Three Must-Know Strumming Patterns for Guitar

Posted by Brian Parham on Sunday, April 19, 2020


If you want to play the guitar, then you have to learn how to strum. It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting around the campfire or performing for your classmates, strumming is a must-know skill for every guitarist. For that reason, we put together three must-know strum patterns to help you master this essential skill.


What is a strum pattern and why is it a must-know skill for every guitarist?

Before we dive into this online guitar lesson for kids, let’s talk about strum patterns. A strumming pattern is a pre-set rhythm played with downstrokes and upstrokes on the guitar. Strumming patterns establish the rhythm—or feel—of a song. Furthermore, strumming patterns can be transferred from one song to the next. On account of that, you can literally play hundreds of songs with just a handful of strumming patterns.



The Two Golden Rule for Guitar Strumming

When it comes to learning how to strum the guitar, there are two golden rules: 1. Downstrokes on the downbeats and upstrokes on the upbeats. The downbeats are the numbers. In common time, the numbers 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + are the downbeats. The upbeats are the ‘ands’ like so:  1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +.


2. Keep your arm in constant motion. As you’re working through the three must-know strum patterns for guitar, focus on keeping a steady rhythm with your strumming arm. Don’t jerk. Don’t hesitate. Don’t pause. Instead, focus on keeping a steady up and down motion. Even if you’re playing all downstrokes, your arm should be moving up and down in a smooth and relaxed manner.

If you keep those two rules in mind as you work through these three must-know strumming patterns for the guitar, then you will inevitably master guitar strumming patterns. 


1. The Boom Chick Strumming Pattern

Where would country and folk music be without the boom chick strumming pattern? Once you learn this pattern, you can use it for every almost every song you’ll ever strum! Better yet, it’s super easy. All you need to do is locate the root note of whatever chord your playing and hit it with a downstroke on beats one and three. On beats two and four, you strum the full chord with a downstroke. It’s probably best to begin learning this strum pattern with an E or G chord because the bass notes are on the low E-string.


2. The Boom Chicka Strumming Pattern

The boom chicka strum pattern is common in bluegrass, country, folk, and other styles of music. It’s a variation of the boom chick. The only difference is you will now add eighth note upstrokes on the ‘ands’ of beats two and four like so: 


Therefore, the strumming pattern is now: Bass, Down/Up, Bass, Down/Up.


3. The Ultimate Strumming Pattern

From Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl” to Green Day’s “Good Riddance,” the ultimate strumming pattern has been used in countless hit songs. This is the first of the three must-know strum patterns for the guitar to use syncopation. Please don’t be intimidated by the fancy nomenclature. Syncopation is defined as “a deviation from a regular expected rhythmic pattern.” 

In other words, syncopation occurs when musicians place emphasis on the weak beats or omit strong beats. The downbeats (1, 2, 3, 4) are the strong beats while the upbeats (the ands) are the weak beats.  




Key Takeaways

Whether you want to strum songs around the campfire or perform for your classmates, these three strum patterns provide you with tons of mileage on your musical journey. When you’re getting started with strumming the guitar, keep in mind these key takeaways:

  1. Golden Rule #1: Downstrokes on the downbeats. Upstrokes on the upbeats.
  2. Golden Rule #2: Keep your strumming arm in motion.
  3. Strum patterns are preset rhythms that can be applied to almost any song.



The FREE backing track is provided by Band-in-a-box.

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