26 May, 2009

HOW TO determine the strumming pattern for songs (Part 1)

In this post, we will talk about how to determine the strumming pattern for songs that you hear. The simplest answer I can give is to listen to the song itself, at least that is how I do it. However, this is not a simple thing to do as it requires you to be able to listen well.

Not to worry, in my 12 over years of playing the guitar, I have come up with a list of strumming patterns that can be used for songs. In particular, I will be focusing on songs that are 4/4, 3/4 and 6/8

4/4 Songs ("D" represents a downstroke, "U" represents an upstroke)
-----------
            1 2 3 4
Pattern 1 : D,D,D,D,DU

1 2 3 4
Pattern 2 : D,D,DU D,D,DU

1 2 3 4
Pattern 3 : D,D,UDU,DD,DU

1 2 3 4
Pattern 4 : D,UDUD,UDUD,DU

1 2 3 4
Pattern 5 : D,DU,UDU
3/4 Songs
-----------
           1 2 3
Pattern 1: D,D,D,DU
6 /8 Songs
-----------
           12 3 45 6
Pattern 1: D,UDUD,UDU



If you notice, I have 5 different patterns for 4/4 songs, and only 1 pattern each for 3/4 and 6/8 songs. The good news is, most songs that you hear on the radio are in 4/4.

In the end, choosing which strumming pattern (or even coming up with a new one) to use for a song is really up to you. My general rule is that you can use any strumming pattern you want as long as it sounds good to you. But of course, if you want to use the same one that the song you listen to uses, then it would require you to listen carefully to the song.

I realise that just showing you these "D"s and "U"s will be of little/no use to you if you don't know when to play it in relation to the beats. So, for the next post, I'll be posting up a video of audio examples on these different strumming patterns that I have mentioned above. Stay tuned for it. I just hope I have enough time to get down to making the video.

68 comments:

caco said...

Hi Daniel,
At first thank you very much for your video tutorials! I'm the guitar teacher in my church and I don't know how to teach strum techniques to a new student if you don't talk about rhythm theory. For me it's more easy to explain what is quarter notes, eight, sixteen notes and rests. Or you can just say: do what I'm doing, all this downs and ups and don't ask me no questions. You know it's like the difference between a partiture and a tablature. The first one give all the elements to play a song and the last one is just a poor kind of notation. Tabs and all this downs and ups are more easy, but without the videos or the audio of the song they are almost useless. There are freeware softwares like Powertab which is quite useful and even if you can't read and write music Powertab make the job for you (you can write the tab in order to listen to the midi). It's just an observation (I'm not criticizing your work), because for me there's no substitute for real guitar scores (partitures). Thanks again and we are all waiting for the strumming videos.

caco said...
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caco said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
caco said...

Hi Daniel,
Just a suggestion, in 4/4 rhythm you can write the strum that way:

D DU UDU
1+2+3+4+

D = Strum down
U = Strum up

The symbol + is used to represent the "and" in eight notes (it's half a beat , so 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and = 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +).

It's easier to understand than just Pattern 2 : D,DU,UDU.

Take a look in this blog:
http://www.heartwoodguitar.com/strum-patterns.php

God bless you!!!!

daniel said...

hi caco, thanks for all the information. i do know that without the audio samples on how it should sound like, it's pretty much useless to write just downs and ups :)

i will change my post accordingly to add in the beats and see if it helps

caco said...

Yes, it helps! Thanks again for your generosity to share your arrangements of Christian songs to all the people who wants to praise the Lord. God bless you, my friend!

Anonymous said...

Hi Daniel,
How can I improve strumming gently? When I play slow sturmming, it sounds gently, however when I begin fast strumming e.g. "Your Grace is Enough", I strum too hard... Any tips?? :/

daniel said...

hi Anonymous, you can try a few things to achieve a gentler sound when strumming fast songs.

1. Use a light or medium pick. This will give your strumming a softer sound overall.

2. Make sure you are holding the pick correctly. You should be strumming the strings at a 45 degree angle and not 90 degrees. I might write a post about this to make it easier to understand.

Anonymous said...

Hi Daniel,
I'm trying to learn how to play One Less Lonely Girl by Justin Bieber because its an easy song to play. I have all of the chords, but I dont know the strumming pattern and I cant figure it out! Can you help me? I have a link and I think I kind of have the pattern, but please help!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TMYkegL4NM&feature=related

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hello. can you post the strumming pattern of Passenger Seat? or maybe at least chords and strumming pattern of the songs of Stephen Speaks. Thank you very much!:D - via

daniel said...

