Rhythm and Strumming Tips

Rhythm and Strumming Tips

Guitar playing involves a lot of rhythm playing – probably over 90% for most guitarists in a band, consequently good rhythm skills are important. For beginner guitarists then this usually means working hard on your strumming skills. I have highlighted in some of my other posts how important this is as well as having regular ‘rhythm practice’. Poor strumming technique can ruin songs and affect your timing in a detrimental way.


Strumming may not be a glamorous as shredding 50 notes a second or holding 2 tone bends as a lead guitarist, but it is the foundation on which your guitar skills are built. Good strumming can drive a song along like nothing else – imagine ‘Wonderwall’ (Oasis) or ‘Faith’ (George Michael) without those driving strummed guitars, not a pleasant thought!

There are two main keys to good strumming, the first is getting the mechanics right, the second is understanding how to subdivide the beat.


  • Experiment with different picks until you find one you like
  • Find a way to firmly and comfortably hold the pick for strumming
  • Strum from your elbow – use the whole forearm, not your wrist – this allows you to cover all six strings easily
  • Develop a continually moving arm – Down/up/Down/up/Down/up/Down/up – (in a bar of 4 beats – see below)
  • Practice hitting only the required strings for a particular chord – the D chord only requires the 4 lightest strings for instance
  • Practice missing out strums (see below)
  • Make sure you do not strum too hard or ‘dig in’ too much

Beat Subdivision

For the purposes of beginners we will just break a bar of 4 beats down into 8th notes – so we count the beats like this:-

One – and – Two – and – Three – and – Four – and   (Repeat)

If you count this out loud you will be counting straight 8 beats. Your strumming hand should be keeping this rhythm – a down stroke on the numbers and an upstroke on the “and(s)”.

To start off with practice playing only on the numbers 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 these will be all down strokes

Then try playing the numbers and the ands – this will be a downstroke followed by an up stroke x 4 times.




Getting variations of this very basic strumming pattern comes from two main ideas:-

      1. Accents – strum a little louder or more aggressively on a certain beat – usually the ‘one’. However these accents can come anywhere in the bar.

      2. Missing beats out

  1. Strums on the numbers are ‘on the beat’
  2. Strums on the ‘and’ or off the beat
  3. By combining strums on and off the beat many different rhythms are possible.


Try these two strumming patterns- (Play the beats in Bold)

One – and – TwoandThreeand – Four – and (Repeat)


One – and – Two – and – Three – and – Four – and (Repeat)

The key to learning rhythms is to count and play  S-L-O-W-L-Y.

If you have any questions just drop me a line. I hope to record a video lesson for this post soon.

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