How to Strum a Guitar – Strumming 101

This Tutorial Will Teach You To Strum in 20 Minutes

When I was a teenager teaching myself guitar in the 1980’s, the web didn’t exist. Googling wasn’t something you did on the computer—you did it with your eyes, at the girl who sat across from you in Chemistry. So when I had a question about guitar technique, I had to ask a friend who played guitar, research my mom’s ancient guitar instruction book, or sift through my guitar magazines to try to find the answer.

Now the internet is my primary guitar teacher. Whenever I have a question, the first place I go is a search engine. I find online videos, download free tabs, improvise over streaming jam tracks, and preview new music on iTunes.

The internet is especially great for an advanced guitarist. But one thing that’s often left out of free guitar lesson websites is proper instruction on strumming, even though this is the first hurdle most beginners face: Strumming a song start to finish.

One reason for this may be that it’s easier to learn strumming face-to-face with a teacher. Many students can simply watch and listen while a teacher strums, and pick up on the groove by imitating. But strumming can be described in writing. Over the eight years I’ve been teaching guitar, I’ve developed a system of writing strum patterns that anyone can learn to read easily, even if they’ve never had previous musical training.

If you enjoy this tutorial, I recommend signing up for my strum pattern videos. They’ll give you access to 155 high-quality videos (much better than the ones in this tutorial) that will show you how to strum most of the songs on my site.

Pickin’ the Pick

Unless you’re into old-time country or folk music, you’ll probably want to strum with a pick. Sometimes you’ll hear contemporary artists like John Mayer and Jack Johnson strum with their fingers if they want to alternate between strumming and fingerpicking, or if they want the muted, warm sound of fingers brushing strings. But 99% of acoustic guitar strummers like the crisp, bright sound of a pick.

Picks come in different shapes and thicknesses. Start with the normal shape:

Buy some thin- and medium- thickness picks. The thin ones are easier to use, but many guitarists don’t like their loud attack (the click of the pick hitting the strings). You can switch to mediums once you’ve learned the basics.

Heavy picks are for high-speed-guitar-solo types, so steer clear for now.

Holdin’ the Pick

Up until a few years ago, I held my pick between my thumb and the pads of my index and middle fingertips. It seemed the easiest way to keep the pick from falling out of my hand when I was strumming U2’s “Desire” and The Who’s “Pinball Wizard”. A few guitarists like Steve Howe hold their picks like that, but most hold it like this, with the pick between the thumb and the side of the index finger:

I think this grip gives you more control when you’re trying to pick individual strings. Since many songs require both picking and strumming, learn this first. If you want to switch to the Steve Howe grip later for strumming-only songs, go for it.

Guitar instruction books often show the pick being gripped with fingers curled into a tighter fist than in the photo above. But when I curl my fingers tighter, with the last joint of the index finger parallel with the thumb, it’s hard to let the pick flex in my fingers. It’s hard to strum lightly, and I drop my pick a lot. So one adjustment I’ve made is to extend my index finger a bit down the length of the pick like so:

See how my index finger is pointing less toward my palm and more toward you? This grip gives me more skin in contact with the pick for a more solid, but more gentle grip. I can let the pick flex in my fingers as I strum without dropping it. It also means that I sometimes hit the strings with the side of my index fingernail, and so the nail never grows out on that side. I still have enough nail for fingerpicking, but it’s ruined my career as a hand model on the Home Shopping Network. Darn!

Strummin’ With the Pick

The main thing you need to remember here is to keep your strumming arm going in a constant up-down motion, whether or not you’re hitting the strings. This acts as a metronome, helping you to stay in the groove of the song.

Exercise 1 (see video)

Let’s practice that principle by strumming all downstrokes, one strum per beat. But before we start, let’s take a look at how I write strum patterns:

D   D   D   D
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

The lower line is the beats (the numbers) of the measure with the upbeats (the plus signs) in between. The upper line shows where you strum–D’s are downstrums, and U’s are upstrums. As you strum, you can count along by saying “one-and-two-and-three-and-four-and.” Move your arm down on the numbers and up on the “and’s”. In this first exercise, strum the strings on all downstrokes. When you get to the end of the measure (four beats), start over immediately. Go for it!

Exercise 2 (see video)

Now let’s try all down and upstrokes:

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Strum from the elbow. Your wrist should be relaxed, but not moving very much. Most of the strumming motion comes from flexing your elbow.
  • Keep the pick perpendicular to the strings. Often beginners will tilt the pick up on downstrokes and down on upstrokes so that the pick doesn’t get “caught” on the strings. The problem is, all that tilting is impossible once you start strumming more quickly, and can produce an uneven sound. Learning how to strum evenly takes time, but you can help things by gripping the pick lightly.
  • Strum with a wide arc. Beginners tend to just barely pass over the strings as they strum. This can cause the strumming to sound choppy, where you can hear individual strings being struck. Instead, you want to hear all the strings being struck almost simultaneously, in a burst of sound. Strumming in a wide arc will increase the speed that your pick passes over the strings. It’s also harder to aim properly when you do this, but you’ll get it!

If you’re digging this tutorial, you’ll love my strum pattern videos. Just $7/month will give you access to 155 high-quality videos (much better than the ones in this tutorial) that will show you how to strum most of the songs on my site.

Exercise 3 (see video)

Next I want you to practice using your arm as a metronome, keeping it moving up and down even when you’re not strumming. Here’s the pattern:

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

If this were really a guitar part in a song played by an experience guitarist, he or she probably wouldn’t be moving their arm that much–it does look a bit silly–but they would almost certainly be doing something with their body to keep in rhythm: Tapping their foot, bobbing their head, doing the Elvis knee-jerk, whatever.

Exercise 4 (see video)

Now you’re strumming twice per measure. Keep that arm moving!

D       D
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

Exercise 5 (see video)

OK, here’s the first part of the folk strum pattern. Can’t you
feel the excitement mounting?

D   D U
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

In this video I introduce a new way of using your voice to help you strum. So far we’ve been counting “one-and-two-and-three-and-four-and.” But as strum patterns get more complex, I find it’s easier to say the “down’s” and “up’s” as you’re strumming them. This one isn’t that hard, but the next one is….

Exercise 6 (see video)

This pattern is the most syncopated one so far. Syncopated music stresses upbeats, and this pattern has two upstrums in a row. Syncopated music is hard to play, but without it, funk granddaddy George Clinton would have been a tuba player in a polka band.

D   D U   U
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

You’ll notice that I say “rest” on the 4th beat. I find this helps to remind you that you need to move your arm down on the 4th beat (even though you’re not strumming).

Exercise 7 (see video)

Here it is, the holy grail of beginning strumming, the Folk Strum Pattern:

D   D U   U D U
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

The other patterns in these exercises were merely warm-ups. The Folk Strum Pattern, on the other hand, is used in a ton of songs, so keep working on it until you can play it in your sleep. Try it with Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” or if you want something less folksy, how about Nirvana’s “Come as You Are?”

(See video of me doing my best Kurt Cobain).

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Did I mention that my strum pattern videos are a great next step in your strumming education? They’ll show you how to strum most of the songs on my site, using high-quality videos like the Folk Strum video you watched.

Let me know how you liked the lesson and please tell me if anything wasn’t clear.

Comments 394

  1. yes thanks for the ideas and somehow finding my post and managing to post to yours…with picking, personally, when i dont do it with a pick i like to do it with the side of my thumb rather than my fingers, i find it gives a cleaner sound. many people have complained about blisters from doing so but ive never had that problem

  2. I appreciate your thoughts on strumming techinque – except for one thing. Arm strumming doesn’t work if you want to have accuracy with the right hand. If you really watch the great players, you will find that they have great right hand control from the wrist, not the arm.

    1. This may be true, but we are talking about BEGINNERS. This article is for beginner guitarists and I doubt that the author would want to throw something that great guitarists do

  3. Thanks for stopping by Dave! You’re right–strumming from the wrist is a lot more accurate. I use that technique for funk grooves, when I’m just strumming a few treble strings, a-la James Brown.