Hello Anonymous, I took a listen to the song "Passenger Seat" by Stephen Speaks. I can say that the strumming pattern he uses for majority of the song is the 4/4 beat, pattern 4. Hope it helps!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your tips! But how do you know which pattern to use for a specific song?

daniel said...

Hi Anonymous, one way to determine which strumming pattern to use is to listen to the song and try to listen to the pattern they are using. That is the harder way of course. In general, as long as you know what beat the song is played in (eg. 4/4), the next thing to do is to try the 4/4 beats i mentioned, and see which one best suits the song. Or, you could even listen to the drum beats. Certain drum beats suit certain strumming patterns better.

Anon said...

im wondering what does 4/4, 3/4, and 6/8 song means?

daniel said...

Hi Anon, 4/4, 3/4 and 6/8 all refers to the beat of a song.

For example, if you were to sing Amazing Grace, you would realise that if you were to count "1,2,3 1,2,3..." it would fit the beat of the song. If you were to try counting "1,2,3,4 1,2,3,4" it would not really work.

This also applies to other songs. Actually, if you take a look at my more recent instructionals over youtube. I do mention what the beat of the song is. So, you could take your reference from there.

guitar47 said...

Very good info for beginners. I like the way you show a non technical approach when explaining everything. I also have a blog on guitar strumming for beginners. It is nice to see what others are doing.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Daniel. I was wondering what the strumming pattern of For The Win(Acoustic) by We Are The In Crowd was... Would you mind listening to it and telling me? I am still a novice at playing the guitar, ergo I have a hard time identifying the strumming pattern of a song. Unless someone shows it to me that is. Much help would be appreciated! Please and Thank You! :D

RSB. said...

Hey, Daniel. I was wondering what the strumming pattern of For The Win by We Are The In Crowd was... Would you mind listening to it and telling me? I am still a novice at playing the guitar, ergo I have a hard time identifying the strumming pattern of a song. Unless someone shows it to me that is. Much help would be appreciated! Please and Thank You! :D

daniel said...

Hi RSB, i took a listen to the song. It is a 4 beat song and the strumming patter you could use can be something like D,D, DUDU

Kitty said...

What are the strum patterns for Dance with me (Wont you dance with me, thru out the heavans and beyond the sea) and Halleluia (Your love makes me sing)? Thanks!

daniel said...

Hi Kitty,

I tried doing a search for "Dance With Me" over youtube but could not find the song. Do you happen to have a sample of the song so I can listen and determine the strumming pattern?

For "Hallelujah, Your Love Is Amazing", you can use the 4/4 beat strumming pattern that goes D,D,UDUDD,DU.

I have done that song before over Youtube, so you can search for it and learn it.

Hope it helps!

Anonymous said...

Hey, Daniel. Speaking as someone just starting out and having about 10 lessons, I can tell you that the ability to have a few strum patterns in your hip pocket is very useful. Question, I'm a little confused on the counts you're using. It seems, for example, that there is an extra count. I count 5 in pattern 1 (4 downstrokes and 1 down/up stroke). What am I missing?

daniel said...

Hi Anonymous,

the last DU is not a beat by itself. It's quite hard to explain it in words, so, you can take a look at this video which I made about the strumming patterns that I use:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6yLwNqgEtE

Hope it helps!

Anonymous said...

Hey. thanks for posting this. Just a question though. Do all 4/4 songs have similar or the same strumming pattern. and if so it would be the chords and the tempo that would cause variation between all the songs. Also this is not to do with your blog but if a song is in 4/4 timing does the melody fit with the strumming beat. for example. twinkle twinkle little star that would be twinkle twinkle (new bar and restart strumming pattern.) another thing i was wondering how do you pick up what time signature it's in. I'm a bit rusty in it all. Thank you for your help.

daniel said...

Hi Anonymous,

for strumming patterns, as long as it falls within the beat, it should be ok. So, for a 4/4 beat song, you can use any strumming pattern as long as it falls within that 4/4 beat. Eg. I could play 4 downstrokes, each on each beat, or I could even play DU DU DU DU etc.

It is mainly the melody and tempo of the song that makes each song unique. You could have many songs with a chord progression like G, C, Em, D. But, the melody and tempo for each song can be very different.

The melody of the song does not need to fit the strumming pattern. For twinkle twinkle little start, it is sort of 2/4 beat. So, you can use D,D,DU and change chord. The DU that you see can be considered as the "joining" strum between chords.

