Thu. Oct 15th, 2020

    The strumming pattern of a song defines the mood, timbre, and style associated with the song you’re playing. Today, we will be learning a variety of simple beginner strumming patterns to start your fingerstyle journey. For these patterns, we will be muting the string so we may focus specifically on what the strumming hand is doing. Feel free, however, to form chords as we play and work on transitioning.

    After you have mastered these beginner strumming patterns, we will then integrate chords in the next lesson. So grab your guitar, tuner, and foot stand. Let’s Fingerstyle!

    Downs and Ups | Strumming Made Simple

    To convey how we’re are going to strum we will be using ‘Down’ and ‘Up’ to notate full strums from the top E-string through to the bottom e-string (Down) and from the bottom e-string through to the top E-string (up). Feel free to try strumming with a pick, your fingers, or your thumb to find what is most comfortable to you. I will be demonstrating with my fingers as that is what’s most comfortable to me.

    Simple Start

    This first pattern demonstrates the tools used to learn strumming patterns taught here at HowToFingerstyle. For this pattern, we will strum up and down on every 1/2 beat for a full measure. This exercise, in 4/4, should be simple to understand and perform. Consider this the warmup round.

    ↓ ↑  ↓ ↑  ↓ ↑  ↓ ↑

    1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

    (Video of Simple Start Coming Soon)

    The purpose of these exercises is to build dexterity and help you become more familiar with strumming the guitar. I developed this simple regimen with beginners in mind so if you’re looking for a more challenging set of strumming patterns, check out the very last pattern and some of my other strumming posts. For the rest of us, let’s continue to the next strumming exercise that will introduce pause or a timed break in the strumming.

    Strumming Along

    This next pattern is the same as the first with the addition of a break in the strumming. The challenge pattern, at the bottom, will include pause and a bit of off-beat strumming. This exercise is intended to help you get ready for more challenging strumming patterns down the road.

    ↓ ↑ ↓      ↓ ↑ ↓

    1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

    (Video of Strumming Along Coming Soon)

    This strumming exercise if identical to the one above minus two upstrokes on the half beats after two and four. The trick here is to keep your timing stable while performing the pause. What I suggest for beginners is to keep your hands moving as if you are strumming but simply not strike the strings when you want a pause.


    By keeping your hands moving, you’re able to stay in time and change your strumming pattern at will. If you watch the video carefully, you can see that my hands stay moving in time and only strike the strings when I need to.

    Mixing it Up | Upstrokes and Downstrokes

    So you’ve now got the hang of simple strumming and have familiarized yourself with breaks and pause while strumming. Now we are going to tackle a pattern that has a mix of Upstroke and Downstrokes to push your strumming hand to the limit! Again, start slow until you get the hang of it and then speed things up. If it gives you a hard time, take a 5-minute break and come back!

    ↓ ↓  ↑ ↑  ↓ ↓  ↑ ↑

    1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

    You have started to create rhythmic power with your strumming hand and are arming yourself as a versatile guitarist! Congratulations on making it this far! Are you ready for another challenge?

    The Last Hurdle | Off Beat Strum

    This last pattern before your final challenge is called Off Beat Strum. The trick here is to not strum on the 2nd beat of the 4/4. After you get the hang of this pattern, try creating your off-beat strumming pattern. It’s important to be comfortable strumming if you wish to emulate the sounds of other artists. Building your patterns is also very helpful in developing dexterity and confidence! So once you got this one down, try and make a few of your own!

    ↓        ↑         ↓

    1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

    (Video of Off Beat Strumming Coming Soon)



    Now the Challenge Begins

    This next pattern will be a bit more challenging. Now that you understand the Up and Down notation, I will be giving you a challenging pattern to practice. If you are having trouble with a particular pattern, slow your timing down till you can manage and then increase the speed.

    ↓     ↑     ↓     ↓  ↓

    1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

    The timing of this pattern is challenging and will certainly take a few tries before mastering. Listen to the video well and try to replicate the pattern by ear as well as visually practicing.

    (video of first Challenge Coming Soon)

    Plenty of strumming patterns will give your challenges along the way. When you’re learning something difficult, it’s best to slow things down into incremental digestible sections. By breaking it down into smaller, bite-sized, sections, you can focus on the specifics that are giving your trouble.


    Now that you have completed this lesson, you have everything you need to start creating your own or emulating other artist’s strumming patterns. You’ve developed some strength in your strumming hand, built up timing control, and even learned a few simple patterns to get you started. The best thing for you to do now is put on a song that you enjoy and listen to see if you can pick out the strumming pattern.

    If you have any questions regarding strumming, need more patterns exercises to keep you busy, or would like to tell me about your progress in this lesson then leave a comment below! I’m looking forward to seeing you in the next lesson!

    Fingerstyle On!


    By DJ

    DJ has been playing guitar for 17 years. He has focused on fingerstyle guitar for the past 10 years and is very passionate about learning. Some of his fingerstylist idols are Tommy Emmanuel and Sungha Jung.