How To Improve Guitar RhythmPosted by Mike Schuck
When it comes down to it, guitar rhythm is all about timing. It’s not just counting how many beats you have in a bar or pattern, but when you use one chord as a base, what notes you play and where you place those notes within the bar!
This article will go into more detail about some of these concepts including: using basic patterns, practicing with music, and strategies for improving your timing.
Pay attention to how they use rhythm
It is very important to recognize what parts of your guitar playing you feel confident in before moving onto more difficult concepts. If you are able to play some chords, then go ahead and practice those! They are definitely easier to learn than notes and rhythms.
Once you have mastered that, move onto practicing some bass lines or melodies. Once you can play those easily, add some rhythmic patterns to mix it up.
You will find that as you progress, there are several types of rhythms you can apply to music. Some are more complex than others, but no matter which one you know, just adding some syncopation to your songs or pieces can make them sound much better.
Keep an eye on the time
The first thing you need to do is learn how to watch your guitar rhythm! This will take some practice, but once you get it down you can create so many new songs!
The hardest part of learning how to play guitar rhythm is actually watching yourself play. You have to be able to listen to yourself and understand what parts of the song you are playing and why.
You should be aware of what notes you’re hitting, how long each note is, and whether they sync up with the rest of the music. All of these things contribute to creating smooth guitar rhythms.
Learn how to use your whole body when playing
The second major concept in improving guitar rhythm is using your whole body while playing. When you do this, it can become very natural and fluid!
Most people learn how to play by thinking about only their hands as they finger pick or strum the instrument. Some add leg movement but these are usually more like knee slides than anything else.
There’s an added dimension that many musicians don’t consider though – what we refer to as torso motion. This happens when someone adds vertical momentum to their body while performing.
A guitarist may hold his/her hand up high while fingers dart around the neck, for example, or thump their foot down hard with each beat. Both of these actions feel good and sound cool, but they're not quite right.
The reason is because both rely too much on the arms alone. By limiting yourself to just the arm muscles, you risk losing some control over the music.
When playing any instrument, having strong muscles will help you produce better sounds and keep time correctly. For bassists, keeping your legs moving helps lower your overall pitch so it doesn't clash with the higher notes.
For guitar players, adding some vertical bounce to your body can strengthen your rhythm skills.
Practice making consistent rhythm
The second way to improve your guitar rhythm is by practicing how to make a steady, constant rhythm. This can be done at the pace you choose (usually faster) or slower than what people might consider normal for an easy song.
Practice doing this not only with simple rhythms like duple time or triple time, but also quadruple time! And of course, add some variety to it — double meter does not have to stay in pairs every two beats.
Use a metronome
A quick way to improve your guitar rhythm is by using a metronome! A metronome helps regulate how fast you play an instrument. By having one, you can use it to help with practice routines or just for fun.
A basic metronome has two main buttons: Start and Reset. When the start button is pressed, the device will slowly increase the speed of a song or piece. The reset button does the opposite; it lowers the speed of the music until it is completely stopped.
Using a metronome in combination with a drum machine is very helpful when learning guitar rhythm. You can pick any note on the guitar as the “drum” part and the computerized drummer will keep time with the rhythm box!
This software will also let you create your own songs or rhythms easily! It is perfect for practicing not only guitar rhythm, but other types of music as well.
Learn to count perfectly
The next thing you will want to do is learn how to count correctly! This is an integral part of guitar rhythm as well as music theory in general. You can start by learning your base numbers (think one, two, three, etc.). Then move onto higher numbers such as half, quarter, eighth, sixteenth notes, and so on.
Once you have mastered that, you can begin counting at a normal speed and then increasing or decreasing the number of beats per minute (BPM). For example, if you wanted to play a song with a meter pattern of 4/4 time, you would need to know what a simple fourth note is called (an accented or stressed fourth).
This is usually just referred to as a fourth note or sometimes even a rising fourth note. To play this note effectively, you must be able to identify which finger to use for each beat.
Use a click track
A very common way to improve your guitar rhythm is by using a pre-recorded music track as a source of inspiration. A popular method for doing this is creating a syncopated pattern that you can use to help keep time with the track.
By adding some extra accents or omissions in your timing, you create a more fluid rhythmic style. This can be done manually, but it is much easier to do it automatically with a device such as Ableton Live or Pro Tools.
These types of software programs have ways to add background tracks or “loops” into their projects. You can then take control over when these loops are placed in the song and how long they last for.
Play along with music
One of the most fundamental things you can do to improve your guitar rhythm is to play along with what you’re listening to. You can pick up the rhythm track or song you are learning by playing it as fast as possible while keeping time!
You can also practice timing patterns such as alternating tempos, half notes, whole notes, and deceleration/acceleration. Starting off slowly and quickly taming the speed will help you achieve this!
Practice timing patterns in time with the beat
Using our initial example, if you were practicing the pattern we discussed earlier (the one-two-three-and-one-and-two-and-three-four-five pattern) you could start at a moderate tempo and increase the speed until you reach where the pattern becomes too quick. At that point, add some silence between each number to make it slightly longer.
This way you won’t have any gaps in the sequence but still feel like you’ve got control over how many times per minute the pattern goes. Once you get the hang of this technique, you can add silence when needed and vary the length depending on the tone you want to give the note or chord.
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