Strumming is important, whether you’re a country song slinger or a metal goddess.
That one-size-fits-all strum was good enough to start with but dude, you’ll put your jam group to sleep and forget about that open mike.
With the same strum pattern every song will sound alike, from Hank Williams to KISS. Start on a path to guitar stardom by learning a variety of solid strum patterns.
Here are some strumming pattern tips:
1. Pick one strumming pattern from this handy guide and play it over and over. And over. And over — until it’s so automatic that you’ll wake up in the middle of the night, dreaming that you’re Eric Clapton, or at least, his younger sibling.
2. Plug this strum into a favorite song. Make sure that it’s a 4/4 song (more on that below). It doesn’t matter how the original artist plays it. If your strumming hand is solid, you’ll sound confident and that’s half the battle.
3. Now learn another strum. Again, practice. And practice. Every time you walk into the room, you must pick up your guitar and play that strum or a death star will destroy the earth.
4. Once you feel confident, put that strum into the SAME song. Sounds different, right? Better, right? That’s how it’s done. Even if you know three chords, you can make every song sound exciting and different, simply by changing the strumming pattern.
5. You know what I’m going to write next … learn a third strum. And put it in the same song.
6. Now that you know three strumming patterns, go back and try them in different songs.
A few more tips, now that you are master of the strumming universe:
A. Most songs in the rock, pop, country, and folk universe use a 4/4 time so most of the strumming patterns in this guide will work.
B. If the strumming pattern you’ve chosen doesn’t fit, it could be that you’re trying to squeeze a 4/4 pattern into a 3/4 song. Ask Cinderella’s stepsisters how well that worked. Without yammering on about theory, just know that not every strum in this handy guide will work for every song. Songs in 3/4 time (also known as waltz time) include “House of the Rising Sun” (Animals), “Hallelujah” (Jeff Buckley), “Norwegian Wood” (Beatles), “Natural Woman” (Carole King), and “Rebel Waltz” (The Clash). Sign up for lessons at JamPlay and you can learn some 3/4 strums.
C. If you’re right-handed and you play a guitar with the headstock to the left, you’re strumming with your dominant hand. Likewise if you’re a leftie and you strum with your left hand, the headstock to your right. So, learning different strums shouldn’t be too much of a stretch because you’re using your dominant hand. As long as you practice, you’re good to go. Even if you’re a leftie who plays with the headstock to the left, you’re still using both of your hands. It’s not like using a fork where only your dominant hand is doing the work.
D. A pick will give you a strong and crisp sound. Or, you can play with your bare fingers and get a softer sound that’s great for ballads. More choices. More diversity.
E. Don’t stop at three strums. There are many more in this great guide.
Now, look at all the choices you have!
Impress your friends, your date, and your mama. You know lots of strumming patterns, played with a pick or your fingers, and even though you’ve only got three chords under your guitar strap, every song will sound like you should be on TV.
Learn more chords and that’s even better. Lessons at JamPlay will help you with that.
About The Author:
When Jamie Anderson was fifteen, she memorized every chord in a Mel Bay songbook and then taught herself Joni Mitchell songs. Fast forward forty years and she’s still cranking out tunes, from “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to “The A Team” as well as original songs. After touring for thirteen years, she settled in Ottawa, Canada, where she teaches and writes. www.jamieanderson.com