How To Keep Rhythm While Playing Guitar

Posted by Mike Schuck

When someone says they can’t play any music because they don’t know how to keep time, it usually comes down to rhythm.

Most people when they start playing guitar never really focus on learning how to understand and maintain rhythmic patterns. This is an extremely important skill to have as a guitarist!

Many musicians that become famous were very good at creating their own rhythms in their head or listening to songs and copying what part of the song they liked and putting it into place for themself.

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By being able to recognize and create your own simple rhythms you will expand your repertoire greatly! You will also be developing another key element to becoming a successful musician.

Practice playing in time

It is very important to practice your guitar skills with a steady rhythm. When you play an easy song, like what we discussed above, you will probably start counting out loud as you play along. This is called timing!

You are already doing this naturally, but you can make it more precise by thinking about how many beats there are in a normal chunk of music. A chord or riff has a definite number of notes in it, so when you run down the list of chords for a song, you know how many beats each one has!

By learning how to count out loud while practicing, you will eventually learn how to keep time on your own! This is really helpful if you want to take your skill level seriously.

Use a metronome

how to keep rhythm while playing guitar

A very effective way to keep rhythm is by using a metronome! A metronome works like a clock that gives time signals quickly so you can keep timing yourself or get help keeping a steady beat.

A basic metronome has two main buttons, one for setting the tempo (the speed) and one to start the timer. You can use the metronome with any instrument- even if it isn’t tuned!

You can find beginner level ones at around $10–$20. There are many apps and software programs that have a feature of having an internal music library which contain lots of songs with a fast, medium, and slow tempos.

Use a click track

how to keep rhythm while playing guitar

A quick way to keep time is to use a tool called a metronome! A metronome works by clicking at a steady rate, which helps regulate how quickly you play your guitar chords.

All music has a rhythm that makes it feel natural to play along with, so using a slow, consistent tick-tock can help you pick up rhythm fast.

You can choose from many types of metronomes, some are even app-based so you can have this control anywhere! Some very popular ones are one made by Rudiments and one by Alfred Music.

Both are around $20 and will work for anyone who wants to start practicing their rhythm skills.

Use a backing track

how to keep rhythm while playing guitar

A back-up band is usually a drummer that plays along with you as you play your guitar. This person creates a steady, consistent rhythm for you to use as a base!

A musician who uses a drum set as their backup band is called an instrumentalist. Instrumentalists are not only musicians who play the instrument of the drums, but they also add bass, piano, or other instruments into their music depending on what genre it belongs to.

Back-tracks can be pre-recorded or live. Live back tracks require someone else to turn up the volume of their headphones/device so you can hear the lyrics and the beat better.

There are many ways to learn how to play by ear. You do not need to have perfect pitch to start playing by ear. It is more about learning the timing of the song and having a general idea of what notes go with what time in a sequence.

Use a recording of yourself

how to keep rhythm while playing guitar

The next way to learn how to play guitar with rhythm is by listening to your own songs! This can be done in two ways. You can either use headphones and earbuds to listen to the guitar track and the vocals, or you can use a device such as YouTube so that you can watch a video version of the song and just focus on the music alone.

By doing this, you will also have the option to slow down the tempo or speed up the beat if needed. It may even help you figure out what chords go along with which parts of the song!

There are many great sites where you can find beginner guitar lessons online. Many of these teach not only fundamentals like reading notes and scales, but also how to play some basic riffs and melodies. These could easily push you beyond the horizon for an advanced player.

Listen to music and try to keep a beat

how to keep rhythm while playing guitar

It is very important to know how to play guitar with rhythm! If you are struggling to add some groove to your playing, then start by listening to music and trying to keep a steady pulse or rhythm.

Many people who learn how to play the guitar first focus too much attention on adding notes onto a scale or chord structure, which can be nice, but it’s not necessarily what makes music interesting.

What really matters is creating rhythmic patterns that listeners can recognize as one unit. You do this when you pick an instrument like the violin or piano and use their natural rhythms to create new sounds or melodies.

Get familiar with guitar rhythms

how to keep rhythm while playing guitar

When you start playing guitar, your first instinct will probably be to play whatever song you hear or want to listen to! That’s totally okay at first, but it is very important to learn how to recognize and establish a rhythm of the instrument.

When people say they can’t play a chord because they don’t know what one sounds like, it usually comes down to this- they never learned how to play a rhythm.

A rhythm is simply knowing where each note of the music goes for a certain amount of time. The notes in a melody are organized into sequences, but there are no rules about when and for how long individual notes must hold onto the audience’s attention. It is up to the musician to make that happen.

That is why it is so hard to find beginners’ guides that tell you how to play a bass line or a drum beat! These things take practice, but once you have them under your belt, you will feel more confident in your skills as an instrumentalist.

It is also helpful to learn some basic rhythmic patterns before diving in and trying to combine different ones together.

Learn to read chord charts

how to keep rhythm while playing guitar

Chord diagrams are one of the most important things to learn as a guitar player. They help you organize your music knowledge in a way that is easy to recall and use when you practice or perform.

Many musicians cannot play chords well without them, which is why they are such a common tool.

But what kind of diagram do you need to know?

There are two main types of chord diagrams – major and minor. (Yes, there are some obscure ones like augmented and diminished, but these aren’t very commonly used.)

The difference between these two types comes down to whether the third note being stacked on is higher or lower than the second tone. In a Major Diagram, the third tone is always higher than the second tone.

This makes sense because the third tone is usually the tonic — the name given to the root note of a set of chords. The first example box-chorus-bass uses this concept by having A as the root, B as the octave/second tone, and then C as the third tone.

Likewise, the second example using majors has G as the root, E as the octave/second tone, and then D as the third tone. These notes make up the chords iambe, parallel bass, and half step.

However, in a Minor Diagram, the second and third tones can be the same distance apart.

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