How To Play A Blues Rhythm On GuitarPosted by Mike Schuck
When playing guitar, one of the most fundamental parts is learning how to play a blues rhythm! The blues is an instrumental music genre that originated in America. It was developed by musicians from Africa and Europe who mixed their roots with American culture.
The term “blues” comes from the British word for black or African (i.e., “Blaues”). Therefore, the name really has no direct translation into English aside from something like “Americanized African Music.”
In this article, I will go over some basic steps on how to learn how to play a blues rhythm on your guitar.
Practice making the rhythm, focus on accuracy
The first part of playing blues guitar is learning how to play some basic bass-pattern riffs or rhythms. These can be really easy to do if you know what pattern they are!
Some very common blues patterns start with one note, then two notes, three notes, and so on. This article will go into more detail about this and other ways to play simple rhythmic structures in music.
Once you’ve got that down, move onto faster versions of these beats. For example, most people learn the one-two-three beat as the starting point for a swing chord progression, like A major seventh - G natural minor – Amaj7 – gm6-.
But there are actually many different swings using the same chords! By changing the timing and number of pulses in the rhythm, you create new melodies and songs.
Use a metronome to help you practice
A good way to learn how to play a blues rhythm is by learning it using a tool called a metronome. A metronome works by timing events, in this case, your foot moving down or up on the bass string as well as when you hit the next note.
The easiest way to use a metronome is just to set the timer for one of the familiar notes in a blues song (for example, if the meter is 4/4 then have it go through all the beats of a bar with a rest at the and of each measure). Then, once you are able to get the timing correct, you can add the other components of the pattern.
Practice walking the tempo of the music while playing only the bass line made with either the first or second fretboard position. Once that’s easy, move up a string and repeat but this time include the treble clef pitch.
Play along with this recording
This is one of the easiest songs to start playing on guitar if you are a beginner. It is also a very common blues song that most people can relate to!
It is called “Good Morning” and it goes like this:
Verse 1 – Chord A (G)
Pre-Chorus – C#m (or CM7)
Bridge - Dm( or Bbm)
Interlude – Fm
Refrain - G
The first part, the verse, starts off with the chord sequence A–G–Am–F–C–Gsus4–Bb–Dm–A–Repeat.
Notice how each note in the bar has a name attached to it. These names help make the music more clear and organized. The notes in the bridge have special names as well.
Solo — Bridge
Rest – Interludes
Finish — Refrain
In the solo, play all the way down before going up again. This creates an interesting effect and adds some harmonic interest.
Practice making rhythm patterns on your own voice, not another instrument. That will give you better results!
Summary: Playing a blues rhythm on guitar is a easy challenge for beginners. Try out these tips and learn how to play this song quickly and easily.
Learn to use syncopation in the rhythm
Syncopation is using a short break or skip between notes of a pattern. For example, instead of playing a note and a rest as each quarter-note, you could only play the note and a half-beat pause.
This creates a more fluid feel that sounds less rigid. When you practice syncopated rhythms, try doing it slowly so you can hear how well it flows. Also, vary the speed at which you do it!
There are many ways to learn how to syncope on guitar. You can take your time and intuitively figure out how to do it, but there are some tricks used by musicians to help understand this concept quickly. Two of these are practicing with metronomes and learning how to count syncopation.
Use pull-offs and push-ups to add variety
Add some diversity to your playing by adding some new features to your rhythm guitar technique. One of these is using pull-offs, also known as hammer-ons or bent notes.
A pull-off happens when you press one string while lifting another. For example, if the bass line in a song uses an A chord with the first note being the root (A), then press the third string (E) while lifting the second string (A). This creates an E major triad, which is similar to an A major tone.
To play a bluesy rhythm pattern, use different combinations of pull-offs within a sequence. For instance, start off by pressing all five strings for two beats, then lift the fifth string (A) and rest it on the fourth string (G#). Then quickly drop the third string (D) and rest it on the second string (F).
This adds more color to the music because now there are three different drops instead of just one! If this sounds confusing, no worries! There are plenty of ways to learn how to do pull-offs. Many books and YouTube videos have step-by-step guidance that are easy to follow.
Play using your belly button
The first thing you will need to do is determine where your bass note starts. This can be done by thinking of a song with a rhythm pattern that uses the same chord twice in a row. For example, if you were playing the chords A-Bm-Dm-G then the second Bm would be a Bass Drop (or half step down).
The easiest way to learn this drop is to use your belly button as your starting place. When learning how to play blues guitar, start practicing by moving your stomach up and down while singing or humming out the notes. As you become more comfortable, add some percussive sounds such as tapping or slapping your instrument.
Your index finger should remain on the string until the next note, so what kind of hand position you use for this will matter! Some people like to slide their ring finger under the string at the beginning of the next note, but this depends on your style and what chords you are already familiar with.
Use your lower arm to play the rhythm
The first part of this trick is learning how to use your lower body to help create the rhythm for the guitar. You can use your feet, your hips, or both to make the music!
By using your legs and/or pelvis instead of just your hands, you’re giving yourself more options when it comes to playing the instrument. Plus, having some kind of physical barrier between your hand and the string helps prevent sloppy fingering.
There are many ways to learn how to do this! Some people start by shaking their leg up and down as they play, which works well if you already know how to play with your hands only. Others jump onto the bass baritone side of the guitar and stick that foot out in front of them while strumming.
Whatever method feels most natural to you will work best for you.
Use your lower leg to play the rhythm
The first note in any blues chord is usually the root, so starting off with that would be a good place to start!
The second note of most blues chords is either the third or fifth interval, which are both called the harmonic minor scale. To play these notes, you need to use your lower leg as your main instrument — this way you can keep moving it around to match their position on the guitar neck!
To play the third harmonicsmall, press down on the string just like normal, then drag your foot up the fretboard until it reaches the desired pitch. Repeat for the fifth harmonicshortly by dragging your foot down the neck.
You can now add some vibrato to create the authentic blues sound! Add about half of the length of the harmonic major scale at each instance to achieve this.
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