If you're struggling to learn how to strum the guitar, there's one secret that I teach to all my students that will help you to play thousands of songs just by practicing one strum pattern alone.
You may have looked up chords to a song online before, maybe you found a few songs that have chords that you know. But when you look at those chord charts, you still don't know how to strum along to the song.
You may have noticed that most chord websites don't include strum patterns. Even when they do they are often wrong anyway.
Here's what you can do. Learn this one strum pattern and try it out on thousands of songs. So long as the rhythm of the song is in groups of 4, it will good.
The Everyday Strum
I call it the everyday strum because it truly is that useful. Here's how that strum pattern works. We strum:
If you're new to strumming, remember to keep your arm moving consistently up and down with each beat. Don't cheat the arm direction or it won't sound right. You might be able to replicate the rhythm correctly, but if you are reversing the down-strums with the up-strums it will sound awkward.
Say out loud to yourself as you strum: down down UP .. UP down UP
Try playing through it just once and then stopping. When you feel confident you have it, try looping it twice through. Notice that the next time through happens right away. In other words, the repeat of beat 1 comes right after that last up-strum of the pattern.
Say out loud: down down UP .. UP down UP down down UP .. UP down UP
Once you have the sound of the rhythm stuck in your mind, try looping it as many times as you can. If you can play it correctly over and over, try to stop thinking about the arm direction and just replicate the sound in your mind. Double-check with yourself that you are getting the strum direction correct.
Songs You Can Play
There are probably millions of songs you could play with this strum pattern. Here are a few songs that work well for this pattern. Some of these don't actually have this strum pattern in the original recordings, but it sounds great anyway.
• Stand By Me – Ben E King
• Three Little Birds – Bob Marley
• Can’t Buy Me Love – The Beatles
• Blowin’ In the Wind – Bob Dylan
• Summer of 69 – Bryan Adams
• Clocks – Coldplay
• Heroes – David Bowie
Try playing some of your own favourite songs with the everyday strum. So long as the song is in 4, it should sound good. Some songs are waltzes in which the pulse of the song is in groups of 3, and there are some other time signatures out there. But most songs in rock, folk, pop, and country are in 4. So just give it a shot and see if it sounds right to you.