    For those chords like C and D, I just mute the 6th string with the thumb and then whale on all the strings. Do you use the thumb to mute? What did you think of my post on thumb placement?

    Thanks for your input. It’s great to have other guitar teachers coming here and sharing ideas.

  4. I was an acoustic guitar player for several years before I really got into electric guitar. I wanted to be able to get power out of my acoustic (12 String). I found that I got more power and cleaner sounds by accurately placing my pick on the root string and giving it a hefty stroke from the wrist than I ever got from arm strumming. In fact, I had more stamina and broke less strings.

    You mentioned the C chord. I tend to mute the E string with my third finger. I rarely use the thumb for muting. In fact I use it more often for those “five finger chords” when I need to move the root up in full open chords.

    By the way, I also found out that a controlled wrist really helps to train the hand to do those Mark Knopfler finger picking riffs.

    Thank you for your kindness Rob. You have done a very good job on your site.

  5. Hi Dave Anthony,

    I often mute the 6th string with a fretting finger, too. I’ve discovered that this is the realm of the fat-fingered, however. Kids, many women, and anyone with slender fingers simply don’t have enough finger to both fret a string and mute a neighboring string. Unfortunately, those same people often have hands too small to mute with their thumb anyway. Maybe I should teach them to strum with their wrist instead….

  6. Thanks so much. That Come as You Are Video is so helpful. I’ve been playing for 5 years, taught myself, and never learned correct strumming technique. Now i’m learning it and it’s like starting over!!!!

  7. After countless years playing the “air guitar”, I thought I could strum quite well. Having finally starting teaching myself guitar at the tender age of 51 three weeks ago, I realised I couldn’t! Thanks for your very useful tips here. I think I cracked it last night – but it’s not yet stable!
    Practice, practice, practice!
    Will look in here regularly for encouragement and tips.
    Keep up the good work.

  8. I’ve been told there’s a thumb pick available that’s about an inch long and covers most of the first thumb joint. It wraps all the way around the thumb and can be used for the up strum. Do yoyu know of such an animal, and if so, do you know where they’re available? Thanks for your help and for your web site. Leroy

  9. 30 years ago when I first tried to play…haven’t tried since until now…I saw a style of picking but can’t remember it. I remember something about picking individual strings…1..2..down from the top..1..2..3 starting at the bottom strings up.. 1-2 1-2-3.. are you familiar with this strum or picking?

  10. Hey Leroy,

    An inch long, eh? Wow. I’ve used thumb picks before, but none that big. I use a thumb pick for fingerpicking, but I don’t like them for strumming–they tend to be thick and rigid, so they don’t “give” as you strum.

    But I think I saw Beck strumming his acoustic with one when he came through town last, so I’m sure it can be done.

    You can get them at any guitar shop, probably. I know Dusty Strings in Seattle carries them.

    Good luck,


  11. Hey Cecile,

    There are as many fingerpicking patterns out there as there are guitarists. That one doesn’t come to mind. If you’d like to learn more about fingerpicking, I’d strongly recommend Bruce Emery’s book. Do a search on the web and you’ll find it–he also writes general guitar instruction books.

    Good luck,


  12. This is a very good start for beginners; but, one thing that could really help us beginners, would be a video that shows the left hand as it changes chords, and some comments as to what fingers should be used as a pivot point to make it easier for the change in chords to take place.

  13. D’s a pain. Some things to keep in mind: If you mute the 6th string with your thumb, you can strum strings 5-1 and it’ll still sound OK. Also, on upstrokes, you don’t need to hit all strings you hit on the downstroke. Hitting 2 or 3 strings will still sound good–upstrokes are usually supposed to be unaccented anyway.

  14. this whole website and guy look great. i live on the east coast and found this while searching for tab..ending up learning alot and loved the videos from the cafe jam…i wish he could be my teacher

  15. THANK YOU! I had big problems with figuring out different strums, everything I played sounded the same – nobody really discusses strum on the other sites (well not like this!). Awesome! Kim

  16. I love your website. I started teaching regualrly and have sometimes used your lessons to teach students. I’m trying to figure out how to strum “Blvd. of Broken Dreams” as you have it written is the strum pattern for each chord or over two chords?


  17. so helpful… i am learning to play literally by myself and after watching tons of videos of people fingering “crash into me” i realized i had no idea what was going on on the other end of the guitar… thanks again!

  18. I am easily an hour away from the nearest anything let alone guitar lessons. So your website has become my instructional resource. Without it I would still be trying to learn from a book. I was hoping you might help me with the strumming pattern for the song Boulevard Of Broken Dreams. Do I only hit the strings on the down stroke? Also, I noticed on another site that each cord was played only twice as opposed to your site where each chord is play four times before moving on the next chord.
    Any help would be appreciated thanks,

  19. Hey Eddie,

    Often guitar parts that sound great with a full band sound kind of lame when played solo, so I often spruce up things for my students, most of whom are playing their songs alone. So while a lot of Boulevard of Broken Dreams is played just strumming downstrokes on the 1st and 3rd beats, I have my students use this strum pattern:

    D   B   D   D U
    1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

    The B means “bass” – just strum the bass strings lightly with a downstroke. It’s basically and unaccented strum.

    Hope this helps,


  20. Hello, I really enjoy your site! I found it while searching for “folk strum.” I’ve been practicing the folk strum before finding your site, but I’ve been having problems with it. Your “Come as you are” video has been a real help, but I’ve been trying to play “Blowing in the Wind” and I can’t grasp it. Do you happen to have a video of you playing it with the folk strum? I’ve been doing “boom-chuck” becasue I can’t get the timing down. Any help would be greaty appreciated. Thanks!

  21. Hey Chad,

    In the version of “Blowing in the Wind” that I’ve got on my site, each chord gets one measure, which means one folk strum. See if that clears things up.

    Good to hear your’re digging the site, Derek! You should get your wife in on the fun… she interested in the bass?

  22. I picked up the guitar for the first time in 2001. I have always wanted to learn how to play so I started taking lessons. From the very beginning, I was unable to strum my guitar. I could fingerpick my guitar amazingly, but for the life of me I could not strum my guitar. I’d never seen anyone fingerpick, but I could do it instantly from the very beginning. I am fingerpicking tunes like cannonball rag on my guitar, but I still can’t get the strumming technique down. Now, I believe that I tilt my pick and strum from my wrist too much. I have stopped trying to learn how to strum several times because it just sounds so bad that I can’t stand to hear myself practice. I’m going to try your tips and give it another shot. Please keep the website up till I learn how to strum this blooming guitar.

  23. hi, i know how to strum but i dont know when to strum it, like im given a G chord i dont know how what to do with it, like do i strum up or down and for how long?…

    hope you can help.

    thank you for the tutorials its very helpful!:D

    please email me when youre free:D

    thank you again.

  24. my strumming has sounded off since i began learning guitar about three months ago. the explanation on strumming you gave has alone taught me more then any other source i have used for anything guitar related.

  25. Just begining (again) with my sons guitar after he went to college. I took a few lessons in my early teens. I have resolved to try to learn what I can through the internet before considering formal lessons. Your site is without question the best one I have found!! I love the coffee shop Jam videos. You have put alot into creating this site and I thank you very much!!!

  26. Hi Rob, I also started the guitar at the tender age of 51, only 12 days ago, I always was fascinated by them. but never got around to it.
    circumstances changed, so now I got the time.
    I found your tremendous site by accident by googling for: “sore fingers and guitars” πŸ™‚
    I love your beginners stuff, mp3 tracks and videos. its like, WOW! something really helpful and fun at the same time, I like the sense of humour you put in your lessons, a good idea.
    Keep up the fantastic work.

