Mastering a few basic rhythm guitar patterns is key to learning how to sing and play guitar at the same time. Follow this guide from guitar teacher Andy T. and you’ll be strumming like a boss in no time…
Singing and playing guitar at the same time is one of the most challenging things that a musician can do. It’s like patting your head and rubbing your stomach, only ten times more difficult. Today, we are going to look at three easy and hip rhythm guitar patterns that you can use to get started.
For the purposes of this article, we are going to use a guitar as the example instrument. However, with a little creativity, these rhythmic patterns can be converted to piano, ukulele, banjo, or any other chordal instrument. Each rhythm guitar pattern is notated using slash notation and is accompanied by an audio clip.
Above each beat, you will see either of these two symbols:
or an upstroke
These symbols refer to downstrokes and upstrokes, respectively. Don’t forget to play the rests! In other words, any time you see a rest, go ahead and move your strumming hand over the strings like you’re strumming, but don’t actually touch the strings. This will keep your hand in sync so that you are strumming down on downbeats and up on upbeats.
You’ll also notice that each pattern has two versions. The only difference between two versions of the same pattern is where the change in chord takes place. By altering where the chord change takes place, you can significantly change the feel of each pattern.
This is one of the most common types of strumming patterns and is a good start to getting a song under your fingers. The trick to nailing this progression is remembering to start the second group of notes on an upstroke, so that you can smoothly land the downstroke on the downbeat of the next measure.
Strumming Pattern 1A:
Strumming Pattern 1B:
Take note that this pattern is swung by observing this notation:
This means that all upbeats are shifted from perfectly in between each downbeat, to about 2⁄3 after each downbeat (or 1⁄3 before each downbeat, depending on your perspective). While difficult to explain in words, hearing and feeling a swing rhythm is much easier. Just imagine the sound of a train clunking along the tracks, or your car’s tires as you drive over a bridge, or a pair of boots or high heels walking around on a hard surface. You’ll notice this kind of strumming when listening to artists like Jack Johnson.
Strumming Pattern 2A:
Strumming Pattern 2B:
This is one of my favorite patterns, especially the second version with the quicker chord changes. That’s because the chord change happens on the last beat of the second measure, as opposed to the first beat of the third. It’s that unexpected (and early) change that makes this so groovy. This pattern and its variations are frequently used by artists like John Mayer.
Strumming Pattern 3A:
Strumming Pattern 3B:
These are three fun, easy strumming patterns to get you started. Before you go, let’s talk a little bit about the best way to practice these: Slowly. Start by playing much more slowly than you think you need to. Make sure that you have the pattern looped smoothly before increasing the tempo. Despite popular logic and opinion, it is much harder to play slow than fast. Which brings me to my next (and last) point: Use a metronome. A good place to start is typically 60 bpm. See if you can loop a chord progression for at least three minutes (the radiostandard length for a song) before increasing the tempo.
Good luck, and have fun!
Get more guitar guidance by studying with a private music teacher. Guitar teachers are available to work with you online via Skype or in-person depending on location and availability. Search for your guitar teacher now!
Andy T. teaches in-person guitar, performance and songwriting lessons in Austin, TX. He has a degree in education from the University of Texas at Austin and has been teaching private guitar lessons for 6 years. Learn more about Andy here!
Photo by Mathias Miranda