How To Play Reggae Rhythm On Acoustic Guitar

Posted by Mike Schumacher

Reggae music is one of the most popular genres in America today! It’s no wonder why people enjoy it so much; you can’t help but get into the groove when listening to a reggae song.

If you want to learn how to play rhythm guitar like a pro, then this article has got your name down as an appropriate target. You will learn some easy ways to play reggae rhythms on acoustic guitar.

There are three main beats in every reggae song, which makes learning the rhythm pretty simple. The first beat is known as the kick drum or foot pattern. This is typically played with either a closed fist or open hand.

The second beat is called the hi-hat pattern, which sounds something like clap-clap-slap. For this type of pattern, you use both hands (one for the slap part and one for the clapping part).

And lastly, the third beat is the ride cymbal pattern. This is similar to the hi-hat pattern except that there is only one hit per stroke.

Learn the chords

how to play reggae rhythm on acoustic guitar

The first step in playing rhythm guitar is learning your chord structure! There are many great resources available via YouTube, music theory books, or through your favorite guitar store.

You can start by looking up some basic one-chord songs like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” or “Happy Birthday”. Once you have those licks down, you can move onto more complex songs.

There are two main types of chords used in reggae music: power chords and diatonic chords. Power chords use the same notes as an ordinary major or minor chord, but with a higher number of strings (think: superhero theme song power chords). Diatonic chords do not contain any accidental notes. An accidental note is a non-standard tone that sits next to another tone for sound effect. For example, the second most common type of reggae chord is the half-power chord, which has only the third string bent.

Practice playing the chords

how to play reggae rhythm on acoustic guitar

A chord is a group of notes that play together to create an extended tone or shape. There are three main types of chords, all built off of the same underlying structure.

The first type is called a major chord. A major chord contains at least one note that is a perfect fifth (two octaves that get merged into one) above another note. The most common example of this is the root position chord, where there’s a G in the middle. Then you have an E sharp five steps up, which adds one more semitone (a difference in pitch). This creates a very strong sound, usually categorized as “bright”.

A second type of chord is called a minor chord. Here, the third degree (third highest) note is a half step down from the second degree (second highest) note. An example would be a Dm chord, with a tonal center of a D natural. To make it even more pronounced, drop the lowest note by a half step too, creating an F#.

Another type of chord is what we refer to as a neutral chord. These don’t contain any raised tones, making them less bright than a major chord and darker than a minor chord. An easy way to think about these is having a quiet base, like a lull before the next piece of music.

Use a metronome

A very helpful tool for learning how to play rhythm is a metronome! A metronome works by timing something, in this case music. As you can probably guess, it times something out!

A basic way to use a metronome is to set it up with a slow tempo (think rest between each note) and then mark one of the notes as the “target” or important part of the song. You could say that target note has a job to do, so you should make sure it does its job well.

After setting the target note, the metronome will time how long it takes to hit the next note. Once it hits that note, you move onto the next target until all the notes have been timed.

You can use the metronome to learn any type of pattern, not just reggae rhythms! It can be used to practice technique or to create your own patterns.

Tone your guitar

how to play reggae rhythm on acoustic guitar

When playing reggae music, there is an important tone you use to play some of the chords. This chord structure uses the third major scale note as its root, which is D in the song “Hey Jude” by The Beatles.

To play this chord, your index finger needs to hit the third scale degree (D) just like it does for any other tri-tone chord. Then your middle finger needs to climb up one fret to reach the next higher pitch, A at the second string position. Your ring finger needs to bend down to press the fifth scale degree (G), then back up to strike the fourth scale degree (F).

You can also add vibrato to strengthen the sound! Add about half of a shake to each note to create more depth. Take your hand off the neck slightly so that only the top part moves.

This whole process should take around two seconds depending on how quickly you are able to move your fingers. If you have trouble getting those notes, try moving them faster or slower until you find a speed that works for you.

Learn to read music

how to play reggae rhythm on acoustic guitar

Learning how to play rhythm guitar is one of the most fundamental things you can do as a guitarist! Rhythms are what give songs their structure, and it does not matter whether you are playing jazz, rock, pop, or reggae music – learning how to play them is always important.

There are many ways to learn how to read rhythms. Some people start by writing out the notes for each chord and then linking those together into a rhythmic pattern, while others use notation that starts with the footfalls first and builds from there.

Either way works, but in this article we will go over another method that can be very helpful. This technique uses natural syllables to help identify the beats in a song.

Mix your reggae with other rhythms

how to play reggae rhythm on acoustic guitar

In addition to learning how to play simple rhythmic patterns in reggae, like 6/8 or 2-4-2-3, you can also mix it up by adding additional accents or changes to the rhythm.

For instance, when playing an eight note group (like a quarter note, half note, and two whole notes) as one unit, you could add a short accentual break before the second whole note, creating a 4+2 pattern that repeats.

This technique is called a syncopated pattern and is typically used in Latin music. You can use it in any number of situations where there are groups of three sequential notes.

Create your own reggae songs

how to play reggae rhythm on acoustic guitar

One of the most important things about learning how to play rhythm guitar is being able to create your own music! You can do this by mixing together various riffs, melodies, and rhythms that you like in order to develop your own song repertoire.
As we have discussed before, chords are very helpful when it comes to playing rhythm guitar. By knowing several chords, you will not be limited to using only certain notes or patterns for your songs.

You can use different chord shapes to add some variety to your songs. For example, if the chorus of a song uses an Em chord, you could choose to use an Ab chord instead for another catchy verse.

Another way to mix up the rhythm parts of a song is to use tritone substitution. A tritone is one whole step away from a given note. So, if the main note of a chord is the third degree (A), then the second degree (B) would be a tritone. If the final note of a melody or riff is a tritone, you can replace it with the second degree (B).

This article will go into more detail on how to apply tritone substitutions onto our regular pattern.

Connect with other reggae fans

how to play reggae rhythm on acoustic guitar

One of the most important things for any aspiring acoustic guitarists is connecting with others in the music community. Whether it’s through social media sites or meet-up groups, there are always people around you who love reggae music.

Some may know even more advanced songs than you do, but they’re still willing to help you out by teaching you some new licks or tips. You can also find yourself singing along to certain songs if you pay attention and learn how the artist structured their song.

And don’t forget about live performances! Many musicians will share their instruments so that you can pick up something from them as well.

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