How to Figure Out Strumming Patterns


Guitar strumming patterns can be slow and simple or fast and complex, but unless you are familiar with a variety of strumming patterns or can read guitar music, figuring out the strumming patterns of your favorite music may not be so straight-forward. Becoming familiar with the basics of guitar strumming, improving your understanding of rhythm and learning how strum patterns are notated, are all essential skills for figuring out how to play a strumming pattern.

Things You'll Need

  • Guitar pick
  • Guitar music notation
  • Learn how to strum using a pick, your thumb and your fingers. Familiarize yourself with the tones and colors that different strumming techniques and tools create. This skill will help you decide on the correct strumming technique for patterns that you hear.

  • Learn how to use upstrokes and down-strokes to strum. Down-strokes start from the lowest-pitched string and strum towards the highest; upstrokes do the opposite. Listen to the guitar music you want to play and teach yourself to distinguish between upstrokes and down-strokes.

  • Learn how to read guitar music. Music notation, guitar tabs and different symbols can indicate strumming pattern rhythms. For example, strumming patterns can be notated using "^" to indicate upstrokes and "v" to indicate down-strokes. It is much easier to figure out strumming patterns if you can read the notation while listening to the music.

  • Listen to a strumming pattern and tap out the rhythm with your finger. Get the rhythm straight in your head. If you can tap out the rhythm, strumming the pattern will come more naturally.

  • Watch videos of the songs you want to be able to strum. Watching the guitarists and copying their movements can help you to figure it out.

Tips & Warnings

  • Identical strumming patterns can be used in many songs, and many strumming patterns are simply variations of other patterns. Learning only a few patterns will allow you to play many songs.
  • Familiarize yourself with a variety of strumming patterns by listening closely to how guitars are strummed in some of your favorite songs. Listen to different genres of guitar music and pay attention to the strumming patterns.


  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
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