How To Learn The Folk Strum Pattern

Guide To The Folk Strum Pattern

One of the most common rhythm patterns for the guitar is known as the “Folk Strum.”  It’s a ubiquitous rhythm that fits in many mid-tempo songs.  Learning it will open you up to playing a ton of new tunes.  Here’s how to learn it:

 Set a metronome at slow tempo, around 72 BPMs.

This will be your down beat; all your downstrokes will line up with it.  I will be using a diagram that looks like this:

1  +  2  +  3 +  4  +

This illustrates our standard measure of 4/4 time.  The numbers represent the downbeats aka the clicks of the metronome.  The “+,” or “ands” as they should be pronounced out loud, go in between the beats and are known as the upbeats.  Practice counting with the metronome aloud “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and,” with the numbers falling on the downbeats while the “ands” fall in between them.  Conveniently, all your downstrokes will fall on the downbeats while your upstrokes come on the upbeats.

2.  On the first two beats play two downstrokes.

D     D

1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +

Pick any open chord and fret it with your left hand (if you are left-handed, please switch the hand directions in this tutorial).  Aloud, say “Down, Down” on the first two beats instead of “one, two” while strumming downstrokes with your right hand.  You can say “ rest, rest” on beats three and four.  Repeat this every four beats so you are continuously doing “down, down, rest, rest.”

3.  Add an upstroke on the “and” of 2.

D     D  U

1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +

After the second downstroke, as you are returning your hand to the top of the guitar, strum the strings upward with an opposite motion of your hand on the upbeat following beat two.  As you should do on every step, say your strums out loud: “Down, Down Up.”  

4. Let your hand fall down on beat 3 without strumming and then strum another upstroke on the “and” of 3.

D     D  U     U

1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +

This is the tricky part.  There is no downstroke on the third downbeat, but to get that next  upstroke you hand needs to be below the strings.  Let your hand fall down on beat 3 like you are strumming and then immediately follow it with an upstroke on the upbeat.  Saying “Down, Down Up, Up” will definitely help.  You can say rest on beat 4 or just pause for it.

5. Add a downstroke on beat 4.

D     D  U     U  D

1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +

Immediately after that second upstroke of the pattern, follow it with a downstroke.  You’ll no longer will have any beats to rest, so you should just be looping this strum pattern over and over.

6.  Add an upstroke on the “and” of 4.

D     D  U     U  D U

1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +

Now you will have no space between one measure and the next.  Concentrate on keeping this pattern up for as long as possible.  Challenge yourself to see how long you can go without making a mistake.

Congratulations, if you have finished Step #6, you have successfully learned the “Folk Strum.”  Practice it at different tempos and on different chords, so you can pull it out at any time.  If you need a visual demonstration, you can watch the Folk Strum Video I have posted on my blog.

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