Guitar/Railway and Western Strumming Pattern

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Railway and Western Strumming Pattern


The quaver feeling


Most of the stroke patterns are derived from the alternating stroke. First of all, "alternating stroke" means nothing more than that you move your arm evenly up and down. Like the pendulum of a clock, the right arm swings evenly up and down.

All rhythms are created by touching the strings of the guitar sometimes and sometimes not. If the strings are not touched, the alternating stroke of the arm is not interrupted. In the following diagrams, the so-called air strokes are represented by greyed-out and dashed arrows. It is important that 8 beats are performed per bar. Sometimes as a serve or downstroke, sometimes as an air stroke, but in total there are always 8 strokes in a 4/4 time. By the way, you don't count to "8", even if there are 8 strokes, but only to "4" and add an "and" after each number:

  • 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and

A bar is divided into 8 equal parts, so the beats that we learn here in the campfire diploma and later in the folk diploma are summarized as an quaver feeling.

EVERY downstroke is a number. EVERY upstroke is an "and"!


The thumb is simply moved over the strings with the thumbnail at am upstroke. You should avoid twisting your hand or forearm too much. This is not necessary. If you imagine that you are turning a ball of plasticine or something similar between your fingers, you will get as close as possible to the movement required for the strokes. The thumb should also point slightly towards the neck of the guitar (so that it doesn't get in the way of the other fingers). It looks a little bit like hitchhiking.

The railway strumming pattern


This lesson today serves only as a preliminary exercise for the "western strumming pattern" and is not the primary learning goal of this second lesson. The reason: The railway strumming patternt is not really suitable for accompanying many songs. It quickly becomes monotonous and is therefore much more often used only as a transition or for short passages (such as the chorus).

The 8/8 strumming becomes much more interesting if you alternate between bass strings (the top three) and treble strings (the bottom three) just like you did with the 4/4 strumming above.
On "1-and" the top strings are struck up and down,
on "2-and" the bottom strings;
on "3-and" the top strings again, and
on "4-and" the bottom strings again.
The count is "a-bove, be-low, a-bove, be-low"
or "1-and, 2-and, 3-and, 4-and".

The strumming pattern can be used throughout the whole song (e.g. "Let's Twist Again"), but it is more likely to be used for a single verse or for a transition.

If you do the strumming fairly quickly, you will probably hear how it got its name.

Eine Insel mit zwei Bergen (Lummerland song) D D A A - A A D D [Melodie+Text]


To do:
find an English example.


As I said above, the "railroad strumming pattern" is currently only used to explain the structure of the following strumming. So it is enough to try it ou briefly.

The Western Strumming Pattern


This strumming pattern is not only suitable for cowboy and country songs, but also for many folk songs.

You count
1 - 2 and 3 - 4 and

It's best to listen to a music example and try to count along. Start by counting without strumming so that you get a feeling for the rhythm. When you're able to count fairly well, try to follow the strumming pattern.

D and A alternately

(without the new G major chord yet)


D major cadence

(with the new G major chord)


Do you see the bright arrows going up? Just ignore them! These are so-called "air strumming". They just show you that your arm has to go back up somehow. If your arm makes a steady up and down movement, a small pause occurs automatically, which you don't have to make any special effort for. Listen to the audio examples and try to count out loud.

Common beginning mistake

You interrupt the alternating movement. The arm waits down after the "1" and pauses unnecessarily and doesn't come up in time for the "2". But you don't need to interrupt the movement of the arm at all. The actual pause between the "1" and "2" occurs automatically, simply because you don't touch the string.

But you have to be careful not to count "one-two-and, three-four-and". So without any pause between the 1 and the 2. Otherwise you'll end up with a 3/4 walz time. Count better:

"One-ssa, two-and, three-ssa, four-and".

The -ssa should acoustically underline the pause for the air punch. The -ssa gives your arm time to come up comfortably.


To do:
Find better English expressions

If your arm makes a steady pendulum movement, everything will be much easier.

The tip with the tap


Tap with your foot! Completely evenly, and without interruption. Count 1 2 3 4. Every time the foot taps, you have a number. Every time the foot is lifted, you have an "and". The striking hand moves up and down parallel to the foot. Imagine it like a jumping jack. In a stroke pattern, you only say out loud the numbers and the "and" that you actually perform as strokes. Simply pay attention to the movement of your foot without the tempo of the taps changing in any way. The air strokes (i.e. the movements where the hand does not perform a stroke) are simply not counted. However, the movement of the foot and arm remains consistent, like clockwork.

