Learn These Essential Americana Accompaniment Patterns in D Major

Make your I-IV-V boom-chuck accompaniments in D sound more interesting by adding some variety to your bass lines.

Maybe you are familiar with basic boom-chuck patterns in different keys, but not yet the common guitar key of D major. In this lesson, you’ll learn the basic boom-chuck accompaniment on a I–IV–V (D–G–A) progression in D, then make it sound more interesting by playing around with the bass line in a couple of different variations. 

If you’ve been following along with this six-part series on strumming fundamentals, then you’ve gotten a pretty good handle on Americana-style guitar accompaniment, from the simplest strums to more involved boom-chuck patterns. We’ll close things out by exploring boom-chuck in D, using some of the moves you have already learned to play, and hopefully perfected, in several other keys.


Start With the Basic Pattern

Remember that to play boom-chuck in its simplest form, you hold down a given chord shape with your fretting fingers while picking bass notes, usually roots and fifths, on beats 1 and 3, and strumming the top strings on beats 2 and 4. As shown in Example 1, the bass pattern can start with a root and go down to the fifth on a lower string, as on the D and A chords, or, as in the case of the G chord, start with the root on the sixth string, followed by the fifth on a higher string. Practice this pattern slowly, until you can play it cleanly at a brisk tempo. And if you’d like, for the V chord in this example as well as the others, you can play an open A7 (X 0 2 0 2 0) instead of A. 

Modify the Bass Line

Once you’re comfortable with the basic pattern, switch things up in the bass line (Example 2). In bar 2, play an F# on beat 4, leading smoothly to the G in the following measure. When moving between the G chord in bar 4 and the A in bar 5, you can play a neat chromatic line in the bass—G to G# to A, and to then switch between the A and D chords in the sixth and seventh measures, try a bass line that moves straight up the notes in the D major scale (D E F# G A B C#): A on beat 1 of bar 6, followed by B and C# on beats 3 and 4, respectively, landing squarely on the root of the D chord (D) on beat 1 of bar 7. This figure requires just a little bit more of your fretting fingers, so make sure that you can play it cleanly and in rhythm before moving forward. 

Fancy Things Up

Example 3 kicks things up a notch with a pattern that behaves less predictably. The figure begins the same as Ex. 2, but takes a different approach starting in bar 4, where the bass line includes the sixth (E) of the G chord and descends, rather than ascends, between the G and A chords. Of particular interest is the fill in measure 6, which brings eighth notes—twice as fast as the quarter notes that occur throughout the previous examples—into the equation. 


The fill is played with a slide and a pair of pull-offs. For the slide, fret the E on string 4, fret 2, with your second finger, pick the note, and then sound the F# by shifting that finger up two frets without removing it from the string. For the pull-off to the open D, fret the E with your first finger, pick the string, and then sound the lower note by lifting your finger off the string in a downward flicking motion. Repeat this move, but on string 5, for the pull-off that follows. It might take a bit of practice to get this measure sounding perfect, but the effort is well worth it.

I hope you have enjoyed this series, and that you’ve learned a whole bunch of rhythmic moves that you can use in many different settings, whether accompanying yourself or strumming along with friends. 

Americana Accompaniment Patterns guitar lesson music notation sheet 1
Americana Accompaniment Patterns guitar lesson music notation sheet 2

This lesson is one of six included in The Acoustic Guitar Guide to Strumming by Cathy Fink, available to download instantly in the Acoustic Guitar Store.

Cathy Fink
Cathy Fink

Cathy Fink is a Grammy Award-winning multi-instrumentalist. She teaches bluegrass and Americana guitar and performs around the world with her partner, Marcy Marxer.