Photo by Justin Shearer

While learning the guitar and the notes, and chords, some students find it difficult to actually play the chords of a song in a basic strumming pattern. To some it comes naturally, but for others it requires a lot of practice. I had to go through major patience levels to grasp chord positions, but I got through with the strumming barrier quite naturally.

So this post here is not for the naturally gifted strummers, but for people who find problems in the DOWN / UP movement of strumming.

There are few points to remember.

  • While learning strumming, you have to be conscious of your hand movement to match the counts etc. here you will find your hand moving more like a mechanical robot. But the art of strumming begins with having your right hand low down and up in a smooth natural movement.
  • Strumming is an art based on a simple DOWN-UP movement of your hand. So your hand should always move down and up, and based on the pattern that you are playing you either choose to HIT or MISS the strings while going down or HIT or MISS it while coming up. This is very important as many people tend to overlook it.
  • First divide the basic counts into a pattern like this: 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
  • Move your hand down on ONE and UP on the AND (&) and keep this going on continuously.
  • Wherever in the examples there is an X mark, you DO NOT stop your hand movement, but you simply DON’T play on that X.
For example some basic strumming patterns to Practice are as follows:

Example 1:
Hitting all the counts:

1–&–2–&–3–&–4–& | 1–&–2–&–3–&–4–& |
D–U–D–U–D–U–D–U | D–U–D–U–D–U–D–U |

Example 2:
Hitting on 1-2&3-4&

1–&–2–&–3–&–4–& | 1–&–2–&–3–&–4–& |
D–X–D–U–D–X–D–U | D–X–D–U–D–X–D–U |

Example 3:
Hitting on 1-2&-&4&
This pattern if played at a moderate speed can be used for Papa Kehte Hain type of songs:

1–&–2–&–3–&–4–& | 1–&–2–&–3–&–4–& |
D–X–D–U–X–U–D–U | D–X–D–U–X–U–D–U |

Example 4:
Hitting on 1&-&-&4&

1–&–2–&–3–&–4–& | 1–&–2–&–3–&–4–& |
D–U–X–U–X–U–D–U | D–U–X–U–X–U–D–U |

All these strumming patterns are OPEN PATTERNS where you can let EACH OF YOUR BANG to RING…There are quite a few complicated ones as well, some of which require you to MUTE

the strings after you BANG on it ONCE. Some which require you to HIT the strings hard with your right hand, but completely MUTED by your LEFT hand.

For example, the BOSSANOVA pattern, if you remember George Michael’s Faith, or Allah Ke Bandhe the pattern doesn’t let the strings RING. Nazre Milana from Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na is another example of muted strumming. Basically the sound shouldn’t be CHANNNNGGGGGG it should rather be CHANK!

This should help you get started with strumming… if you are not a natural!

You can find a complete list of various strumming patterns from simple to complicated:
Lots of Guitar Strumming Patterns for Practice – Part 1
Lots of Guitar Strumming Patterns for Practice – Part 2

This post is written by our regular contributor bandbaaja who is a professional musician and has performed with the trio of SEL (Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy).

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