhythm is not kept constant or uniform. The principle behind this technique is to play on every beat of the bar except on the second and fourth beats where a slight pause or break is allowed. More commonly used as a way to emphasize certain parts of the song, it can be used in a variety of different situations, both on acoustic and electric guitars.
3. Multiple Down-Strokes with an Upstroke in Between
This pattern is also known as the “Combination Stroke”. The idea behind this technique is to use a downward strum followed by an upstroke, alternating between the two at regular intervals. The strumming sequence is usually repeated. Usually used in conjunction with other guitar strumming patterns in heavy metal music, this can be used as a way to create a complex and distinctive sound.
4. Multiple Upstrokes with a Downstroke in Between
This strumming pattern tends to involve a more relaxed playing style, and is easier to play accurately. It differs from the previous pattern in that there are no actual downstrokes involved, but rather a series of light, upward strokes. This style is recommended for more importantly skilled guitarists who want to practice in between songs or during long breaks, instead of spending too much time practicing in the warm-up.
5. Alternate Picking: One String at a Time
On some acoustic guitars, the lead strings are tuned to the note an octave higher than those of fretted strings. This means that when you play an open string, the high-pitched sound produced is not limited to one octave and can actually be heard in both octaves.
The technique of alternate picking involves using a downstroke on one string with each upstroke on the adjacent strings. Some players also use a fairly simple combination of upstrokes and downstrokes while playing rhythm guitar.
6. The Alternating Picking
This technique consists of an alternating combination of down and upstrokes. The advantage to this style is that the musician can alternate between chords and single notes without changing the grip on the guitar’s neck. This technique is widely used by jazz guitarists and can allow the musician to play fast single note lines at a lower speed or play chords at high speed.
7. The Reverse Picking
The reverse picking technique is a fairly simple one, using two downward strokes per upstroke. This allows for fast chord changes without requiring a lot of wrist movement or hand coordination. There are variations to this strumming pattern with the musician either performing a downstroke between every upstroke or just alternating between upstrokes and downstrokes. The difference in these two variations is the use of a downstroke between every two upstrokes. This technique is used by jazz guitarists for its simplicity as well as for a fast version of walking bass lines.
8. The “Spiral” Picking
The spiral picking is a complex variation of the rhythm technique. The technique involves using a pattern of alternate picking to create a “spiral” effect, which is most commonly used by guitarists in metal and math core styles. This technique is used to create a more complex, yet faster sound for the guitarist.
9. Zap-Stroke (aka Zowie Stroke)
A common figure in folk music. It consists of an alternating series of up- and downstrokes. Each stroke begins on the beat, and the string is allowed to ring until the next stroke. This results in a complex, intricate sound.
The first guitarists to use this technique were probably the late Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie.
10. The Double Stroke (aka Double “Zowie”)
Some guitarists like to use the “Zap-Stroke” as an exercise to develop further finger and wrist dexterity. This is generally known as the “double Zap-Stroke” or “double Zowie”. The double Zowie consists of two alternating series of up- and downstrokes. Generally, a second downstroke is played on each upstroke, although some players choose to alternate the number of downstrokes and upstrokes between sets.
These are the 10 most common strumming patterns used to play major musical genres. These strum patterns have been widely used in different types of music and are considered fundamental. Once you learn them, practice these strums along with a rhythm that you like.