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Strumming Patterns for Beginning Acoustic and Electric Guitar

Updated on July 14, 2015
Guitar Wizard profile image

Music School Owner, Recording Artist, Guitarist, Composer, Performer & Educator. My goal is to make good music, make and keep good friends.


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Hit It The Way You Hear It?

Many guitarists try to duplicate the rhythms they hear much in the same way a drummer or a pianist approaches it. That is that these musicians hit their instruments in the exact rhythm they want to hear.

This method with a few exceptions does not work for the guitar. The "hit it as you hear it" makes a player sound stiff and jerky with bad timing. It does not groove.

The Big Issue

One of the most common problems that beginning guitarists encounter is that they find it difficult to maintain a consistent right hand strumming pattern.

Don't Stop!

The "Secret" to maintaining most rhythm patterns is to keep a consistent, relentless down and upstroke whether you strike the strings every time or not. That's it! Don't Stop don't change anything except whether you

  • hit the strings,
  • how many strings you decide to hit
  • or not hit the strings and strum the air.

This is extremely important and is the way rhythm works on the guitar as you will learn shortly.

Four Basic Strokes

And they are... (drum roll)

  1. down stroke (hit the strings)
  2. up stroke (hit the strings)
  3. down stroke (don't hit the strings)
  4. up stroke (don't hit the strings)

It is through combinations of hitting or not hitting the strings while maintaining a consistent and even alternating down and up stroke that various rhythms are created.

Other Rhythm Components

Air Strum

Actually strumming up or down and missing the strings entirely. Don't stop.

Feather or Ghost Strum

Barely touching the strings on an up or down stroke. Although almost imperceptible it adds a little extra groove to the pattern

Selective Strumming

Purposely hitting individual, groups of 2-6 strings. A general concept is to think low middle and high.


Striking the strings harder and softer in different spots creates extracted rhythms from a basic pattern.


  • Covering the string with your fretting hand while strumming gives a percussive "scratch"
  • Leaning on the strings with strumming hand (palm) also gives a scratch.


Drop the hand on the strings usually on beats 2 and 4 gives a percussive thump.

Hit Scratch

Drop the hand on the strings usually on beats 2 and 4 while simultaneously strumming.

Basic Patterns

The following rhythm patterns are 4 beats long and are to be played with an even down and up motion. Do not ever stop. Ever! Keep that strumming hand moving.

The tricky part about many rhythms is that the emphasis is on an upstroke (ans & beat). The problem is that when the player hears that upstroke followed by a silent downstroke (air strum) they want to stop their strum because they hear that pause in the the sound of the rhythm.

Don't get sucked in! Keep the hand moving. It can't be said enough.

Rhythm Pattern 1

Rhythm Pattern 1 with Selective Strumming

Rhythm Pattern 2

Rhythm Pattern 3

Rhythm Pattern 4

Rhythm Pattern 5

Rhythm Pattern 6

Rhythm Expertise on a Scale of 1-10

Who has trouble keeping an even rhythm pattern

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    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 

      4 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      Found your hub to be very interesting for beginners. Turnarounds are fun and the kids seem to like them. Great lesson. Stella


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