Figuring Out The Strum Pattern For A Song

Strumming patterns can be the life of a song. After all, we’re all working with the same 12 chords and notes in Western music! With strums being such an important characteristic of a song, how do you find the strumming pattern so you can play along?

It’s a simple question that might be more than it appears on the surface. 

How To Find The Strumming Pattern Of A Song

Finding the perfect strumming pattern for a song can be elusive. Especially if you’re early on your guitar playing journey. While there isn’t a magical formula, there are a few steps you can take to make it much easier. 

The good news is everyone has some degree of a built-in natural rhythm, and a lot of time we get in our own way when trying to learn the strumming pattern. Kind of like when you over think something and it gets more complicated than it needs to be. Most people can feel the groove, especially with time and practice. But often time there’s not a single rhythm; you might have multiple guitars or instruments making up the rhythm collectively. This is especially common in modern recordings.

This really means there’s no perfect strum pattern. Your job as a musician is to come up with something that’s basically the essence of the groove that you can translate on your guitar. How “close” this strum pattern is will depend on your own technical ability to both strum and change chords. That said, if you come up with a strum pattern that’s different, but works well for the song, then it works. It’s good. 

How I Find Strum Patterns

First, figure out the beat (or time signature) of a song. Does it have 3 or 4 beats per measure? You’ll feel this mostly, but you want to quantify that feeling with a count. Does the beat go:






You can figure this out by tapping your foot, clapping, or even counting out loud. This is pretty simple most of the time. The new measure will start on the “1”. You’ll be able to figure out if you count to 3 or count to 4 before you get to the next 1.

Once I get that sorted, I’ll grab my guitar (haven’t used it so far!). I’ll start by getting a feel for the time signature and the tempo by strumming down on every beat. This will give you an insight into what you’re missing in the rhythm. And it lets you strum through the chord changes, which is really helpful. 

From there, I’ll try to match the rhythm with a strumming pattern I already know. This is one of the many reasons I always encourage my students to learn as many strum patterns as they can. If I can find a pattern that’s close, it will give me a good foundation I can build on. 

You can see me go through this process at 4:11 in the video. 

This process is a guide, and not an absolute. Sometimes I’ll mix up the order of these steps, and find a close strumming pattern before finding the time signature.

Don’t be disappointed if you don’t get it at first. This is a skill that needs to be developed over time, just like any other skill. And some songs will be much easier than others to figure this out on. Listen to a variety of songs and learn a variety of strumming patterns to make this whole thing easier (and make yourself a more well-rounded guitar player). 

One last valuable tip is to learn how to read strumming notation. That lesson is completely dedicated to it and it’s worth checking out! Once you learn how to read the notation, you can quickly pick up the strum pattern of songs. Just make sure you use your ears and not just your eyes, as transposing music is an advanced skill and there’s always room for error. 

I hope you found value in this lesson and it ultimately helps you develop a greater sense of rhythm. If you want more uplifting video lessons like this one, head over to Real Guitar Success. You’ll find hundreds of motivational lessons designed to get you playing guitar much quicker than just scrolling through random YouTube lessons.

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