Playing Rhythm Guitar: Basics Part 3 – Basic Strumming Patterns

Applying Basic Strumming Patterns to the Guitar

Now that we’ve covered the basics of whole notes, half notes and how to use a metronome, it’s time to grab your guitar, so you can start strumming some rhythm patterns.

Down-stroke and Up-stroke

When you strum chords, you will use down-strokes, up-strokes, or a combination of the two.

To perform a down-stroke, strum from the thickest to the thinnest strings used in the chord. An up-stroke is the opposite.

Generally, down-strokes are used on the beat, so they would be used on the 1, 2, 3, 4, in 4/4 time.

The upstroke is usually used on the up-beat (“ands”) of each beat. We will get into them in later tutorials.

For this exercise, we will use the chords G, C and D major.

left hand guitar fingering indications

G C D with fingerings

For each of these chords, strum only the strings that have finger indications or use an open string.  In other words, you would strum the G major chord from 6-1.  Strum the C major chord from the fifth string to the first.  The D major chord is played by strumming strings 4-1.

For this exercise, we will use down-strokes exclusively.

G C D strumming pattern with quarter half and whole notes w diagrams


Remember to keep a steady consistent tempo and count out loud as you strum.

Once you feel comfortable with this strumming pattern, create your own strumming exercises using whole and half notes.


Here’s a quick summary of the main points from Playing Rhythm Guitar Basics Parts 1-3.

  • A whole note is sustained for four beats in 4/4 time.
  • The half note receives two beats.
  • Be sure to use a metronome as you practice strumming patterns at first.
  • Count out loud and tap your foot with the metronome as you strum rhythm patterns.
  • Do not speed up at parts you find easy. Keep a consistent tempo.

Have lots of fun with this!

The great thing is the more your rhythm guitar playing improves, the more fun you’ll have.  You’ll find it much easier to learn songs too!

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