What is a Brush Downstroke in Music

I know a lot of people wonder what that arrow pointing up on the staff of music means. If that’s you today your going to learn what is a brush downstroke in music.

If You are wondering what is a brush downstroke in music. A brush downstsroke in music is when you strum down on the guitar. It is symbolized on a staff as an arrow that is pointing upward. And is usually next to a chord or notes. Strum is brushing your fingers or pick (plectrum) over the strings when using a musical instrument. In this case a guitar.

Today we are going to get deep into the matter of what is a brush downstroke. What that looks like on a staff and in Tab. So if your ready let’s dive into the brush downstroke.

What is the Difference Between a Upstroke and a Downstroke

First there are two kinds of strokes that should be mentioned. The upstroke and the downstroke. Here is what they look like when you see them in Tab and on a Staff.

As you can see on the music staff above there are two G chords. The first chord having an arrow pointing up. This is indicating to brush down. Then on the second chord is an arrow pointing down. This arrow is letting you know when you read this, to brush upstroke.

The difference in the upstroke and the downstroke is the direction of your hand. Which we will get into in a minute. But the Arrow pointing up is the opposite of what you would think. You think since the pointer is up then this should mean your hand needs to come up.

It’s the opposite. Because looking at the staff you have the lines on the staff. Which are the guitar strings. When looking at a Tab. Remember though, the 6th string is the bottom line on the staff. So the arrow pointing up is letting you know that you are going to start from the 6th string and go up to the first string. A lot of people starting out get mixed up with this.

The opposite is true of the arrow pointing down. This is why the symbol is called a Brush Upstroke, It is indicating that you start from the high E string. The first string and strum up to the low E string or the 6th string.

What is a Brush Strum

When one speaks of strumming the guitar you are moving your arm like a pendulum. Across the guitar strings. With your fingers or a pick you are going to strike the strings. Some people think there fingers will get ugly if they play guitar.

You can strum the strings in different ways to get different sounds from the strings. source

Also depending if you use your fingers you can get a softer sound from the strings. When you use a pick you get another sound. Then again if you use a soft pick you can get a bright sound. When you use a harder pick you get a loud tone.

What is a brush strum? It is when you brush across the strings. With the use of your fingers. Placing your fingers on all the strings and strumming very lightly. The strum or stroke can be upward or you can brush down the strings. A brush stroke is usually a softer lighter strum. Source

Going back to the pendulum your arm is consistently moving up and down. When you m. brush the strings as your arm is in the upward motion. Or you can brush the strings as your arm is going in the downward motion.

What is a Downstroke in Guitar

When playing your guitar, your arm is moving down and back up again. Mostly your hand and wrist are moving. When your arm and hand is in the downward motion this is called a downstroke. When you are strum down you are striking the strings.

Related Article: How to bend guitar strings.


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Related Questions

How do you know when to strum up or down?

When you are a beginner guitar player learning to strum is 50% of the battle. Literally your one hand is concentrating on how to place your fingers for all the chords. The other hand is trying to figure out how to strum.

When strumming the guitar you want to move your arm down & up across the strings. You want to have an even motion. Meaning from the center of the sound hole or center of guitar. Example: If you are moving above the sound hole 4 inches then you need to come back across below the sound hole 4 inches. (Evenly)

You always want to keep your arm moving. To keep an even Rhythm. Then you want to listen to the beat of the song. Strumming with the Beats. To get an in-depth look at this in action take a look at How to Get Better at Strumming Guitar.

Songs With Easy Strumming Patterns

Hey if your enjoying this lesson, you might also like the YourGuitarGuide YouTube Channel. After seeing what’s on the channel consider Subscribing.

Different Rhythms in Guitar

Most music you hear on the radio is in 4/4 time. You are counting to 4. one, two, three, four. These are usually quarter notes. If you are strumming in 1/8th notes you are still counting to 4. But now you are counting one and two and three and four.

The best way to learn how to strum is to always count. At first you can count out loud and when you get the hang of it. Count to yourself. This will also help with the timing. You want to have an even flow when counting the 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &.


The first strumming pattern is the down strum. So every time you count and say & you are going to strum down. If you were playing whole notes. You would count to 4 strums. But counting 1/8th notes you are strumming 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &.

A Good way to practice is with a metronome to keep in time. You can get a a Korg metranome here on Reverb.

Work on staying having an even strum. Keep your hand and arm relaxed and let it move smoothly with really little movement from your arm. Mostly your wrist is doing all the work. Holding the pick at the correct angle.

Downstroke Upstroke

Using the same pattern 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &. Practice strumming down and then up. The way that this will work when you are counting. The Numbers will be downstrokes and the upstrokes are the &’s. So what you will have is down up, down up, down up, down up.

When your strumming Down and up. Your not going to be strumming all 6 strings all the time. What you want to do is try to play all the strings when you are strumming down. And then you play three or four strings on the up strum. Try strumming down and up 1/8th note strumming.


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How to Accent the Strum

Using the same up and down strum place accents on the 2 and the 4 beat or strum. To do this you are still counting 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &. You are also strumming down and up. You really need to be counting so that when you get to the “2”, you can accent the strum. The same goes for when you get to the “4”. How are you going to do this. Let me explain.

When you get to the 2 you are going to flick your wrist and play the guitar with a more pronounced stroke. But still keeping your arm and wrist relaxed, and counting. The trick is to count. Then when you get the 4 you are going to play those strings with a little louder strum than the 1 and 3.

If your interested in learning more about playing the guitar you won’t want to miss out on the Guitar Bootcamp course.

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