Strumming patterns are a difficult thing to teach; especially through words- but I am going to whole-heartedly try my best here.
For those unaware- a strumming pattern mainly concerns acoustic guitar-playing. It is the way in which a chord will be strummed by the performer.
So for example you might have the chord just being strummed down once per bar- this would be a downstroke (strumming down from top E to bottom E) and the duration (in musical terms) would be a “Whole Note” or “Semibreve” depending on where you’re from.
On the contrary though- you might have the chord being strummed up and down several times in 1 bar. It’s note durations are likely to be varied (Quavers/ Eighth Notes, Crotchets/ Quarter Notes etc) and the strumming will involving downstrokes (top to bottom string) and upstrokes (bottom to top string).
Before I give some examples, let me tell you that the easiest way to learn Strumming Patterns is to simply play along to songs and try to work them out. 9 times out of 10 a strumming pattern will start on a Downstroke (starting on an upstroke just kind of feels unnatural). Once you’re good with your chords just strum along and try your best to match what you hear in the song- it’s one of them things that just eventually comes naturally. Anyway- let’s give some examples.
“Come Together”- The Beatles
Now unfortunately I can’t go back to the 60s to ask John and Paul how they liked to strum their chords- but I can definitely guess how they did.
A good example of Chords all being down-stroked is in the Overdriven Guitar for the Chorus of “Come Together”. You can tell that it is all downstrokes because of how you always hear a low note first (i.e. a higher-up string) before the plectrum hits a higher note in the chord (i.e. a closer-to-the-ground string).
The note durations are also all pretty much the same.
Chord progressions that use all downstrokes also have a bit of a unique sound. It kind-of makes all the chords sound a bit: “samey”; whereas switching between up and downstrokes will tend to sound a bit more varied. Using all downstrokes is very common in Heavy Metal and some Hard Rock genres.
“Every Rose Has Its Thorn”- Poison
This song has varied strumming all the way through it. As soon as it comes on, the acoustic guitar is strumming down and then back up in time with the beat.
I’m realising as I’m writing this article how difficult it can be to explain strumming patterns- but a good rule of thumb that many guitarists use is that downstrokes will often be on the first beat of a bar. This is because people will NORMALLY start a bar with a downstroke because a downstroke feels more natural to play. An upstroke tends to serve more as a partner to your downstroke- and don’t TEND to be used much on their own.
Basically- a song with all upstrokes would be very hard to find- because no one really plays like that.
Anyway- if you listen to this song, you can hear that at the start of most the bars the guitar begins with a downstroke, which leads into an upstroke and then some varied up and down strokes until the start of the next bar. The rhythm is also very varied, and multiple note lengths are used.
Strumming Patterns are basically something that will come to you in time naturally! The best option is to play along to some songs (the ones mentioned in this article may be good) and just try to strum along as well as you can. I hope this has given you some guidance to the confusing realm of strumming patterns!