Intro: Strum Shorthand


There are a number of ways to notate strumming. Some of them are very simple and others take up quite a bit of space. The simple ways, like [d du udu], give the minimum of information on the up-down pattern of a strum, but don’t let you know which fingers are involved, exact rhythmic timing or if there are accents or staccatos in more advanced strums. Because of this, I’ve been working to develop a more powerful shorthand notation that packs a lot of information into a tiny amount of space. This system expands on traditional strumming marks and allows players to make notes on their existing lead sheets or lyric sheets, but still have all the information necessary to master a strum. The investment in learning the system pays off, especially when you get to more advanced strums, and you don’t need to learn it all at once. When starting out, all you need to remember is that Π equals a downstroke and that V equals an upstroke. For examples of how the symbols are used in actual patterns, please see the other pages in the strumming section.

Key to Strum Shorthand

|| = barline (used to seperate patterns longer than a single measure)
{} = placed around triplets or quad combinations that take half a beat
– = placeholder (let chords ring unless otherwise indicated)
1, 2, 3, 4 = individual string numbers
P, I, M, A, E = Thumb, Index, Middle, Ring & Pinky (right hand)


Π = downstroke with index, middle or both
P = downstroke with thumb
Πp = downstroke followed by the thumb
Dr = downstroke with drag
Pr = downstroke dragging the thumb
Θ = staccato downstroke muted quickly with rh
ϴ = staccato downstroke muted quickly by lifting the left hand or with a ‘pinky mute’
X = chnk (percussive downstroke muted with rh)
x = left hand dead strum or pinky mute
/Π = downstroke with chord sliding up from one fret below
T = a touch (a downstroke that lightly brushes strings 4-3)
Ш = any triple (ΠPV, ΠΛV, ΠVЄ, ЛPV, etc.) in half a beat
∑ = quad strum, ΠPΛV, in half a beat
Џ = downstroke that only brushes strings 3-1 or 2-1
∩ = downstroke that only brushes strings 4-3 with the thumb
1c, 2c, 3c = clawhammer-style strike of an individual string
Л = downstroke with E and/or A (Pinky and/or Ring) for a ‘fan stroke’
R = roll / rasgueado of your choosing (4, 5, 8 or 10 finger)
Sl = slap
M = downstroke with the middle finger


V = upstroke with index, middle or both
/V = upstroke with chord sliding up from one fret below
Λ = upstroke with thumb
Vr = upstroke drag
Λr = upstroke drag with thumb
W = double upstroke – thumb followed by index
Φ = staccato upstroke muted quickly with right hand (or by lifting the left in case of a barre chord or by ‘pinky mute’)
Є = upstroke specifically with the middle finger (for a triple or triplet)
Ψ = upstroke that only brushes strings 1-3 or 1-2