  27. Rob, just found your site, nice! You have a good method I think. I’m a fledgeling not yet out of the fumbling stage brand new wanna’ be guitarist.
    My son gave me an Ibanez Gio a couple of months ago and I have since developed a nice set of callous’s and very little skill. I surf the web for site’s like your’s to practice with.
    I’m a 50 year old disabled veteran and have always wanted to play so now that I have some time I’m trying to do it.
    My time will be limited in January as I’m starting college but I will still practice every night. Your strumming lessons have helped me a lot in my timing and I have also began to develope my ability to change chords as I strum, it’s hard. I have hands like a silver back gorilla so you can imagine my fumbling about.
    Thanks! I’ll be back.

  28. I’ve been a beginning guitar player for a few years now and finally finding the time and dedication to improve. Your site has been incredible in helping me to progress and gain confidence. Thank you very much!

  29. Starting playing 1 year ago and got hardly anywhere w/ weekly lessons. During that time I only used your site for tabs. Spent 1 hour tonight and realized I should have stayed home and learned to play with your lessons! YOU are a teacher. Videos are great. Thank you sincerely for the gift and Merry Christmas.

  30. I;ve only had a few lessons and last night I tried the tutorial on folk strumming pattern and it worked in less than 5 minutes. The build up to the final version was the key. Now I’m using it on other songs as well!
    Brilliant site! Keep it up!

  31. Thanks for the folk strumming, I learned that from my uncle several years ago, but didn’t know the timing or that it was used in folk, couldn’t incorporate it in any songs, now I think the door to folk has just been opend up for me! Thanks for your lessons.


  32. Hi. I found your strumming demonstration video’s better than any i have found so far…well done! πŸ™‚

    I was wondering if you would be able to help identify one for a song or two? Are you able to do that? I have a song i want to use for practice, but i just can’t figure out what the strum pattern is.

  33. Greetings from Martha’s Vineyard!

    Your site is awesome! I’ve been taking lessons on the Vineyard once a week for the past six months. For the last three months I come to your site in between lessons to keep the learning churning!

    Wonderful wealth of material, easy to understand and feel like I am sitting in your studio.

    I have many ideas on how you can go the next step with the site if you want to – but will save that for another day.

    Thank you
    Vineyard Captain

  34. Jeez what a ripper of a site, a real bloody beauty! I tried playing about 30 year ago and couldn’t really get the hang of it. Now that I’ve contacted cancer and have plenty of time on my hands I bought a guitar the other day (me fingers are now as sore as hell) and looked for info on line, by some stroke of great fortune I happened upon this site and from the little I’ve looked at and tried I feel I just may be able to bash out a tune or three.. Thanks for creating such a great and informative site on the web
    follyfella of follyfarm

  35. great strumm pattern. i only have one problem, i had a friend show me this one already. it only works for 4/4 count. i cant play anything else im so used to this one. besides all that, every one is sick of me playing this one… all my songs sound the same. can some one email me a new one???

  36. HI, I am Tony from Singapore, beginners in learning how to play guitar , like to learn more of strumming the guitar, kindly let me know.


    Tony Goh

  37. Excellent site very impressed. As an old yet new guitarist I need a little help. On ‘Come as you are’ at what point do you change the chord in the strumming pattern. on the last + or durng the pattern. For me it doesn’ sound right yet. I could be changing chords too early or late, or just not playing fast enough.
    I’ll keep at it since this site has given me new inspiration to try again, this guitar won’t beat me.

  38. Hey Trevor,

    Great question. In theory, you’re supposed to change chords at the end of the strum pattern. But in practice, what you do is lift your fingers right before the last +, so that you strum open strings as your fingers are moving to the new chord.

    Do it reeeeeeeealy slow at first. It’ll sound terrible, but as you speed it up and things smooth out, you’ll see that it sounds fine, and then when you listen to your favorite guitarists strum, you’ll notice that they’re doing it, too.

    Don’t give up!


  39. This is the best article on strumming i’ve managed to find. At the moment my i sound crap so hopefully with this advice it’ll get better! Keep on doing great articles!

  40. Thanks a lot, I’m just a begginer, but this site, has help me a lot plus it’s free
    wonderful teacher, πŸ™‚ is so good to know that there’s still a lot of good people that teaches just because they love what they do
    Keep it up Rob thanks for sharing

  41. thanks teacher….this website really helped me a lot…..before i wast just starting to learn how to strum…but now i already know how to…..thanks again….

  42. Um…I posted on here yesterday, about Patty Griffin’s Moses, and I just realized I didn’t get those tabs from you! (Looks sheepish). How embarassing!

    But, if you’re looking for something to add to your list of “Gifts from the Guitar Gods,” it looks like a great, easy song (just can’t figure out how to strum it).

    Anyways, thanks again for the site! All the advice really helps when I get frustrated wih my beginner’s skills.


  43. Amazing! Simply amazing! I started learning how to play the guitar last summer, and even picked up the harmonica in combination with it in the fall. But since the winter, my learning has been stalled entirely. I still played a ton (usually 3-5 hours a day, every day since the summer), but I didn’t know where to go next. I knew all the major and minor chords as well as the 7th chords too, but I didn’t know what else to do. I mostly play folk music, and I just didn’t know how some artists (Dylan) made their music sound so good. I figured that at 22 now, I just probably started learning guitar too late to get any better.

    And then WHAM!

    I had tried strum patterns before, but no big success. But after finding your blog on Google and going through these practices, you’ve jump-started and invigorated my learning to unimaginable heights again! Since I found this particular tutorial 5 days ago, I’ve played at least 7 hours a night and have mastered two very key and fundamental patterns (one being the folk pattern you show here).

    The world of guitar learning has increased 10 fold thanks to you. I’m sincerely in your debt!

  44. this has been soo helpfull. thank you. i have been learning the guitar for a while now and can play quite a few chords but have neber been able to strum. now i can do it a bit. Im sure with practice i will be able to do it now, all because of ur lessons. thanks

  45. Just found this site a few days ago. It has renewed my enthusiasm & desire to learn the guitar for my own enjoyment.

    I commute 3 hours on the train every day and have found that I can practice folk strumming on my leg. When I’m supposed to hit a chord I actually hit my leg & I purposely miss it on the rest stroke. It took about a half hour the first day and I actually started to feel the rythym of the strum in my head. Aside from the odd looks I get from my fellow commuters, it’s working out great.

    Today I was working on folk strumming to a four count and then switching back & forth to another strum pattern. I’m 47 yrs old and feel like a litttle kid with a new toy. Hour & a half ride home feels like 15 minutes.

    Hope everyone else is enjoying this as much as I am. Ray

  46. Hey Ray,

    That’s funny–I used to do the same time in my classes in High School, strumming the seam on the side of my jeans with a pick.

    To capture the groove of Bobby McGee, you need a kind of complex strum pattern. You’ll be strumming in double-time, which means your arm goes down on the beats and the upbeats, eight times per measure:

    Strum: D   D DU UD D DU
           1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

    Hope this helps,


  47. Hey Rob,
    I have a quick question. Maybe it’s just me (although my interest is primarily folk and I love Dylan’s earlier work), but isn’t Blowin’ in the Wind supposed to be:

    D D D U D U
    1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

    Just seems like it to me. Thanks for all the help though. Have any more relatively similar folk-esque strums you know off hand?


  48. Hey Chris,

    You’re right. You can also use the folk strum pattern, though–it just gives it a different groove. I fixed that bum link to Blowin’ in the Wind, by the way.

    To find more folksy strum patterns, just look through my song catalogue–I’m sure you’ll find lots.

    Enjoy the music,


  49. FINALLY, I get the whole strumming thing. Been trying for ages to find some good help on this online, and this did it.

    Suggestion: Going through your huge page of songs, is it possible to put a link to the vids on what kind of strum to use in those songpages? It’s a good reminder on what it should look and, more importantly, sound like. As a real novice, I can say it would help me.

  50. Thanks for the great free lesson on strumming. I’m a beginner and this really has helped. I’ve looked at other videos but yours is the clearest. Thanks again.

