From what i can tell so far, STRUMMING patterns are for two things, making sure the right beats are accented (because on the up strokes, youre only supposed to hit two strings) and keeping track of quarter and eighth notes (because the down strokes are all quarter notes and the up strokes divide them into eighths). Is that correct and are there any other reasons that im missing?

What about picking patterns? I have no idea what these are for. Please explain all the reasons for them. It seems kind of silly to me to play the notes of every arpeggio in the same order. What am i missing here?

  • Do you mean "picking pattern" with fingers, or with a plectrum ? Jul 25, 2014 at 14:09

2 Answers 2


A strumming pattern is a technique for playing a rhythmic pattern. Most simple rhythms are best played with the strumming pattern you describe because this is the best way to keep your rhythm accurate.

As for picking patterns, it is not silly at all. It is crucial that you learn the most mechanically efficient way to execute sequences.

For instance:

Single string: Sequences where many notes are played on the same, repeated string are best played with alternate picking, which is a strict down-up pattern (or sometimes up-down).

Crossing strings: Sequences like arpeggios which are on three or more consecutive strings (either up or down) are best played with sweep picking because you don't need to reverse the pick's direction to continue onward and strike a new note.

Complicated patterns: string skipping will help you to play complicated patterns that leap over many strings. The picking direction of string skipping is often alternate picking but it really depends.

Combinations: Many combinations of the above two are best achieved by economy picking which basically means that the picking pattern will be alternate picking when the notes on a string are repeated and sweep picking when changing to a new string.

I think if you're seeing alot of information about "play this thing with that picking pattern", it may be confusing you and you may have trouble seeing the forest from the trees. But you need to master the basic mechanics of picking, and most passages definitely have a mechanically ideal pattern that should be considered. Advanced guitar players know these patterns, and if you choose a pattern other than the most mechanically efficient one, you're making it harder on yourself than an advanced guitar player would make on himself.


In addition to Grey's excellent answer, there's also hybrid picking, where a pick and fingers are used. Often, the pick is held between thumb and index finger (sometimes middle as well) and the remaining fingers can be used to pick strings, usually individually. This works well when the alternative is string skipping, as the hand doesn't need to be moving up or down - the pick and fingers are pretty well in the right place all the time.

I said usually individually, but of course, a pattern such as 5 /1+2+3 /6 /1+2+3 /would be good to play in a hybrid way.

Which leads on to playing without a pick at all - finger-style, where all digits can be used. Here, the thumb often plays on strings 6 and 5, maybe 4, while fingers (at a player's choice) will play 1,2,3(and maybe 4).A lot of folk, acoustic and country style guitar uses this.And of course, classical.

  • 1
    +1 for Tim. I think there is a lot to be said about using fingers vs. a pick as per tone. Touch is more intimate and allows for a more vivid tone palette. Why use a pick when you can actually massage, pinch, or pull the strings as needed. I am not the only one who shares this opinion many of the best blues musicians I know have taught me this e.g. Kenny "Blue" Ray's CD "Pull the Strings".
    – filzilla
    Jul 23, 2014 at 20:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.