Counting and playing ‘off’ the beat – Quaver strumming patterns

02 Apr

Hi there,

Thanks for reading my blogs so far.

When you are learning strumming patterns, riffs or solo’s, it’s important that you can split up bars into segments to work out whether to play down/up strokes and whether they are on or off the beat.

Remember to count in your head or out loud + tap your feet to keep rhythm. This is important especially if you are playing off the beat, as you’ll need references to the start of each beat

I’d thoroughly recommend using a metronome regularly. This will keep pushing your playing abilities, and as a beginner there are not many better ways of forcing yourself to change chords.

Let’s remind ourselves first of a few of the symbols (you can click on the pictures for a bigger version)

notation symbols

The first symbol is a quaver rest (rest for 1/2 beat), second symbol is a quaver (1/2 beat), 3rd note is a crotchet (1 beat long) , 4th note is a crotchet rest (1 beat rest). The G major in the second bar is a dotted crotchet ( 1 1/2 beats long)

What we’ll do is learn basic strumming first on the beat and then off the beat:


The first bar uses crotchets and we simply play a G major chord with a downstroke on every beat.

The second bar you play off the beat on the ‘+’ so 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

The Hat sign signifies a downstroke whereas the V in the next bar shows an upstroke

Here’s our next pattern:


So here we play ( 1 + , 2, 3 +, 4)  and for the next bar ( 1 + 2, 3 + 4 )

Here’s the next pattern which mixes things up a bit more:


Here we play ( 1, 2 +, 3 + 4 + ) and then  ( 1 +, 2 +, 3 + , 4) in the next

It’s very important to count rhythm’s like the ones above especially when you have dotted crotchets that last for a beat and a half. You want to ring out that note from the ‘+’ of 3 til the end of the bar.

Now what you can also do once you’ve got grips with the above is then start to change chords at different points in the bar using down and upstrokes where appropriate.

Here’s an example of the above rhythm but with a changing chord pattern from the key of C major.


Hope you’ve enjoyed this blog and found it useful.

Feel good about asking any questions.

You can also find other great tips via my twitter feed @jsmusic

Many thanks



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