  51. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!! It helped a lot and cleared up a lot! I just started playing the guitar but I am a poor college kid and can’t afford lessons especially after spending all my money on a guitar! Where can i find more your amazing lessons i need all the help i can get!

  52. Hi Rob, this is really great. Found your site via searching Google. I am a newbie and i just bought my guitar 2 weeks ago. I actually don’t know how make a good sound out of my guitar, i just strum the way i wanted it. So, i search the net that would help me improve in a way. Like your site here. I watched your videos. Still, i am having problems in controlling my arms while strumming. it’s like it has a mind of its own and when i started singing along i got totally lost. Its kinda depressing… really.

    Thank you very much. I hope you could post more videos and help beginners like. Its going to be a long way, maybe, before i could hit it… wish me luck.

    More Power!!!!

  53. This is really great. It just felt like learning live. Please share your thoughts on how to figure out chords for a given song. I am a keyboard player, and I tend to map onto keys when trying to find chords for a song. Is there an easier way to find chords on guitar for a song?

  54. Hey there,

    I have recently started. These are the best guitar lessons I have come across. You certainly know what you are doing. More videos will only improve the lessons.
    Why don’t you publish a DVD?
    Thanks for the help.
    Good Luck

  55. Just wanted to say a big thanks to you. My left hand is pretty quick at changing chords but I was really getting frustrated as I couldnt understand why I wasnt sounding so good. Then with the help of your site Ive realised it was the way I was strumming. I was getting all the power from the wrist and not the elbow. Tonight I have already improved the sound alot just by changing the way I strum. Hopefully I will continue to improve. I only feel I have wasted 6 months strumming the wrong way! Urgh!!!

    Thanks again from London, England

  56. I just wanted it to continue from here at the same pace and to keep prograssing! Amazing what happens when someone slows down long enough to show someone else how it’s done! Thank you very much!

  57. thanks so much for the lesson. i learned guitar when i was a teenager, i don’t even remember the strum lessons, i just remember playing and having fun. now i want to teach my kids and find it hard to teach the strum. you’ve helped tremendously!

  58. This lesson is absolutely fantastic. I’ve been playing on and off for a couple of years but never been able to strum properly. It had me depressed. Now I can easily bang out the tunes mentioned above!

    Do you have any more common strumming patterns to practice? Also, do you have any more songs that use the folk strum pattern? Any assistance gratefully received. Many thanks.



  59. It is so good to know people like you are helping those who want to learn without registering for this that an dthe other not only is your website free but it is extreemly useful and i find it very easy to follow as the videos make it become real. i just want to thank you for your efforts and let you know your work is much appreciated by us novices!

  60. HI

  61. What a brilliant teacher you are. There is something almost hypnotic about following those strumming exercises and videos. I have been trying to get that strumming pattern fixed to muscle memory on and off for about 12 months now. Tried following other website lessons and videos many times. I just followed your lesson here – practiced for a short while and… WOW…I am strumming along and changing chords with no stutters or stammers in that pattern !! Brilliant !! It all in the way you teach it.
    Thank you so much.

  62. Hey PersonX,

    A lot of beginners complain about their 1st string being too loud. Some of it might be caused by playing on a cheap guitar. But it could also be that you need to take a bigger swipe at the strings.

    Strumming in a big arc means this:

    “Big” means, start your strum with your hand at about the top of the body of your guitar. Swing your hand down, moving at the elbow, strum the strings, and stop your arm when your hand reaches the bottom of the body of the guitar. So your hand is traveling the distance of about a foot every time you strum.

    “Arc” just describes the path it takes–a slightly curved path. Don’t worry about that part. Just focus on taking a big swing at the strings.

    It’s harder to hit the strings accurately this way, and you’ll have to hold the pick somewhat lightly so that you don’t strum too hard, but you’ll get the hang of it.

    Have fun!


  63. I live in the country (ranch) and am on a dial up. I would like to download your videos so I can go over them and not take sooooo long to wait to view. Can you help me on this?? I did get the first one but then only view not save. Thanks, James

  64. Rob,
    I am a beginner guitarist and have just found your site. Thanks for the instruction. I am wondering, do I have software issues, or do your videos not have audio? I am from Australia…so the world widw instruction continues. Thanks again

  65. Thx that is so inspiring and neat at first i was look ok this dosent sound that great then when you get it feels so wonderful!!! Oh and anyone who has problems with sore fingers or blisters/calices i hear if you soke your fingers before you r going to play alot then if they hurt also after put aloe vera oil on them idk if it works???

  66. Great! I’m just beginning to learn guitar (age age 56–it’s never too late!) and really needed some basic information on learning to strum. This is just great! Thanks! Now I just need to learn how to change chords in time with my strumming!

  67. This is not a complaint-I wonder if you could post the “Come As You Are” strum without the singing, which is significantly louder than the strums making the timing difficult to pick up?
    Stevie C

  68. I learned how to play from a “how to” book and without a pick. 5 years later I am trying to learn backwards, the theory behind the structure of chords and how to use a pick. It’s more difficult than it sounds. I know alot of different strum patterns but I have a hard time reproducing the sound with a pick. It seems strange that I can understand the theory easier than I can understand how to use a pick properly. Your site is the first to show some of the stuff that might seem trivial to others. I appreciate it.

  69. Thanks a lot for sharing your talent and skills…it is very nice of you…i am playing the guitar since 11 months…i was looking for the strumming pattern of American Pie by Don McLean and I came accross your website…Quite a discovery I must say!!

  70. whoa!

    I am a BEGINNER (and by that I mean I just bought my first guitar TODAY)… i had NO idea how to strum and this lesson was awesome. I’m definitely going to keep using it!


  71. Hey, nice work!!
    But IΒ΄ve got a specific question. Do you know the song “Sweet Sixteen” by Billy Idol??
    Listen to it, especially to the sound of the guitar. The strumm is very bright and sound great. Do you know how to get that kind of sound on an acoustic??
    Thanks very much!!

    Greets from Germany

  72. I love you videos, they are very clear to understand. My problem is I need a bit more remedial. I just got a guitar for my 30th birthday (a couple days ago) and I can’t even seem to tune it. The trouble is, while I can strum the whole 6 strings I am having trouble figuring out how to just pick each individual string to use the digital tuner.
    For instance- I pick the 6th string (E) and see that it’s too high, I adjust and try again. It’s lower now but before I adjust I strum it one more time and now it’s high even though I haven’t changed anything. Clearly the problem is that I’m striking it differently each time. How do I fix this?
    I’m very anxious to keep learning but I need to at least tune it first.
    Thank you so much!

  73. Hey!
    Thanks alot for the lesson…its amazing!I’ve never quite gotten the hang of strumming, but this is great! I have a question though, I always tend to mess up when switching from chord to chord. I always try with and without a pick and it just never turns out as a clean stroke. How would you clean up your strokes especially when switching chords?

  74. Thanks for the stumming tip. My teacher taught me the strum but not in this sequence. I realize that I have to spend some time just practicing this as well. This did help.

  75. hi

    this website is simply brilliant,anytime i need anything,i head straight for your site,your sheet music is great to,i have,nt been playing long but have managed to get a few videos up on youtube,im into my irish stuff…keep this great website going..

  76. Hi

    I have just started trying to learn the guitar today and this lesson was so helpful. Thanks a lot. I’m going to go through some more now, thanks again – great site.

  77. Your better than any book or DVD. Thanks for your great knowledge and skills and the fantastic website. As a beginner I am so glad I found you. Keep up the great teaching tips. Oz is a long way from you but hey we still want to play as good as you – thanks again from Downunder

  78. Thanks a lot! This lesson helped me a lot. I’ve just started to play the guitar and I’m learning a few chords but I didn’t really know which way to strum. Thanks to your article now I’ve learned some patterns!

