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I am a relatively new guitarist and have been using online tabs such as this one: http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/b/beatles/let_it_be_crd.htm to learn how to play new songs.

While those tabs provide the chords, the vast majority do not provide the official strum patterns. Is it necessary to watch video tutorials to learn the strum patterns, or is there some other way to learn them?

Knowing just the chords for the song does not seem to be sufficient information to play the song well. What are some good ways to get strumming patterns and other information needed to play a song?

  • 1
    Listen to the song over and over again – LeoStotch Feb 20 '15 at 18:43
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    Also, be careful of the chords you find online - they are a good starting point but often have basic mistakes in. – topo Reinstate Monica Feb 20 '15 at 18:45
  • For Let It Be try D DU UDU. Works for verses and chorus. The spaces occupy a beat and some find it helpful to count those as silent strums in the opposite direction of the preceding strum. There is your fish for the day. To learn to fish on your own - read my answer. Good luck! – Rockin Cowboy Feb 20 '15 at 20:26
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Welcome to Music: Practice and Theory Stack Exchange. Your question is one I get often from folks in the beginning stages of learning to play guitar.

You are absolutely correct in stating that knowing just the chords is not sufficient information to play the song in an authentic manner. The guitar (especially if played as a solo instrument) is a rhythm instrument and the strumming pattern is a big part of what establishes the rhythm for the song. So it is very important information.

There is actually no such thing as an "official strum pattern" (see this answer on Music Practice and Theory to learn more) Guitar Notation and Strumming Pattern Indicators.

And while you can often find chord charts and/or tab for some songs which do indicate a strumming pattern, or find a tutorial on You Tube that shows a suggested strumming pattern, these are still only someones interpretation and suggestion. Unfortunately, not all songs have a lesson or tab that includes a strumming pattern suggestion.

In the absence of any online lesson or YouTube video or Tab or chord sheets that indicate a suggested strumming pattern, you might need to develop your own strumming pattern!

There will be more than one variation of a strumming pattern for almost any song that will work for that song. The idea is to approximate the rhythm and feel for the song you want to learn, as best as possible. To do this, you should find a recording of the song that you like and that has as distinct rhythm that you can hear. Maybe in the bass line or the drum pattern or the guitar. Once you have selected a good recording to try to emulate, listen to it a few times, then try playing along with your guitar.

Experiment with different up down/down up/down down up/etc. patterns until you find something that you can play that keeps the same rhythm as the recording (or something that works). It's a trial and error process.

Personally, I just try to find my own strumming pattern based on what I hear in the song and what feels right. This ability to feel the rhythm and approximate it into a strumming pattern, will develop over time as you continue to learn more songs. If I try to follow someone else's strumming pattern, I end up either getting confused, or deciding that theirs is not as good as what I hear and feel.

One other thought. Even if there is not a YouTube tutorial that teaches the exact strumming pattern, if you can find a video of someone covering the song (the song in your question will have hundreds) where you can see the guitar player, just watch what he/she is doing on the strumming. You might have to sift through a few covers to find one that sounds good to you and that you can see what the guitarist strumming hand is doing.

Good luck with this and with your journey towards a lifetime of pleasure and fun playing guitar.

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As a starting place, a typical pattern that I always teach every student is:

 DOWN MISS DOWN UP MISS UP DOWN MISS

The misses are also up and down so that the first miss of the strings in this pattern is an up swing of the arm where you do not play the strings. The second miss is a down and the third is an up. Sometimes this is expanded to:

 down miss miss miss DOWN MISS DOWN UP MISS UP DOWN MISS down up down up

Get used to these two and you can handle most situations. If you are comfortable with those two then you can experiment and find others as @RockinCowboy suggests. I suggest that if you know these two patterns you know the patterns that fit and are even used in many many songs. It is worth using these patterns at first over almost every song until you are used to them, and then try to figure out what they really should be latter as @RockinCowboy suggests.

  • I often find students who try to play your first example stum it all in downs. This eventually proves to them that the basic strum is 4 downs! – Tim Aug 28 '16 at 11:46
  • @Tim are you counting correctly? but separately, I have seen people effectively strum, sounding just about right playing only downs, but just think how much better they would be if they knew how to do it correctly! None the less, alternating down and up gives a better and physical sense of good rhythm and makes one faster as a bonus. – amalgamate Aug 29 '16 at 14:31
  • Further, there are slight variations to this pattern. If you know an alternative: "Down miss down up miss up down up" It is a fair substitute for the one that I used in my answer. – amalgamate Aug 29 '16 at 14:36
  • That's one for a lot of players to avoid! Reason being, it cuts the change time to the next chord by half. In an awful lot of self-taught players this manifests itself in an open string strum, sometimes even finding its way into recordings. Slightly different, but the same syndrome, listen carefully to the Animals' House of the Rising Sun. The last last triplet in each bar is an open G, whether it fits with the chord or not, as the guitarist couldn't change in the time given. Yes, I can count! If almost any rhythm puts downs on each beat, the pattern will sound better - even reggae! – Tim Aug 29 '16 at 17:22
  • @Tim agree, but I hesitate to suggest that all players need to do the easiest thing to learn it correctly. It is true that the pattern in my actual answer is the easier choice, and the one that I would teach a student to do first. I also agree that even when I, experienced player, play the right rhythm with the wrong strums it sounds different/strange. The second pattern in my answer is more difficult for the same reasons you state. – amalgamate Aug 31 '16 at 16:56
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Further to the two excellent answers already here.In 4/4 time, the basic strum is down, down, down, down. This represents the 4 beats per bar. In between, the strumming hand comes up. That gives potentially another four strums- upstrums. So, there are now 8 strums available per bar. Given that you can do everything from all 8 strums to ony one per bar, with every combination of hit and/or miss, that's more than you can shake a stick at.

Be able to play each and every one of these - there are literally hundreds, and know what you're doing, and you will have a vast array of different rhythms available to you. Try just the upstrums and it's reggae. Try the one amalgamate suggests - one of my favourite teachimg rhythms too - and it'll work for lots of songs.The main point is that your arm will simply go up and down, without changing its motion, for each and every one.That puts the sound of up- and down-strokes correctly.

That's only starters, but armed with this info., you can adapt from it to just about any rhythm you hear or feel - in 4/4 time. Other times are available, and can be adapted to once you understand this concept.

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