The most popular guitar technique is the art of strumming chords. Every style of guitar utilizes various strumming patterns which can determine the sound of a particular style. A genre that uses a lot of unique strums are country and bluegrass styles. In this article, we will discuss the basics of strumming an acoustic guitar, and I will provide you with 5 country strumming patterns beginners can start using right away!
Holding a Pick
To get started, I recommend learning how to use a pick. To hold a pick, place the round section on the side and tip of your index, and then place your thumb on top of the pick. The tip of the pick should be coming out from the side, which allows you to strum your guitar.
Let’s discuss how to strum efficiently. When we strum, we should never use excess arm and shoulder movements. I’m sure you have seen people strum a guitar where they swing their entire arm, but this method is a waste of energy and is not effective. To strum a guitar, use a rotation of your wrist and forearm. Think of it like turning a doorknob at home; this is the same motion we can use to strum a guitar! Try muting your guitar strings and twisting your wrist down and up to strum your strings.
The “Country Waltz” Pattern
Let’s start with a simple pattern. This traditional pattern, which is called the Country Waltz, is used in old-school country music that is in 3/4 time. The groove of this strum pattern has accents similar to a danced waltz, hence the name! For these patterns you can hold any chords and use any progression, but I will also give suggestions. For this pattern, you can switch between your C Major and G Major chords. Here are the steps needed to play the Country Waltz…
- Hold a C Major chord to start.
- The first movement is to pick the root of the chord. The root means the dominant note in a chord. So, if we are holding a C Major chord, the root is the note of C. The note we will need is on the 3rd fret of the 5th string. Pick that note by itself on beat 1.
- Now, all we have to do is strum down two times. Each strum will be on beats 2 and 3.
- Remember, when you switch to your G Major chord, your root will then be on the 6th string!
If you want to play a variation of this pattern for songs in 4/4 time, try this:
In this pattern, you will hear an accent on beats 1 and 3, which will add a different groove!
The “Boom Chicka” Pattern
Now, let’s elaborate on the waltz pattern we just learned. Another common country pattern is known as the “Boom Chicka” strum. This is a pattern best played in 4/4 time. Here are the steps…
- Start on your G Major chord
- Play the root of your G Major chord, which is the 3rd fret on your 6th string. This is beat 1
- Next, strum down and then up. To make the strum sound authentic, try to strum the treble strings more than the basses. This is beat 2
- For beats 3 and 4, repeat the previous steps!
Here is a chord progression you can use: G Major, E Minor, C Major, D Major
The Campfire Pattern
The next pattern is the most common strum in all guitar styles! The campfire pattern, also known as the Calypso pattern, can be applied to any guitar song in 4/4 time. This strum does not use any root picks, so here is the order of the strums (D=Down, U=Up) …
To make this strum more musical, we can accent different strings when we play down or up. When we strum down, we can hit the bass strings, and when we strum up, we can hit the treble strings! This creates different sounds in the same pattern and makes our music more interesting!
The Johnny Cash Pattern
Now, let’s do a more advanced pattern that screams old-school country. This pattern was the go-to strum of the great Johnny Cash. The basic mechanics of this strum are the same as the Boom Chicka! Here are the steps…
- Start by holding an E Major chord.
- Next, pick the root of the chord, which is the open 6th string.
- Strum down so you only hit the D and G strings.
- Next, pick the A string.
- Strum down on D and G.
- Switch to an A Major chord and repeat the pattern. However, when you play the root this time, you will start on your A string. The next time you pick a single string, it will be the E string. Basically, the reverse of what we did on the E Chord.
To make the pattern more advanced, you can strum down and up on the D and G strings.
The Hank Williams Pattern
For the final pattern, we will play in the style of Hank Williams. This strum will use a moving root where we move our ring finger between two frets to create a bass line.
- Hold a C Major chord.
- Pick the root on the 3rd fret of the 5th string.
- Strum down.
- Move your ring finger to the 3rd fret of the 6th string. Pick the string.
- Pick the 2nd fret of the 4th string.
- Strum down and up.
Use These Country Strumming Patterns to Further Your Skills!
If you master all of these country strumming patterns, you are well on your way to progressing in country guitar playing! These strums can also be applied to folk and bluegrass, so keep experimenting and having fun. Good luck!