  79. hi..found this lesson very enjoyable and informative as i am a complete novice …however i am still struggling and would like any more sites you know of r any other lessons you have to give me a push in the right direction …cheers … matt

  80. Thanks, I thought I wasn’t going to make it with strumming, I was like completely lost but then I stumbled on your website, thanks alot. This site is great, it’s very helpful.

  81. Hi,
    I’m a newbie in guitar playing and I’m looking continuously for instruction and help to teach myself. I must say: this is a great and helpful website. While I’m reading the thread I wonder about the followig strumming pattern of “Me and Bobby McGee” (entry #101) that I don’t understand really.

    “…. You’ll be strumming in double-time, which means your arm goes down on the beats and the upbeats, eight times per measure:
    Strum: D D DU UD D DU
    1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

    You strum:
    down on “1” miss on “+” down on “2” down-up on “+” and than I could follow the pattern on 3 + 4 + ….

    Could you please explain it to me one more time
    and please excuse my dummie-questions because I’am newbie!

    Thanks a lot

  82. I have been trying to play guitar for years and years and i still cannot play it.I now know that i was brought into this world to play video games , to drive a car , to listen to music most of the day , and all the other commen things most of Us do day by day.I was not born to play guitar and now i except it after learning that i could never really play it.So all the music i listen to , that makes Me think that i want to be a Rock Star is just a dream.I should only enjoy thinking that i could be a Rock Star when i am listening to music.Other than that i should let guitar playing go and get on with My real life.Trying to be what You really cant be is so hard to do.If You are not really getting anywhere , then only then , You will know that it is a waste of time in trying to do the impossible.Those of You that are making ground goodluck to You , those who feel a bit of what i was going through….maybe its best to give it away.I have tryed and tryed.And then i have tryed again and again , all for nothing.A complete waste of time.Those who have the music playing smarts , are born to live and play music.I am a music listener not a music player.So my little story ends here and i will stick with what i know is best , and that is being who i really am , not who i want to be.

  83. I have been playing for almost a year and have been doing all down-strokes. I looked at this site today and tryed it right away! It took me about an hour but I finally got it thanks so much!

  84. Hello Rob,
    Great lesson!! The videos are very good too!!! I wish I lived in Seattle, we would be having lessons.

    Thank you for caring so much for passing on your knowledge and materials.
    George Smith

  85. You are the man. This is the best strumming lesson I found on the web. I can’t tell you how frustrated I was not able to strum properly. You surely fixed that. Thanks again.

  86. Hey Jerry,

    Glad you’re enjoying them! The videos work for me. They’re in .wmv format, which should work using Windows Media Player (on a PC). I’m on a mac right now and Firefox plays it. Safari might have trouble with it–I don’t know.

    Hope this helps,


  87. I have a burning question about strumming. When you want to play the rhythm, don’t you play according to the note values (if you have them)?Many instruction books just tell you to strum down 4x per measure. However, if a measure of a song you know has a measure of 2 quarter notes, then 2 eighth notes, then 1 quarter note, shouldn’t it be D D DU D? Isn’t this the way you would play if you wanted to play in a pub one day? Just trying to figure out how to have fun playing some easy tunes. Does my question make sense?

    1. Hey Zach,

      Yeah, your question makes sense! It’s great to be able to talk the common language of standard notation.

      Those instruction books are probably making things super-simple for their beginning students. Strumming on the beat tends to plod. You’ll want to do something more interesting as soon as you’re able!

      I’m interested to hear more about your example. Written music can be divided into three basic parts–melody, harmony, and percussion–and I don’t know what your example refers to. If you’re describing the melody of a song, then you usually don’t want to match its rhythm–the accompaniment on guitar should be playing a relatively steady rhythm, while the melody weaves its own way. But if you’re describing some notation of chords you’re supposed to play, then that’s your part–go ahead and play that rhythm.

      If you’re describing a drum part, often it sounds good for the guitar to be doing something similar to what the drums are doing. Most strumming patterns for solo guitar and voice try to re-create the basic groove that the rhythm section in a band is creating.

      Does my answer make sense? πŸ™‚


  88. Hey Rob! Thanks for replying. My example would just be something as simple as Tom Dooley for instance, or some Christmas songs like Silent Night. I guess these are so simple that the melody and rhythm are almost one and the same? I see what you are saying for other songs about not getting to caught up in the melody. I think you addressed my query in your last couple of sentences and I think that solo strumming needs to go along with the drumbeat in ones head? Bottom line is that the best strumming pattern for some songs is not obvious. I guess having a range of strumming patterns is necessary. Your video of “Come As You Are” was quite instructive (and well done I might add). Thanks again! Zach

  89. Rob, a better example is a song like Brown-Eyed Girl. I know you have it in your chord library with a strum pattern (I have not tried it yet). But this is a song where a strumming pattern might be hard to decipher without you providing it, but would notation give any guidance?


  90. Rob,I’m really old and I’ve been wanting to play guitar for many years but just never got around to it. About two years ago I picked up a used guitar at a yard sale and hardly touched it until this past December. I was visiting my grandkids and their parents. My grandson and his dad play together and on this day my role was sitting on the floor with the girls singing and clapping etc. We had a ball but I felt rather envious. After it was over I told my grandson how lucky he was to bo able to do this with his dad and that I wish I could play with them too. Well, with the logic of a 13 year old he looked at me and said, “Grampa, you have a guitar, pick it up and play it” And I’ve been doing just that.
    I’m not ready for the concert hall just yet but heck, now I know the folk strum and I’ll soon be ready for the camp fire. My son-in-law, my grandson, and me. Even my 90 mother wants to sing with us. Now how cool will that be? 4 generations competing with the songbirds.
    Thanks so much for this site, my confidence is growing daily, now back to the strum…D+DU+UDP……..

  91. Hi Rob, just to add a bit more to that story, that “garage sale guitar” is in really bad shape. It was in a cool, dampbasement for several years before I bought it. I knew I wouldn’t be able to use it for long but the action on it was easy enough for me to play, sort of. Anyway, to make a long story short I feel I’ve come along far enough to sink a few bucks into a brand new acoustic. I live in a small town with only one guitar store, the good news is the fella running it is retired and is not in the bussiness to make a ton of money. He just wants to help as many begginers as he can. Granted, most of the beginners aren’t grandfathers. He’s not pushing real expensive stuff on me, he let me play a guitar worth about 2 grand, then another model worth about $300, Not knowing either price I actually preferred the cheaper one and he agreed with me. It seems to be a better fit for me at this time.
    All of this has come about because I found your site.
    Keep on truckin’ man, I’ll keep trying to help you have a blast working on your site.

    BTW, I’ve never been to Seattle in my life but I do have family in Vancouver BC Next time I,m there I just might take trip down there to look you up and shake your hand.

  92. hey rob,
    im a beginner that got a guitar from my papaw. He said that it was missin a string and it needed tuning despertly. So my dad and I went to a sore and got strings and we found a tuner softwear. We hooked it up and I found your website. it was and still we be a big help in teaching me how to play guitar.

  93. Thank you for the help, only been trying to play the guitar for 4 months, mainly melodies. Strumming is difficult,the upstroke is hard,luckily I haven’t broke a string.

  94. Dude! thanx a million! id been playin d guitar 4 bout an year but i knew there was something wrong wid my strummin n ur site really helped me! any tips on keepin how 2 keep d rythm while singing?

    1. Hi Wicked Vikki,

      You’re welcome! About singing–start simple. Just strum once per measure at first. Slowly add complexity to the strumming as you get better. Oh, and practice a ton.

  95. Thanks so much. Extremely helpful when i don’t have anyone to teach me. Just wondering if you could help on the strumming for the song “Change” by blind Melon. I’m having trouble.

    Thanks a lot!

  96. 60yrs going on 70 and here i am with a new guitar and not a clue on how to play. Well at least i can now knock out a strum thanks to your fantastic help. I and my every suffering listening family thank you so much.

