When learning new songs on guitar the easiest thing to do is look for the chords of a certain tune.
That’s because chords are fixed shapes in which you only have to strike strings with your playing hand.
Although you may think you just have to pay attention to your strumming hand, both hands are always involved in playing the guitar.
Moreover, some players struggle to get the proper manner to strum, they could feel that their way of playing is not the same as in the song but is that a mistake?
The strumming pattern of a song is in many cases a part of its essence and what makes it unique. However, many strumming patterns will work with any song. You can choose a different one, or create your own, as long as it fits it rhythmically. This way you could imprint your personality on the tune.
In this article, I will try to explain how you can get into various strumming ways or patterns and how to build up your personal style.
In the end, you will know everything needed regarding this topic.
Why are there that many strumming patterns?
Either when playing fingerstyle, or when you are choosing a pick, strumming patterns will always vary from player to player.
Each musician builds up their own ways to play and tastes which reinforces their personal style and sound.
The way in which you strum the strings has to follow the rhythm of the piece, so every guitar player may make their individual interpretation resulting in different strumming patterns.
At that moment, guitarists tend to be creative and to show their styles, that’s why we can find as many strumming patterns as guitar players.
Furthermore, if you listen to two or three musicians playing the same chord progression, you will notice how different their strumming is.
Can you use different strumming patterns for the same song?
We mentioned that there exist as many strumming patterns as guitar players in the world, so in short, you can definitely apply non-identical ways of strumming.
A lot of patterns will work, the main objective is to follow the proper tempo of the song.
Although the way in which you stroke strings may influence the sound, any strumming pattern would be good as long as you play on time.
In addition, you will be reinterpreting the piece in a new manner, which is great for developing your own playing style.
What defines what strumming patterns can be used on a song?
Strumming chords is intrinsically related to rhythm, thus extremely bound to the beat of a song.
We previously said that many strumming patterns could be used in the same piece but you have to stick to the tempo.
Although there isn’t just an option, that doesn’t mean that every pattern will fit perfectly, for example, slow songs will require a smoother strumming while fast beats may need faster strummings.
Furthermore, the biggest aspect to bear in mind is the kind of beat for that song.
However, what can also influence the strumming patterns applied is the mood or atmosphere you want to show in a piece.
Of course, the pattern should suit the rhythm first but the strumming you use will express the player’s feelings as well.
How to know what strumming patterns will work with a song?
This topic could just be second nature for those who are experienced players, they tend to feel what type of strumming pattern they should use to play along with the song only by listening to it.
Nevertheless, that is not always the case, beginners or intermediate players might not be fond of realizing which patterns they should use.
To come up with some ideas, the first thing you should do is listen to the piece and play along with it.
In that way, you will get into the tempo of the song which is the main element in rhythm.
If you have trouble doing this, try to figure out the tempo by paying exclusive attention to the beat.
Make an effort to count each pulse, you can do it with your foot, clapping or even strumming muted strings then, play chords following that pattern in a simple way.
After some time of playing it, try several patterns, strum up and down, mute parts, leave some silent sections in the middle or when changing chords.
In the end, if you are able to follow the right tempo, the strumming will be perfect and you will add more flavors to your playing.
Will it be wrong to play a song with a different strumming pattern than the original?
When you play a song you have to set your objective, if you intend to play the song exactly as the original, you should respect and copy the strumming pattern.
Nevertheless, if you want to play a cover or a different version of a song you can definitely change the pattern, the decision is up to you.
On top of that, if you are going to put your own voice in the piece, by all means, try to come up with new things.
Try to innovate and play something personal and different, otherwise, you will be copying what others have already done instead of creating your own style.
Can you mix and match strumming patterns within a song?
Mixing strumming patterns is one of the most interesting things about playing chords, once you get the hang of some patterns you can mix and match them within a song.
However, try not to go far beyond plus don’t go extra crazy on it.
What you can do instead is find patterns that work for each section of the song and stick with it.
What I mean to say is that you can have a standard strumming pattern and add some variations through the different parts.
For example, the verses could be played smoothly while the bridge could have some muted sections, and the chorus could be played harder and louder.
Can you make up your own strumming patterns on guitar?
When playing guitar it is important for guitar players to show their personal style so it’s pretty common to make up your own strumming patterns.
As we said earlier, the beat and tempo are the rhythm markers so you need to pay attention to them.
First of all, stick to the beat and then try out new things, let your imagination fly, and work out some patterns that fit with it.
In addition, I suggest experimenting with up and down strummings, slow and fast patterns, alternate between pick and hand strummings or even you can look at your favorite musicians to see how they apply their strumming technique.
Hello there, my name is Ramiro and I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I’m obsessed with everything gear-related and I thought it might be worth sharing it. From guitars, pedals, amps, and synths to studio gear and production tips, I hope you find what I post here useful, and I’ll try my best to keep it entertaining also.