Category Archives: Sightreading and Strumming

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

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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Changing chords ‘off’ the beat and DDUUDUUDUUDU strumming pattern

Hi There,

Thanks for reading the blogs so far.

In previous blogs regarding strumming we’ve looked at a few common patterns and how you can play many songs with each of these.

To get really interesting rhythms, you want to be able to mix up your accents and strumming between playing ‘on’ and ‘off’ the beat.

On the beat would be 1,2,3,4

Off the beat would be 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

The 2 bar strumming pattern you’re going to learn here has most of it’s emphasis on the ‘and/off’ of the beat.

Have a look at the pattern below:

What you’ve got here is:

1 crotchet = 1 beat

then 14 quavers @ 1/2 beat each = 7 beats

with 3 ties.

What the tie does again is ring out the previous note (as you can see from the tied note, there is no chord below on the guitar tab)

in terms of counting you’d count it like this:

1  2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

The notes that are tied (that you don’t play are on the following)

1  2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

Now as i’ve explained with strumming patterns you want to play a downstroke on the beat (1,2,3,4) and an upstroke ‘off’ the beat so it’ll be like this:

1  2  +  3  +  4  +  1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +

D D U      U  D U     U  D U      U D U

As you can see we miss 3 downstrokes – this makes for a really nice strumming pattern.

Have a click on the link below to see how it’s played with a G chord:


So know you can play the 2 bar phrase, what you want to do now is change on all the following pulses:

1  2  +  3  +  4  +  1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +

D D U      U  D U     U  D U      U D U

What i’ve done in the below sample is play the chorus to Bryan adams – run to you which contains Em G, D and A

Have a listen to the audio clip of me playing it:


You can use any chord combination you like – i’d thoroughly recommend playing around with this strumming pattern as it’s used in 1000’s of songs

Many thanks for reading

You can find other useful free advice on twitter @jsmusicschool

Many thanks



Posted by on April 24, 2012 in Sightreading and Strumming


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Sixteenth note strumming

Hi there,

On a previous blog you were shown how to get a nice strumming pattern using just quavers, crotchets and ties.

Now to spice up your rhythm playing even more you can introduce sixteenth notes.

Firstly lets recap on how to count your various rhythmic values.

Crotchets last for 1 beat and in a typical bar containing 4 beats you’d count it as 1, 2, 3, 4 like the below

The symbol below the note signifies a down stroke

So for quavers these last for half a beat each and you’d play this as below:

So a typical bar of 4 beats would have 8 quavers and you’d play down up (the V sign is an upstroke).

You’d count this as 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +. Notice that generally we play a down stroke on the beat and an up stroke off the beat.

So now for semi quavers. These last for a quarter of a beat so in a typical bar of 4 beats you could play 16 of these in total:

Now you count this as

1 E + A , 2 E + A , 3 E + A, 4 E + A

and strum down, up, down, up for every beat.

The idea is that you are connecting a phonetic symbol to split up each part of the beat.

So on every ‘E’ of the beat you play an upstroke and for every ‘A’ of the beat you play an upstroke.

‘1’ and ‘+’ would be played with downstrokes.

So in the next blog what we can do is mix the 3 rhythms up and play Knockin’ on heavens door by Bob Dylan

Thanks for reading


You can find me on twitter for other brilliant tips @jsmusicschool

Also feel free to ask questions on the comment section



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Technical : Basic strumming patterns

Hi there!

In previous blogs I’ve explained how you can move all your open chords up the neck and understand how your scales and chords all fit together.

Now you want to be able to link all this together with interesting rhythms and strumming patterns.

From my experience teaching, a lot of guitarists should be spending more time on developing their rhythm and strumming patterns.

As a beginner, if you can learn a bulk load of strumming patterns (15-20 or so), you’ll be apply to apply that to millions of songs.

Most tab on the internet is made by amateurs who really don’t know what they’re doing.

Often the chords will be wrong but most importantly strumming patterns aren’t included in the majority.

Basic strumming patterns are also massively overlooked in many college and grade base teaching.

Let’s go through a few basic rhythmic values to start with:

CROTCHET – this lasts for 1 beat and looks like the below:






In a standard bar of 4/4 timing (4 beats in a bar) you could play 4 of these – play all of these with downstrokes


QUAVER – this lasts for half a beat and looks like the below:







In a standard bar of 4/4 timing you could play 8 of these in total. A lot of the time you’ll alternate between down and upstrokes.

You count quavers as 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

Generally on the 1,2,3,4 you play downstrokes and on the + of each beat play upstrokes

So a full bar of quavers would be DOWN UP DOWN UP DOWN UP DOWN UP

If there are quite a few notes in a bar they will be joined up together to make it easier to read – here are 2 quavers joined together:





Now for our first strumming pattern we are going to play 1 crotchet followed by 2 quavers and then the same again:





You’d count this as 1, 2 +, 3 , 4 +

With your strumming hand you’d play DOWN, DOWN UP, DOWN, DOWN UP

Practice taking 3 chord progressions like A,D and E, C, F and G playing 1 bar of each chord using the above pattern. It’s a really nice pattern and it appears in thousands of songs.

We can now introduce another quaver on the ‘+’ of 3:





You’d count this is 1, 2 +, 3 +, 4 +

With your strumming hand you’d play DOWN, DOWN UP, DOWN UP, DOWN UP

Now for Ties.

Ties are a great way of adding variation to your rhythm playing. See an example below:







What a tie does is extend a note/chords length by connecting an additional note onto it.

This creates variety in your rhythm playing by missing out certain down and upstrokes and letting notes ring longer.

For the above you’d be playing on 1 + but not play on the first half of beat 2.

Now have a go at the below pattern – this song is used in so many songs it’s unbelievable, lots of rock bands like Oasis and Green day use this pattern all the time.







You’d count this as 1, 2 + , 3 + , 4 + BUT you’d not play the note thatn takes up the first half of beat 3 as it’s tied.

With the right hand you’d strum DOWN, DOWN UP, UP, DOWN UP

Have a go with various chord progressions using the above. Half the world away by Oasis and Rod Stewart’s ‘Maggie May’ both use this pattern.

Play along to a metronome with the ability to split up the bars into quavers

Thanks for reading


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Posted by on February 13, 2012 in Sightreading and Strumming


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