  97. oh my gosh, thank you very much!

    i’ve been struggling to get a good sound using the pick and after reading and applying all this, i’ve definitely improved!

  98. i’ve been trying, and failing, to learn guitar for years. strumming is the biggest obstacle. i just couldn’t get. with this lesson, i think you’ve just changed everything. i get it!
    thanks so much,

    1. Hey Gill,

      Reggae is all about accenting the offbeat (the “and’s”). The simplest rhythm would be upstrums on all the offbeats. If you can play a barre chord and mute the chord after each strum by releasing pressure with your fretting hand, all the better (that’s called “skank” guitar).

      Hope that helps,


  99. I had fun learning how to strum and you made it very easy with the videos as a guide.If learning to strum was so easy i should have learned it when i was 2!!haha..thanks anyways.

  100. Hi,
    I’ve seen tabs wtih the stum pattern using lower case d, such as D D d D, and using B’s, such as B B D D DU, can you explain this to me. Thanks for the great lessons!

    1. Hi Katherine,

      I don’t know about the d’s – they might be unaccented strums (quieter than the D’s). B means bass–just play the bass note (lowest-pitched note) instead of strumming.

      There are videos–click the link at the beginning of each step of the tutorial.

      Have fun,


  101. Hi Rob,

    Thanks so much for such an informative website! I just started learning to play the guitar about a month ago, and I’ve really benefited from the lessons on strumming. I’ve been trying to learn the song “Must Have Done Something Right” by Relient K, but I can’t quite pick up the strumming pattern. Can you help me? Thank you!!

  102. Rob,
    Thanks for such a great site. I’ve been teaching general music to Elementary School aged children for 9 years now, and I’ve decided to start doing group guitar lessons. I bought your book, and although it’s geared towards private lessons, I’m learning tons! Thanks for that. Also, I’ll be in Seattle over the Christmas break with my family, if I get a chance I’d love to come meet you and thank you in person! Great stuff here and in the book!

    Wendy, just listening to RelientK’s tune on iTunes, it sounds like the strum you’re trying to get down is the one being played during the verses. The chorus strum is a pretty standard D DU D DU (1 2+ 3 4+). The verse seems tricky because it is πŸ™‚
    It starts on the up beat of 4 (or the + of 4) and continues playing this pattern.
    U | DU }U DU } U | (where the | represent the measure and the } represent a rest or missing the strings) and it would be counted + 1+ (2) + 3 + (4) etc… where the beats 2 and 4 represent no sound from the strum (a rest or missing the strings while keeping the strum pattern going). Try it slow at first and work your way up to the recorded tempo. hope this helps. Another thing that is happening during the strum is the hand (left hand if barre chords are being used or right hand if open chords are being used) is stopping the strings vibration on the 2 and 4 to create the silence or space.

    warm regards-

  103. Hey Rob

    Bought a few lighter picks today to see if it would help my strumming, to my frustration it didn’t – and after talking to countless people I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong, until I read your page – thanks so much! It was all in the wrist and non in the elbow – it’s like you’ve just given me a whole new dimension – appreciate it !

  104. Thank you so much, this was so helpful! I was really unsure about how to properly hold a pick and strum and this lesson answered all my questions! πŸ˜€

  105. Hi,
    I have been learning the guitar using resources from the Internet. There have been a number of good sites but most of them skip the Strumming Lesson. I must say that this has helped me understand Strumming. I kave come to know how to play a number of chords but strumming has really been a drawback. Thanks for this precise lesson and God bless you.

  106. Hi
    Just started playing since just before christmas. Just a quick read through and a little bit of practice has made a huge difference. Thanks for the site. At 43 years old I’ve left it a little late in life to start learning to play, but I intend to enjoy every minute of it, and the information you have provided on your site makes it seem a lot easier to understand. Thank You.

  107. WOW…this site is a treasure. I have raised my kids and recently dug out my lovely acoustic guitar…yes, from the 60’s. With nice new strings added, I decided to go in search of some help…..It been AWHILE! Now, remember there was no internet in 1968 and so I was STUNNED when I found you, this info and everything you are offering people like me. I now have songs to sing, chords to use, strumming lessons (Strumming? who knew??) and not one creepy request for $$money$$!! WHO ARE YOU anyway and I hope you believe in Karma…..because surely you must have a little bit of good fortune, luck etc. coming your way each and every day for what you are doing here. This stuff is so wonderful, clear, simple, informative, so helpful…(NO…I am not using the Thesaurus either) inspiring….diverse too. OK, I am going to go play a song….well, maybe. I suppose I will need to tune my new strings and then I will spend a few hours enjoying your catalog of songs WITH CHORDS (yay) that I am STILL not believing I was able to print out to enjoy. Wait….HEY…am I going to get a bill??? πŸ™‚ LOL Thanks so very much for EVERYTHING and I’ll be back!! (and if you need maybe… 10 bucks…I’d definitely pay!! ) Hugs. MOM

  108. Hello,

    now i found what i’ve been looking for. I follow lessons but i want to try anything to get it good. This site is a very great help for me. I’m free from work tomorrow so i now what to do.
    Thank you very mutch,

    Greetz from Belgium

  109. After 240 comments you probably have heard it all. BUT,
    a very big thank you. I am a late 40’s rank newbie beginner. I was getting very frustrated trying the learn and didn’t understand why what I was trying didn’t sound right. Last night it came to me that I just didn’t know how to strum correctly. I looked around and the explanation on strumming you gave has alone taught me more then any other source I have used for anything guitar related.

    Thank you!

  110. Hey Rob, I noticed you still check this blog so I thought I would throw a question out there. I have learned quite a few songs now and decided to see how I would do on video. To my dismay, it sounds like I am beating the crap out of the guitar. The rhythms, chords, etc. are correct, but it sounds lot choppier then I expected. Heard of this before? Any advice? I have really not concentrated on working with a metronome and I am wondering whether my rhythm is not as good as I think. Thanks!

  111. Hi Rob, 8 weeks into learning guitar and my playing didnt sound right plus didnt feel comfortable when strumming and using the pick, very frustrating as couldnt get advice that was specific enough to help. Thanks to your brilliant easy to follow lesson, am sounding so much better (what a great feeling to be able to play a song well!) and excited about playing again. Many thanks


  112. Thank you very much for your your lesson I coud’nt get the feeling of struming but I follow your tips and I think in a wile I’ll get it. Of course I need practice for long, but that’s the way.

  113. Wow!!..
    your lesson was crystal clear.
    and i loved how you delivered it in the most conversational structure…
    thank you so much… i hope i can play a full song with a guitar,..ASAP…
    god bless..

  114. Awesome…!!!
    Never thot i could learn strumming unless and untill someone shows me. But now i started playing songs…
    U have proved me wrong…
    Thnx a lot…:)

  115. Thank you so much for posting these lessons. I am teaching myself guitar so I can teach it to my son when he is bigger. Sometimes the books just aren’t enough, it is so much more helpful o actually see someone doing it and be able to hear what it is supposed to sound like. Thanks again.

  116. Finally!
    I’m 40 yrs old, been playing electric for 30 years, but never could get the acoustic strumming down
    I prefer to play-and-sing while on acoustic, so my very basic down-strokes-only was blah and full of ‘rests’ that left the songs full of empty holes
    Online and youtube lessons, most of them don’t cater to the beginner in a true sense
    But this? This was PERFECT. It took me a total of 20 minutes to have the holy grail folk pattern down pat at a high tempo
    It sounds awesome! 20 minutes…and I’ve been trying for 20 years!
    Hahahaha, yeah I’m a little over excited
    But hey, you really did write a very effective, short, simple explanation that’s perfect for the frustrated beginning strummer
    Excellent job and thanks a million; my family will thoroughly appreciate you at the next family camping trip πŸ™‚

  117. how you doing, ive been learning little over year an half now being taught by my brother who is a master himself and was self taught and been playing 20 years, but he not a good teacher, always getting madd,and when i go to try to play with he says im stuck in strum rutt,, so, when i came to this site i find this video above is what im playing. im stuck in whats shown above.