1 . 2 + 3 . 4 +
tap - tab lift tab - tab lift

Down - Down Up Down - Down Up

You simply ignore the fact that the foot also lifts between 1 and 2, and between 3 and 4. Just pay attention to the movements that you count out loud, or that you want to make with your hand.

Two chords per bar


The western strumming pattern is also good if you want to play two chords in one bar. Although it is not a standard in songbooks, I have simply put two chords in one bar in brackets. These brackets will help you at first until you can figure out for yourself when a chord needs to be changed and when this happens within a bar.

[D] How many [G] roads must a[(D]man [A)]walk [D)]down...


To do:
Find better examples

Even if you can't read notes, there's no need for brackets in sheet music, as you can use the bar lines as a guide even if you don't know how to read music


Smooth as clockwork


It is essential that the rhythm (whichever one you choose) is consistent. For every 4/4 bar you practice and for every break you take (where you don't sing but continue to perform the strumming pattern), you must always be able to count exactly to 4.

You always perform 4 downstrokes and 4 upstrokes. Sometimes you touch the strings, sometimes you just do air strokes. So there are 8 strokes in total. Not more, not less.

Even if you can sometimes overlook initial fingering imprecision, a missing beat or a beat too many should under no circumstances be tolerated. You should only turn a blind eye to those breaks that occur because you have not yet mastered the new grip change...

A wrong note at the right time is only half wrong.
A correct note at the wrong time is absolutely wrong.

Nothing throws off a group of singers or musicians more than when the beat is wrong. Wrong chords, improper fingering, off-key notes, even the wrong rhythm (e.g. samba instead of rumba), all of this is often not noticed. You can always straighten it out and you can always mess it up.

So don't stop or say "Sorry, I wanted to...", just keep playing. When you're practicing, at least finish the pattern or the verse you're singing. Then do it slowly from the beginning again. Or practice the difficult passage in isolation. Correcting a previous pattern is pointless. You can practice how to do it correctly with the next verse. Mistakes are simply part of learning!

The teacher will simply overlook some mistakes (or at least he should).
It will get better next time, or the time after that, or the time after that.

However, if the rhythm is broken by one beat or one pause too many or too few, everyone will notice. You simply lose your rhythm.

A tip for the first song selection


To begin with, choose songs where a chord has to be held for at least two bars.

New chords or chord changes are not easy for beginners, and until you have mastered them properly, pauses will occur automatically. This is not a big deal. However, somehow you have to manage to prevent the pauses from becoming a habit. Therefore, always hold the chords for two bars, because you don't need a "beginner's pause" in the second bar. So make sure that the bars are played seamlessly one after the other; at least as long as there are no difficult chord changes.

For the western strumming pattern

Don't stop playing after the "4-and", but continue immediately with the "1". Otherwise the rhythm will hop.

So don't play


but count best

"Four'aaaaaan -dOne ssa"



Song Examples:

  1. When the Saints Go Marching In
  2. Sloop John BYT   Sloop John B.
    More examples
  3. YT   Milorad (Edith Piaf) (Chorus)
  4. YT   Follow Me (Uncle Kracker)
    D (G A) D (G D)
  5. YT   Down On The Corner (CCR)
    D - A D (2x) G - D -; D - A D | G D A D (2x)
  6. YT   Rock Around the Clock (Bill Haley)
    Intro:D - - - Verse; D - - - G - D - A G D - (Blues scheme in D)
  7. YT   Rockin All Over The World (Status Quo)
    D D G G D A D D
  8. YT   Still Haven't Found What I'm looking for (U2)
    //: D - - - G - D - :// //: A G D - :// (3/4-Takt)
  9. YT   This Land Is Your Land
    (D) G - D -, A - D -, G - D -, A - D -
  10. YT   Walk of Life (Dire Straits) (Original: Capo 2. Fred)
    The change of G-A or A-G can wait until lesson 7.
  11. YT   Hound Dog (Elvis Presley / Big Mama Thornton)
    D - - - G - D - A G D - (Blues scheme in D)
  12. YT   The First Cut Is The Deepest (Sheryl Crow)
    D A G A

The major cadence - The great triumvirate
Campfire Diploma  
Simple ¾ beat
Western Strumming Pattern