Here's an obvious beginner question:
If 4/4 timing means 4 beats (strums) to a bar, but a strumming pattern (for example - d du udu) contains 6 beats or strums, it seems to me that playing the strum pattern 4 times results in 24 beats or strums. Conversely, if I only play 4 beats in a bar, I don't even complete one strum pattern. Please explain how a strum pattern of more than four strums fits into 4/4 timing.

2 Answers 2


It's a good question!

The short answer is that not every strum is the length of one beat. Thus we can have more than four strums in four beats.

This means that your first sentence is a little misleading:

If 4/4 timing means 4 beats (strums) to a bar

The parenthesized (strums) suggests that strums = beats, when that is not always the case. 4/4 does mean 4 beats, but not necessarily 4 strums.

As you said, we're in 4/4. We know that there are two eighth notes per quarter note, so that means that there are eight eighth notes in a measure of 4/4. Your d du udu pattern can be understood like so:

d ~ d u ~ u d u

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

The numbers above are a method of counting four quarters notes, and the ~ marks two spots where no strum happens. So really your strum pattern can be understood as based in eighth notes, so your six strums (plus two rests) align perfectly in a measure of 4/4, which has eight eighth notes (6 strums + 2 rests = 8!).

  • I think a better way to describe it is "four counts to a bar", not "four beats to a bar".
    – Sam Dufel
    Dec 9, 2016 at 0:25
  • @SamDufel - but that's just what 4/4 means. 4 beats of one crotchet value each. With a fast 4/4, I often count up to 8 in each bar, when reading, but the beats remain as beats.
    – Tim
    Dec 10, 2016 at 17:01

Another explanation adding to Richard's great (as usual) answer is that you move your hand down ( in this case) four times per bar. That means you move it up four times as well. So, you could strum the strings 8 times every bar. 4 down, with 4 up in between.

However, in this particular pattern, there will be 'ghost strums', where your hand will move without actually strumming. This is a critical part. In this pattern, there are ghost strums on the & of 1 and also on beat 3. everything else being strummed.

The sting in the tail (literally) is the last up strum after beat 4. It gives very little time to change to another chord, and could benefit you by being another ghost strum. Try it. You may thank me later!

If you find this difficult, strum all 8 strums, then gradually leave out those mentioned above. DO NOT change the direction or speed of the up/down.

  • Ghost strums; clever!
    – Richard
    Dec 8, 2016 at 20:57
  • @Richard - works well with the kids! That particular rhythm pattern used to be a nightmare before, them trying to strum down and up alternatively. It may work, but it never sounded good, and the rhythmic pattern wasn't regular enough to change to any other pattern simply. Downs and ups ARE different!
    – Tim
    Dec 8, 2016 at 21:08

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