  118. I really appreciate how detailed this post was. The pictures and step by step instructions were extremely useful. Especially with something like strumming which may look easy, but there is much more technique than people realize. At least, I didn’t realize it until I started to learn.

  119. this helped oh so much! i could keep replaying the videos until i got it without having the obnoxious teacher in the background saying um no… thank you so much!

  120. I am teaching myself and the strumming techniques are helping alot in just the first few minutes. I will pass this along to everyone I know that is doing the same.

  121. Wow, this was a really good tutorial. I just started learning to play a few days ago and have been having serious trouble with the strumming (it never seemed smooth and I couldn’t seem to strumm up, plus the clicking of the pic on the strings drove me insane) but this lesson gave me hope. The advice in exercise two was especially helpful, and the folk strum pattern was great to learn/practise on. And I absolutely adore blowin in the wind, so that’s cool to hear a similarity between bob’s music and the noise I’m making.

  122. Reading your post gave me the feeling that I wrote it.
    When I learned to play the guitar it was long time ago before the internet era.
    Every thing was different then. If you are a young person you wouldn’t understand what does it mean to wait for hours just to hear your favorite song on the mono radio. Nowadays everything is accessible you can find endless materials about everything in the web and learn everything you desire online.

    Watch that cute short video “Guitar – No More Questions”

  123. Thanks you so much, this has got me started on teaching myself the Guitar, I could remember and work out chords, but just Could Not Strum!
    Thanks for the good, clear tuition,

  124. Thanks so much for this site and your strumming 101 guide. My daughter just got a guitar for xmas and she is learning how to strum correctly due to your site. You are great and I loved the videos!!

  125. I have been learning for almost 2 yrs. Took a couple lessons then moved away and been on my own since. I am getting fingerpicking down fairly well but strumming I find very frustrating. As you mentioned, there is never an indication of strum pattern.

    Thanks for the tutorial and especially the song list. You have another convert.

  126. I love your site. I am an advanced beginner, teaching myself and find your strumming tutorial awesome. It has helped me so much. I am more motivated to keep up the playing. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. Enjoy reading the comments, too.

    1. Post

      Hi Mary,

      Some cheap guitars have higher action–the distance between the strings and the fretboard. This makes it harder to play.

      Learning on a guitar with high action is like learning to ride a bike in a foot of mud.


  127. I am re-generating my guitar skills after about 20 years of nonplaying. Got a new Hummingbird for Christmas– I am so psyched. Thanks for SO much info! Just signed up for the videos, but cut my left index finger yesterday trying to chop firewood :{ so I have to wait to really try them out–bummer!! Looking forward to it, tho…am exploring your site and reading much in the meantime. (like you, there was no Internet back when I was learning in the 70’s)

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  128. I grew up in the 70s & 80s listening to my mom & dad play guitar (John Denver, Barry Manilow, Neal Diamond – and yes, I get teased a lot for that list). I’ve always wanted to learn, but it wasn’t until this year that I finally got my first guitar. I came across your site looking for strumming patterns for Patty Griffin’s ‘Moses’ (still hoping for that one!) and discovered what a treasure trove you have. I was so excited the first time I could do the folk strumming pattern from your sample video that I burst into laughter – and a few tears. It’s easy to see you’re a great teacher, not to mention having a well-optimized site. Going to sign up right now …

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  129. Great site, thank you! Very helpful πŸ™‚ I was just looking at the strumming pattern for “somewhere over the rainbow” and noticed an X on beat 3… could you tell me what that means? Sorry if it’s obvious and I’ve missed it!

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      1. So Rob, is a “scratch” strum the same as a “chuck”? I learning and picking up what I can from various sources. I’ve learned to “chuck” which does take a little coordination. Thanks!

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  130. My husband bought a my first guitar, and this site really helps. Thank you for providing help to those who seek it. Putting it in steps is the best part! Thanks again Tiffany

  131. Where can I find a key to your strum pattern abbreviations? e.g. What is a “d” strum as opposed to a “D” strum. And what is “M” and “X” strum, etc. Thanks!

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  132. Your strumming tutorials really helped me as I had know clue on how to strum properly, I feel I now have the hang of it & it didn’t take too long which is awesome!!
    I’d deffo recommend this site πŸ™‚

  133. Mr. Dumb Dumb here. Just a beginner at over 80 with the Ukulele
    your strum lesson is just what I needed.
    But, I am just starting out and am having big trouble just getting my fingers to do right.
    Thanks so much for your time
    Ted 5-19-11

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  134. Thanks to you my baby steps are starting to make strides. I have never got nor looked for any kind of lesson before now. I subscribed to your newsletter. Thanks for that as well

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  135. wow what a great sight,glad i found you. I live in portland now but from seattle. Question: My mac wont play vids just black box what do i need to watch them?

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      Hey Sueb,

      Hmmm… I don’t know. The only visitor I’ve talked to who couldn’t watch videos was using a PC with an old version of Internet Explorer. Have you tried using a different browser to see if that works?


  136. Hey rob,
    I like your site and use it quite a bit as I am teaching myself guitar ATM, and I have just looked at this tutorial hoping it would help me understand strumming better, and it has- but I still have one question.
    When you write out strums like this:
    D d D D B U duh
    1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
    I only understand upstrum and downstrum, what do the others mean? I mean the bs and lower case ds and when it writes DUH…..
    it would be awesome if u could explain to me!

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  137. I’ve been playing for a while and I thought I was strumming right. This taught me how to strum correctly and now I can play songs better. Thanks so much for this! You’ve helped a lot. Your lessons are magnificent!

  138. Hey Rob I stumbled across the site while searching for strum patterns and joined without hesitation. I think the site is a great resource for beggining guitarists. The problem is that the site needs to catch up with technology I am unable to view any of the videos on my IPAD for example and the links to Songster do not lead directly to the song you want to see. I can deal with the second issue but unfortunately without the ability to view on my iPad I will be forced to cancel. Please consider an update

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  139. Thanks so much for putting up this, it helped a lot….but I do have one question…
    I am self taught, lessons are way too expensive, and I depend on Youtube videos to learn songs. The instructors will use numbers (such as 1 and 2) to describe the pattern you are supposed to strum (this might be for picking, I don’t know, SELF TAUGHT), I was wondering if you would know what this is?

  140. As a beginner guitarist learning on my own accord, i have to say your site has greatly improved my abilities, in just a few months i went from knowing absolutely nothing about a guitar to playing simple yet addictive songs i am trying to axpand into the fingerpicking aspect of the guitar any chance you might have lessons or some instruction on the subject.

    thanks for all your help in the past and in the future to come

  141. can u plz give me the pattern for blackmore’s shadow of the moon cuz I can’t figure it out ,just a thaught i saw this very usefull stuff thx πŸ™‚ keep spreading these awsome teachings

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  142. Hi Rob,
    I took 1 guitar lesson before I had to quit (they were pretty expensive) and in that lesson I just learned the E chord, so I’ve been trying to teach myself. A fourteen year old teaching herself isn’t as easy as it sounds, but I’m determined! I’m more into the pop stuff; I’m learning The A Team by Ed Sheeran right now and it’s pretty easy, but I didn’t know how to strum, I just knew the chords. All in all, this page was pretty helpful, so thanks! – lauren

  143. Hi,

    I have a unique problem while strumming my classical guitar. Maybe not unique to beginner’s world but to me. I have seen strumming patterns videos and try to follow them. When they strum it sounds good but when i strum it sounds messy all i can hear is one basic string (low E) whether it is down or up strum. Or may it is my ears

  144. Hi, I just subscribed…I watched and listened open-strings video for “hey-Joe” by Hendrix…but your video does not sound anything like Hendrix /Hey-Joe. Ame I missing something here …??


