Here are some common strumming patterns found in different types of music.
D = Down
U = Up
N.C. = No chord (not strummed)
Tied = Not strummed. Note or chord HELDh
Basic Rock/Folk 1
D, U, D, U, D, U, D, U
|Here we have a D(own) and U(p) pattern using straight eighth notes. Remember that the eighth notes are always relative to the tempo that you are playing. This is the most absolute basic pattern and could be used for a majority of the songs listed here.|
Basic Rock/Folk 2
D, U, D, U, (tied), U, D, N.C.
|Using this pattern helps you to create suspense in a given song. The tied note may vary depending on the lyrics provided in the song, but there are technically two areas on this pattern that are not played (Tied note and last ‘and’). All notes here are eighth notes except for the last “4” before the ‘and’. That is a quarter note.|
D(rest), D, U, (tied), U, D, N.C.
|Don’t get confused as to this pattern’s attributes. It’s much like the Basic Rock from above. Start with a quarter, then rest. Pick up with an eighth and then another eighth. Tie the last upstroke together. Perform another eighth-note upstroke, and end with a quarter downstroke. Nothing is played for the ‘and’ as before.|
D, U, D, U, (tied), U, D, U
|Nothing different here from Rock Pattern 2 except you play the last two notes, and both of them are eighth notes for this pattern, whereas Rock Pattern 2 ended with a quarter note and didn’t play the last ‘and’. This allows a bit of a swing to the song using the tied note.|
D, (rest), D, U, (tied), U, D, U
|This pattern is much like the Funk/Blues/Progressive Rock pattern. Again, here you are just adding the upstroke on the ‘and’ after the ‘4’ beat being played. Start with a quarter note and move through the rest with eighth notes.|
Now, what do you notice about most of these patterns?
- They all start on downstrokes.
- We only have quarter and eighth notes.
- We have tied notes, which means it will bind, or tie, together with two written notes of the same pitch. The pair of tied notes acts as one note with their rhythmic values added together.
- They all have a 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & pattern. For longer patterns, usually, you just repeat what you were already playing at the end of the &.
So What Does This All Mean?
Does it mean that you need any of these patterns? No. Does it mean that in order to play a song as close to the original as possible you have to listen to it over and over again to decipher what is being played? No.
What it DOES mean is that you must learn to get a sense of the type of song you are performing first. This is the reason why all of the strumming patterns you see above are labeled via genre of music.