A common question with new guitarists is what strumming patterns and rhythm to play when trying to play a song using chords.
Sheet music and tabs will include a time signature and so it is easy to know the beat to play, however chords generally just have the chords written above the lyrics so knowing the correct rhythm to play can be daunting.
Remember that the rhythm determines the timing and the strumming pattern determines the sound, they are not the same thing.
First things first…
To begin with you shouldn’t try and recreate the original strumming rhythm – not until you have got to grips with playing a constant basic strumming pattern – it’ll just be counter productive and time consuming, it is best to slowly build your self up to it.
Keep it simple
Try just doing the basic down up down up strumming pattern so that you can hone in on your:
- ability to maintain the correct rhythm
- chord changing skills (make sure you’re changing on the right note!)
Basic strumming patterns
The basic strumming pattern for a classical 4-beat measure is D U D U D U D U (where D is a down strum and U is an up strum) so eight strokes in total.
You want to count this like ‘one and two and three and four and’.
Two songs that use this strumming pattern are:
Free chords with lyrics for Neil Young – Horse with no name
Free chords with lyrics for Stevie Ray Vaughan – Pride and joy
Feel free to try this simple strumming pattern to any song, the main thing is to keep to rhythm and change chords at the correct moment.
You can see when to change chords by following the lyrics on Jellynote – the chords will be written above and will show you at what point in the lyrics to change. You do not change chords each time you change strum direction.
You should then try the D D U U D U strumming pattern counted as ‘one and two and three and’
Two songs that use this this strumming patterns are:
Free chords with lyrics for Van Morrison – Brown Eyed Girl
Free chords with lyrics for The Calling – Wherever You Will Go
Just with everything in life practice makes perfect! You should practice the basic strumming patterns until you no longer have to think about how you are strumming. A good way to know if you have achieved this is by singing at the same time!
Use your ears not your eyes
Music is aural, not visual. Relying on your eyes to work out a strumming pattern or to see when to change chords will not work well, instead you should trust your ears.
Once you are comfortable with the basic strumming patterns you are ready to try work out the original strumming pattern of the song!
Try listening to the song at least five times until you can hum or whistle it, once you are familiar with the song it will be easier to work out the rhythm and strumming pattern. Maybe try one of our top 10 easy guitar songs.
On Jellynote we have integrated YouTube Covers with our sheet music, tabs and chords so it is easy to hear how others have interpreted the song or to watch their strumming – just click on ‘video’!
Check out our ukulele strumming pattern tutorial – you can apply this to your guitar 😉