Learn How To Strum on the Acoustic Guitar

Learn How To Strum on the Acoustic Guitar

In this lesson, learn how to strum on the acoustic guitar to improve your timing and rhythm.  When you do, you’ll discover the sound of music.  And you will become a much better guitar player.

Fundamental strumming patterns

To improve your timing when playing the guitar, you want to learn the 4 basic note sequences.  Quarter notes, eighth notes, triplets, and sixteenths.  All strumming patterns are just a combination of these notes.

Once you learn these and work with developing them on a daily basis, you’ll see and hear improvements in your strumming on the acoustic guitar.

Quarter notes

These are the basic 1 2 3 4 count that exists in the timing of all music.  This is when you strum downward in an even timing sequence.  Hold a chord (like the C chord) and strum downward.  Count 1 2 3 4.

You do this over and over consistently to establish a rhythm and produce timing.  Start off slow and stay steady.

Quarter note strumming

As you can see from the diagram, you strum downward on each beat.  Four beats to the measure and you strum downward on each one.  These are quarter note strums. They are very common when you learn to strum on acoustic guitar.


Eighth notes

Eighth notes are where you play for an eighth of a whole note.  In this timing sequence, you will add an “and” to the quarter note.

Here you will not count 1 2 3 4, you will count 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &.  This will produce a different strum pattern.  You will still strum downward on the 1 2 3 4, but add strumming upward on the “&”.

eighth note strumming

In this timing sequence, we add the and (which is represented by a + sign) and strum upward.  This will double-time the strumming and rhythm.  Practice this after you have the quarter note strum down.



In this timing sequence, we are going to tie three notes together.  This adds a completely different feel to the rhythm.

In this sequence, the count will be 1 & uh, 2 & uh, 3 & uh, 4 & uh.  You strum down on the 1 like usual, strum up on the “&” as in the eighth note, and then strum back up on the “uh”.  This creates a very unique rhythm and you should work on it daily.

Triplet strumming

Look how the notes are tied together and they add a different fee to the strumming pattern.  Remember, these are three notes tied together to get this rhythm feel.  This is very beneficial when you learn to strum on acoustic guitar.


Sixteenth notes

Sixteenth notes are going to be four notes tied together to create a sense of urgency.  The count for this strumming pattern will be 1 e & uh, 2 e & uh, 3 e & uh, 4 e & uh.

You strum down on the 1, strum up on the “e”, back down on the “&”, then strum back up on the “uh”.  This will be all notes played together in one single movement.

Sixteenth note strumming

As you can see from the diagram, you alternate your strumming to give a nice fluid rhythm.  Make sure to count when playing this as well as the eighth notes and triplets, and practice daily.


A combination of strumming notes

Now that you know the individual strum notes, you can then work at putting them together.  This will allow you to master your rhythm and improve your timing.

Quarter, triplet, eighth note strumming

In this diagram, you can clearly see the strumming notes that are used to create this rhythm.  You start with a quarter note, move to a triplet, and end with an eighth note.

The quarter note is placed on the 1 (as usual), the triplet is played on the 2 and 3, and the eighth note is played on the 4 &.  Play this and see how it creates a certain rhythm pattern.


Reading strum pattern notation

Just like all things in music, there is a specific notation for certain techniques related to playing guitar.  Strumming is no different.

You have a notation for strumming down, up and muting the strings.  Muting the strings produces a more percussive tone.

Strumming guitar notation

There are many ways to indicate strumming and as you progress in your studies you will run into them.  But this example shows the most common way that strumming is notated in music.

Be sure to memorize these so that when you come across them in music books, or on the internet, you’ll know how to read and execute the strum pattern.


Additional learning

If you’d like to learn more about this topic and how to improve your acoustic guitar playing further, I recommend you check out the book Learn To Play Acoustic Guitar.

Learn To Play Acoustic Guitar

This guitar method book will teach everything you need to learn to build a solid foundation for playing acoustic guitar.  It will teach you:

What type to get

How to hold it

Tune it

Reading chord diagrams 

What chords to start out with

Both major and minor

Chord embellishments

How to create rhythm

Timing sequences

Basic music theory

And much, much more.  It is a comprehensive course for beginners.  So if that is what you’re looking to learn, I recommend this book.  Along with that, it is written by me, so if you have any questions about the lessons, you can reach out and I will be available to help you out.

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Lesson conclusion

The best way to improve your strumming on the guitar is to study the information presented in this lesson, and practice it daily.  It is the best way to improve your rhythm playing.

Also, learn about different chords that will help you develop your chord vocabulary. Chord progressions and knowledge of how music works in general.

And if you need private lessons, feel free to reach out.  I can teach you privately face-to-face, or online through Skype or FB.  Just reach out and we’ll get you going.

Best of luck,

Dwayne Jenkins

Dwayne Jenkins