As for the time signature, I am unable to help you with this because I kind of learned music on my own, so my theory is not really good. Sry!

fishy31 said...

Hi daniel
I don't understand how you figure out if a song is in 4/4 or any of the other ones. Also I was wondering I you knew the strum pattern to Paul brandts Alberta bound and the song jast by being you by steel magnolia.
Let me know thanks

daniel said...

Hi fishy31,
I understand what you mean, because I myself have trouble explaining it to others.

Anyway, for Paul Brandt's Alberta Bound, I took a listen to it, and it's just downstrokes for the verse. You can follow the same strumming pattern as I used in the song "Blessed Be Your Name" (verse). For the chorus, you could try, D,DU,UDU

ForSteel Magnolia's Just By Being You, you can use the 4/4 beat strumming pattern D,D,UDUDD,DU

Anonymous said...

What are the strum patterns for "Until my breath runs dry".

http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/d/desperation_band/until_my_breath_runs_dry_crd.htm

Merely Magoo said...

What are some songs with the D DU UDU Pattern?

daniel said...

Hi Merely Magoo, i sometimes call the D DU UDU strumming pattern a happy strumminng pattern because in general, i find that happy tuned songs use that strumming pattern.

For example, "God Is In The House" by Hillsong, "Let There Be Praise" by Sand Patty, "The Lord Reigns" by Bobb Fitts, just to name a few

soccer freak said...

Hey what's the strumming for daughters by john Mayer and honestly by hot chelle rae

daniel said...

Hi Soccer Freak, for daughters, you can use the strumming pattern D,UDUD,UDU.

For Honestly, you can use the strumming pattern D,UD,UDUDD,DU

Anonymous said...

Hey Daniel,

Could please tell me the strumming pattern to price tag by Jessie J by the way I using G D major E minor and C if that makes a difference...
Thanks.

daniel said...

Hi Anonymous, for the song "Price Tag" by Jessie J., I took a listen to the song and would actually use the chords, G Bm Em C. But besides that, the song is played in 4/4. You could use the D,D,UDUDD,DU strumming pattern.

Hope it helps!

Anonymous said...

Hi Daniel! I am just learning to play the guitar and the first song that I want to learn is "Blues Man" by Hank Williams, Jr for my grandfather. I'm having a hard time understanding how to figure out the strum pattern... Can you help me out?

daniel said...

Hi Anonymous for the song "Blues Man" by Hank Williams Jr, you will probably have pluck the song. You could try reading this post: http://basicsofguitar.blogspot.sg/2010/03/different-plucking-patterns.html, pattern 1. Do note that you will have to pluck the pattern slower than what they teach in the video.

Hope it helps!

SonFlower said...

Hi Daniel, I love your demonstration of worship songs. I've been watching your youtube of "I Could
Sing of your Love Forever" and I can't figure out the strum pattern. Could you tell me what it is? Could you display the pattern with the beat? I have been playing guitar for years but want to improve my strumming. Thk you

daniel said...

Hi SonFlower, I am glad that you have found my videos to be helpful. For the song "I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever", please refer to the 4/4 beat strumming pattern, pattern 4.

Hope it helps!

guitar picks said...

This is such a very useful post especially to those who are starting out. This pattern you have shared will definitely assist beginners knowing that strumming is a bit difficult and frustrating when not done the right way. Thank you for this post. I hope you continue blogging on such topics because a lot of beginners depend on such posts.

Anonymous said...

Hey,
this blog has helped me so much so thank you and...
Which time signature woud the dddduudddu pattern be in?

daniel said...

Hi Anonymous, unfortunately, I will not be able to tell you the time signature for the strumming pattern you mentioned. I need to have an audio sample to listen to first before determining the time signature.

Anonymous said...

hi daniel,what is the purpose of learning the 4/4 and 3/4 beat?

Anonymous said...

hi daniel
what is the purpose of learning the 4/4 and 3/4 beat?

daniel said...

Hi Anonymous, the reason why you have to learn about beats is because songs can be played in different beats.

Generally, most songs are either played in 4/4 or 3/4. So, if you know what beat a song is played in, you can find out what kind of strumming pattern to use for the song.

camper said...

camper - 68year old lady - teaching myself and find it hard deciding on strumming pattern for songs. Just want to be able to strum along to favourites better than I do at present. I sing out loud too when alone and to me I am a "rock chick". Please help Daniel

daniel said...

Hi Camper,

I would suggest to find out what the beat of the song is first (eg. is it 4/4 or 3/4 etc.)

