Counting Ands

When it comes to strumming and keeping time, the most basic pattern is that of a four-beat bar. This is really as simple as strumming and keeping time gets, but it is very important that you learn to do this pattern well because pretty much all strumming patterns are derived from this! A bar typically has four beats, when we count them we say, "one, two, three, four.". Each beat gets its own down-strum - you always strum DOWN on the beat (*there are some exceptions to this later down the line, but as a beginner you could use this as a rule!).

1 2 3 4

Now between every down strum, your hand moves up anyways - it HAS to. There's no other way to do 2 consective down strums... and for that up movement we count and 'and' which is usually written as a + (but we don't call it plus or cross, always 'and').

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

The big secret for playing a solid rhythm guitar is:

You have to keep your strumming hand moving evenly all of the time, even when it's not playing anything! 

We usually always count the beats out loud but only count the ands when we will strum on them. Usually I recommend whispering a beat count if you're not playing on it, which is usually how I'll demonstrate strumming patterns in this course.

Here's the basic rhythm pattern with traditional rhythm notation with an added "and" after beat 3 (the 3rd down strum):


For Pattern #2, you would say, "one, two, three and four."

The aim here is to repeat this pattern until it becomes fully instinctive. You should be able to put the up-strum in the right place without thinking about it at all. To do that, you just need to practice it over and over again. I'm sorry, sometimes there's no way around that! It's pretty important to get this right, too. We'll be developing these patterns more in upcoming lessons, so you'll want to make sure you've got them down really well before we get to that point.

How to Practice

The first thing I suggest you practice is just saying the count of 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + out loud. You can do that anywhere - just get used to saying it with an even rhythm.

To practice this, try focusing on getting the rhythm solidly in your head before you even pick up your guitar. Something you can try - though maybe not in public - is to count the rhythm out loud. Just keep repeating it to get it stuck in your brain! I know it sounds a bit mental, but trust me, it'll be worth it later.

While you're saying the rhythm out loud, try moving your strumming arm up and down with the beat - again, without actually holding the guitar! Also, add in your foot - tap the beat (ONLY the 1, 2, 3 and 4) while you air-strum. The goal here is to really ingrain the rhythm within you. Again, you'll have to trust me on this one - I wouldn't lead you astray!

We'll talk more about your strumming practice shortly!


Module 3: The Am & Em Army!