Strumming Patterns and Changing Chords on Upstroke Help

I posted a video of a quick crack at Washing Dishes by Jack Johnson yesterday. I’ve never played the song. I simply played what strumming pattern came naturally and did something that resembles the song. Now I’m working on trying to improve and do something a little closer to the original. Jack uses more advanced chords than the simpler version I’m shooting for at the moment as well as a mix of strumming (with palm mutes in places) and picking. I imagine the strumming is pretty much the same regardless of the chords. I’ve watched some live videos of him playing but my ear is still not quite good enough to really make out the stroke direction on either side of chord changes so I’m going off information I’ve found here and there.

For the version I’m attempting, I’m going with capo on 3rd fret and using G, Am, D, and C. I’m only shooting for strumming at this point without any picking. I’m also not concerning myself with palm muting on some of the strokes as I’m mostly focused on perfecting the strumming as best as possible without adding too much to my plate at once. Some places list the strumming pattern as DDUDUDUUDUUDU all the way through. Others show that as intro and verse with chorus being DDDUDUUDUUDU. What I’ve came up with so goes as follows:



G - Am - D

Am - UDU

Same as Intro

Am - D


Am - C - G - D


Now I don’t know if this is correct or not but with those strumming patterns it’s what seems to be right as far as where the chord changes are taking place. It could be that Jack only uses the one pattern all the way through. My biggest issue is that all of the chord changes as I have it laid out happen between two up strokes. For whatever reason, that is unnatural for me. My just play it without thinking approach wants to strum down after chord changes. Maybe that’s a byproduct of so many chord change exercises using only downstrokes?

When I break it down into segments and practice each individually, verbalizing the ups and downs, I do pretty good. I’m even getting somewhat okay at switching from verse to chorus to bridge and managing the changing strum patterns while also successfully making the chord changes between the upstrokes. The problem is if I stop verbalizing the ups and downs and try to progress further I automatically revert back to trying to place the chord changes so there is a downstroke after.


Does that seem right to have all the chord changes between upstrokes?

Is my “natural tendency” to want to strum down after chord changes normal in learning? Possible a byproduct of chord change exercises as suggested above?

Am I off on where I’m trying to place the chord changes or do I need to just keep practicing until changing between upstrokes becomes more natural and doesn’t require constant verbalization of the ups and downs?

As the song says, “I don’t mind the digging. Baby I’ll work harder.” But I don’t want to put too much work into something that is wrong. Not so much “wrong” as compared to how Jack plays it but wrong in terms of doing something I’ll need to unlearn later. I’m sure there are plenty of songs with chord changes nestled between upstrokes. I just haven’t come across it yet nor do I even know if I’m placing the changes correctly.


Here is a very early but mostly complete attempt at everything together with strumming as above:

Washing Dishes - Strumming Practice

Hey @southofpegasus, I’m not familiar with the song, so I can’t speak to the specific strumming patterns that you have worked out, but I can try to answer your questions from a more general viewpoint…

It’s quite common to have a chord change happen on the upstroke. One example is the common “push”, which Justin talks about in various song tutorials (and maybe in lessons, too, I don’t know), which moves the chord change ahead a half-beat, so on the “and of 4”, which is an upstroke. But, generally, yeah, chord changes on the upstroke is a thing.

I think it’s quite common. It’s one of those things you need to work on very slowly until you internalize it and don’t have to think about it any more. Work in small chunks. Forget about singing the lyrics for a while (possibly a long while!)

I don’t know if you have the chord changes in the right place, but assuming you do, see my answer above.

I watched your video, I think it sounded pretty good! But you are playing too fast. Slow it down and get it perfect. Then gradually speed up.

Btw, just fyi, you use the term “palm muting”, when in fact I think you mean “percussive hit”.

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Ahhh… percussive strumming. Thanks! I’ve probably heard that before but I struggle with terminology retention. I see Justin has a video on it. Will definitely have to incorporate that into my developing practice routine. That and actually get back into Justin’s lessons. :joy:

I don’t know if the chord changes are “correct” as I have them but it’s getting much easier after a couple of hours of practice. Since it is indeed common I’ll keep working it this way if only to push my growth. I’ll have to completely relearn the song later anyhow as I learn the more advanced chords and techniques Jack Johnson uses.

Yes, I go way to fast. My brain’s natural gait is a full sprint so to speak. I’m working on slowing it down. It’s a challenge. As I try to stop thinking and loosen up I tend to want to take off and shred like Yngwie Malmsteen or something. So I have to constantly pull myself back. If you watch Yngwie he’s not even shredding. He’s just taking a casual stroll around the fretboard. I’m still trying to find the right light switch to turn on for that to happen.

Thanks John!

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Ed @southofpegasus
Justin has good lesson on percussive strumming or hits as he calls it in Grade 2 of the strumming course.

Thanks Michael!

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