Then, you can try using the strumming patterns mentioned in the post, and see which one fits the song best.

Hope it helps!

Anonymous said...

Hi Daniel!

Thank you for your tutorial! But I really want to learn the strumming pattern for Fall by Justin Bieber :( It's really difficult for me, I'm not really good at determing strumming patterns. Please help! Thank you!

marj said...

Hi daniel! how will i know which of the strings of a given chord must i pluck? for example chord E. Should i include 6th string?

daniel said...

Hi Marj,

perhaps this article will be of interest to you: http://basicsofguitar.blogspot.sg/2009/03/how-to-know-which-strings-to-strum-for.html

kok yau ng said...

Hi Daniel

what strumming pattern to use for the song"hallelujah" by Hill Song

thanks

daniel said...

Hi Kok Yau Ng,

for the song "Hallelujah" by Hillsong, I used the 6/8 strumming pattern 1.

Hope it helps!

Anonymous said...

can u plz tell me how to play the following pattern?
| D | D--D | UDU- | D |

please also let me know the meaning of the notations "|" and "-"

daniel said...

Hi Anonymous,

unfortunately, I do not know how to read the "|" and "-"

Anonymous said...

hi, whats the strumming pattern for stop and stare by one republic? :)

daniel said...

Hi Anonymous,

I took a listen to the song. The song is basically in 4/4 beat and uses 8 downstrokes. Alternatively, you can use the D,D,UDUDD,DU strumming pattern for the chorus.

Anonymous said...

Daniel,

HELP! Can you please help me a strum pattern for Life's a Dance by John Michael Montgomery. This youtube version is great!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrwGDlfFPWw

Steve

HaMzIAzRuL said...

Im sorry...as a beginner what does 4/4,3/4 stand for?

Anonymous said...

Im sorry as a beginner..what do 4/4,3/4,6/8 stand for?

daniel said...

Hi Steve,

I took a listen to the song and it is in 4/4 beat. For the 2 beat chords, he used D,DU

For the 4 beat chords, he uses D,DU,UDU

Hope it helps!

daniel said...

Hi HaMzIAzRuL,

4/4 and 3/4 refers to the beat of the song.

In general, most songs can be categorised into 4/4 or 3/4 beat songs.

It's hard to explain how to determine if a song is 4/4 or 3/4. But all I can say is that if you were to count 1,2,3 1,2,3 1,2,3 and so on for a song, and it sounds like it fits, then the song is in 3/4

If you count 1,2,3,4 1,2,3,4 1,2,3,4, 1,2,3,4 and so on and it fits with the song, then the song is in 4/4.

Hope it helps!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Daniel. I've already learnt that pattern for Green Day Good Riddence so I'm already on top of it!

Cheers Again!

Steve

HaMzIAzRuL said...

Do we have any strumming pattern that can suit all song??...Furthermore,Ive seen a singer on youtube..She always use the same strumming pattern in every song she played..

HaMzIAzRuL said...

Do we have any strumming pattern that can suit all song??...Furthermore,Ive seen a singer on youtube..She always use the same strumming pattern in every song she played..

daniel said...

Hi HaMzIAzRuL, unfortunately, I don't think you can use 1 strumming pattern for every song and here are my reasons why:

1. Not every song is played in the same beat. A different beat song will require a different strumming pattern.

2. While it is possible to play same beat songs using 1 strumming pattern, it will not sound nice all the time.

A good example would be if you were to play a 4 beat song just using 4 downstrokes, each on each beat. You will be able to play the song, but it will sound boring.

Hope it helps

Lucy Murphy said...

hi daniel, could you please find out the strumming pattern for saturday by fall out boy thanks :)

Anonymous said...

hi daniel could you please teach me how to strum in an easy way? im a begginer and i just dont get the strumming thing. though i already had learned some strumming but i dont know how to strum some songs without searching the google for its strumming.. could you please teach me the easy technique on how to know the strumming of a particular songs? hope you could help me... tnx

daniel said...

Hi Anonymous,

unfortunately, there is no easy way to determine the strumming pattern of songs. However, here's what I do.

I listen out to the guitars so hear what they are strumming. This is not easy because you need a good ear.

I sometimes listen to the drums in the song as well. I can't really explain what kind of drum beat will determine the strumming pattern, but perhaps I'll write a post on this when I've gathered my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Hey Daniel
Well im still trying to figure out the pattern for this song i hope you can help me, it's "I will remember you" Ed helms version.
thank you