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      Hey John,

      The video shows you a strum pattern you can use in the song that captures the general feel of the song. Two things to keep in mind:

      1) The videos just show you how to strum the strum pattern over a G chord. They don’t include the chord progression for specific songs, or any singing.

      2) Hendrix never just strummed his songs using a single pattern over and over. If you really want to sound like Hendrix, you’ll need to use tablature to learn the song note-for-note. Using the chord chart and strum pattern on my site will enable a beginner to play the song quickly.

      Hope this helps,


  145. thanks for the tutorial it helps a lot but I’m having strumming of songs I want to play the Day I left the womb and I’ve tried to find strumming patterns everywhere but I can’t find it any way to help

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      Hi Jack,

      OK, I see what you mean. Most of the easier strum patterns have you always strumming down on beats and up on off-beats (the “and’s”). You describe this rhythm as “subdividing by 8th notes”: In other word, you’re chopping the measure up into eight parts, with every part corresponding to an arm movement down or up. But as you venture into more challenging rhythms, often you subdivide by 16th notes. When doing this, you move your arm down on the beats and the off-beats, basically moving your arm twice as fast as you would subdividing by 8th notes. This is why you see “D’s” above the “and’s” in this pattern.

      When you count 16th note subdivisions, you say “one e and uh two e and uh” and so forth. So the above rhythm is….

      “one, two, and-uh, e-and, four, and-uh”.

      Not very helpful, is that? This is why I clarified your question: Counting out a pattern in this way isn’t very useful, especially when trying to read it in order to learn it. If you want to learn this rhythm, I recommend my video service–it’s why I made it!

      Hope this helps,


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  147. Thanks for the helpful tutorial! I was wondering what the lower case d and the B are on your strumming patterns. I get the D is down and U is up, and I may be being thick, but what are these other two? Thanks!

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  148. Found your page and it seems to do what it says on the tin. Yesterday the noise I made when strumming was an embarrassment. Today after utilising all that you say on this page (and getting a very thin plectrum from my local music shop) the sound I make is getting on for decent. Thanks for the effort you have made to help aspiring musicians.

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  149. This post is really very helpful. All the technique you have shared will surely help out those who are starting out. With such post, beginners will be able to gain more confidence to continue this craft especially that t is a little bit frustrating when you cannot get to strum correctly more with a pick. Please keep on posting articles like this because I am pretty sure that several aspiring musicians do appreciate it.

  150. I am 55 now. Had first guitar at 13, took many lessons, spent many hours running scales and never got anywhere.
    Last six months the net has helped.. Never could strum. Learned all seven of your patterns in less than one hour.
    THANK you so much for renewed interest in the guitar.!!!!!

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  151. What a nice and well done tutorial, i found it some days ago and come here since then to improve my poorly guitar technic. I stumbled upon some songs with strumming pattern start with “B”, nnot just D’s and U’s. Does this mean I have to only play the Base string, or strings?

    I was actually pretty impressed that you keep commenting for such a long time! This means to me a lot that you are still interested in helping people! Thanks for this!

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  152. This is an amazing tutorial, thank you so much! I have just started learning guitar and was really unsure about how to strum it properly, but thanks to this post I am more confident about it. The rest of this website looks great by the way, thanks for everything you have done on here. πŸ™‚

  153. Folk Strum Pattern
    D   D U   U D U
    1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

    On the Folk strum, what happens on beat 3 ? Is the previous note still ringing until the next note is struck or should the the note be silenced ? That is , is the note tied or rested on beat 3, the downbeat ?

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  154. This may be a stupid question, but since I am a complete newbie I figure stupid questions are my prerogative.

    How do you know which strumming pattern to use? When I pick up a book of songs, it shows the guitar chords above the musical notation for singing and piano, but I don’t see anything to indicate how to strum. Do you just pick a strumming pattern? Do you have to already know the song pretty well from listening to it in order to make your own choice about what strumming pattern to use? Does that mean that a guitarist can only learn to play songs they’ve heard a bunch of times before?

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      Great question, Celeste. It usually takes a lot of experience to listen to a song played by a full band and extrapolate what strumming pattern would sound good. Occasionally, you can copy whatever the rhythm guitar player in the band is doing. But more often, you have to listen to the overall groove of the song, which has more to do with what the drums are doing than the guitar, to figure out a strum pattern that will sound good playing solo guitar.

      This doesn’t mean you can’t try to figure it out, though. Strum patterns 3 and 4 on my page here will work for the majority of songs out there.

      Have fun,


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  155. Hi, I was wondering if you can help me out with the song the letter by the Box Tops.Can you tell me what the strumming pattern is, and does it Change when come to the chorus. Thanks Rebecca

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      Sure. It’s #54 in my strumming pattern list

      D U X U D U X U
      1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

      …except that instead of “scratch” strums, you damp (mute) the strings with the palm of your strumming hand.

      A little hard to hear in the chorus, but I think they’re using the same pattern. If you’re playing solo though, it might be nice to break things up and play #3 for the chords in the chorus that last for 2 beats.

      Have fun!

  156. Help! I’m attempting to learn American Pie and can do OK except for the splitting of the DDUUDU into halves. I’m trying to do the DDU, switch cords and continue with UDU. I’m missing something as it doesn’t flow very well. Any tips greatly appreciated. – tim

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  157. For two months i have been learning on one of the major guitar sites. It is good i like the instructors but this is the best strumming video i have ever seen. Thanks for the great work. I hope to be good enough soon to come here and learn some songs.

  158. Hey Rob, so glad to be back on this great site.  I have finally figured out that the “rock” lacking in my playing was the absence of consistent rhythm…your strumming videos have fixed that.  This site is truly unique and I am so happy you’ve kept at it.  Thanks!

  159. Thank you so much for the info!  I picked up the guitar in May and had 7 lessons then my guitar teached decided to go to Italy!  LOL!  So I was stuck trying to figure it out on my own.  I am getting pretty good at playing songs, but they never ‘sounded’ like the song… I knew I had to search to find strumming pattern info but everywhere I looked was so vague.  Your blog was just what I was searching for!  Thank you so much! 

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      Well, I gave it a silly name: “Dashing it out.”  It’s a system I first saw in the book “Rise Up Singing,” though in that case the “-” doesn’t always count for one beat, which I find confusing.  The great guitar instruction book writer Bruce Emery also uses a similar system.

  160. Rob,I really like your website and this instructions on how to learn to strum.  I’m just beginning and have looked at various websites on how to strum and it’s making me very confused.  I’m sure there are a variety of ways but I don’t want to pick up bad habits as they are hard to undo/unlearn later.  (i learned this from golf)Some say – strumming is all in the wrist.  others say angle your pick 45 degrees. others say keep it level.  some say tilt it on the downstroke and upstroke.  some say don’t tilt it.I found if i tilt the pick then i can strum lightly but the strings don’t really resonate.  also, the pick hitting the strings makes a lot of noise.  I was able to strum this folk strum pattern but it didn’t sound good.Then I found your website on how to strum and it’s much better. The exercise 2 tips are fantastic. (elbow, pick perpendicular, wide arc).  The downside is that it seems very hard to learn.  If I happen to hit the strings correctly then the strings ring out nicely.  But, i usually crash into the strings and it makes an awful racket.  I’ve been practicing daily for about 2-4 hours – I’m getting better but i still don’t have the hang of it.How long, on average, does it take your beginning students to get better at this?  When I read these blog posts it seems like everyone goes through the exercises and gets it right away.I don’t expect to play awesome in 2 weeks, but this strumming is harder than it looks.Thanks!

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      Hi Dave, so glad this was helpful.  Different people learn at different rates, but it takes everyone time to get an even sound when strumming.  I’d say it usually takes about a month of practice to make things sound reasonably.  The biggest challenge is holding a medium or thick pick lightly so that it flutters in your fingers as you strum.  In the meantime, try experimenting with a thinner pick, making you “wide arc” a little less wide, and strumming with your fingers on quiet songs.  Hope this helps!

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