Strumming Sixteenth Notes

Sixteenth note strumming is the next natural step in learning strumming after eighth notes.  Make sure you've checked out the lesson "Strumming Eighth Notes" before continuing on.  Sixteenth notes are twice as fast as eighth notes.  You play two sixteenth notes for every eighth note duration or four sixteenth notes for every quarter note.  In a 4/4 measure you can play or fit 16 notes in each measure (hence the name).

Counting Sixteenth Notes

Eighth notes are counted as 1 - and - 2 - and - 3 - and - 4 - and.  Sixteenth notes can be counted as 1 - e - and - a - 2 - e - and - a - 3 - e - and - a - 4 - e - and - a.  If the tempo is fast though counting sixteenth notes becomes difficult due to how fast they move.

Strumming Rules

The rules for strumming sixteenth notes are pretty much exactly the same as the eighth note strumming rules with one exception.  Downstrokes are now on the beat and the "and".  Upstrokes are on the "e" and the "a" offbeats.

  1. Determine the time signature of the song.  4/4, 3/4, 6/8, etc.
  2. Determine the tempo.  Are the song beats moving along slowly or rapidly.
  3. Anytime a chord is played on the beat or the "and" it should be done with a downstroke.
  4. Anytime a chord is played on the "e" or the "a" offbeat it should be done with an upstroke.

Basic 4/4 Sixteenth Note Strum

This example shows an E minor chord played as a sixteenth note strum.  The strumming alternates between down and up.  As you play follow the sixteenth note counting pattern.

Basic Sixteenth Note Strumming

Basic 4/4 Sixteenth Note Strum Alternative Notation

Here's a D open string chord strummed as sixteenth notes using the alternate down and up stroke notation.

Basic Sixteenth Note Alternative Strumming

Mix and Match Strumming

Sixteenth note strumming gives you a lot of options to create interesting strum patterns.  You can now mix in quarter note, eighth note and sixteenth note subdivision strums anywhere in your measure.  This example shows a variation of strumming rhythms.  Notice how the down and up strokes continue to follow the rules.

Selective Sixteenth Note Strumming

Take some time and try different rhythms and rests within a sixteenth note feel.  There are many combinations.