How To Play Swing Rhythm On A Guitar

Posted by Mike Schumacher

When playing swing rhythm guitar, there are two main components that make up the song structure. The first is the bass line, which typically uses either five or six notes in length. This bass pattern is repeated throughout the song by way of an alternating pattern of downstrokes and upstrokes.

The second element is the chord progression, which usually changes between songs.

Practice playing along with music

how to play swing rhythm guitar

One of the most important things for any guitarist to learn is how to play swing rhythm guitar! This article will go into more detail about what that means, and some easy ways to get started learning your swing groove.

Swing rhythm guitars are typically played using either index or middle fingering patterns at a moderate speed. Both styles can be applied to many songs, so it does not matter which one you choose to start with.

Some common swing rhythm licks include:

The classic slide up the neck

Alternate picking patterns in popular rock rhythms

Varying legato approaches

This article will focus mostly on practicing by ear, and getting familiarized with some basic chords and bass lines.

Learn chord shapes

how to play swing rhythm guitar

Chord shapes are one of the most important concepts for guitar players. They help you get familiar with some of the chords in this key or scale position. Almost every song has at least one major, minor, or harmonic chord that it uses as a basis for its music.

By learning how to recognize these chord shapes, you will be able to apply them to any genre and situation!

There are many ways to learn chord shapes, but none seem better than another. Some may even feel more intuitive to use. What is best really depends on your personal style and what kind of songs you want to play.

This article will go over three different methods to learn chord shapes.

Learn how to count in 4/4 time

how to play swing rhythm guitar

The most basic way to play swing rhythm guitar is by learning how to count in 4/4 time. This article will teach you that!

Swing music is often referred to as “jazz” music, due to its use of catchy melodies and rhythms. As we have seen before, jazz songs are usually made up of eight-bar patterns called sets which are sometimes mixed together to create even longer pieces. These sets typically consist of either an intro or verse pattern and an extended coda (or outro) pattern.

The first part of this lesson will focus on mastering the basics of counting in 4/4 time. After that, we will move onto some advanced concepts like mixtures, tritone substitution, and parallel motion. To put it simply, these tools can be used to make any song you want to learn your chords and lyrics for easy.

Learn how to read chord progressions

how to play swing rhythm guitar

Chord progressions are one of the most important concepts for guitarists! They play an integral part in many types of songs, from easy listening tunes to rock hits.

In this article we will go over some basics about chord progressions and then move onto some swing rhythm techniques. These can be applied to any style or genre of music, not just jazz!


A chord is simply three or more notes played at once. The order in which these notes are played is called a chord progression. For example, the first note could be A-G-D-G (the root, second, third, and fifth chords) as your base chord. Then you would need to add the middle tone (or step), B-F#-E-B (second degree, dominant seventh, submediant). Finally, the top, fourth, or highest degree must be added, C-G-Am-C (third, mediant, leading tone, and tonic).

This sequence – starting with a root, moving up via a dominantly related seventh, and ending back on the root – is what defines a typical major chord structure.

Learn how to read bass lines

how to play swing rhythm guitar

The next step in playing swing rhythm guitar is learning how to read bass lines! This article will go into more detail about this, so make sure you are already familiar with some chords before moving onto this section.

Swing music uses chord patterns that repeat frequently for extended periods of time. These patterns always begin with an open position chord (no notes) and then move onto a close position chord (with one or two notes).

The length of these chords usually have a steady pulse which sets the tone for the song. For example, if the first note of the chord is the root note of a certain string then it becomes the tonic (the main key of the song).

By using our ear as a tool we can determine what strings these roots belong to by whether they feel stable or not. Some strings need help feeling solid, while others do not.

Knowing your songs well will help us identify strong and weak beats and chords in a piece.

Learn how to read drum lines

how to play swing rhythm guitar

The next part of learning swing rhythm guitar is being able to read drum lines. These are the beats in a song that play as you move up or down an instrument. For example, if your bass line comes with one short beat followed by three long ones, then when you pick up the guitar, the first note will be on the short beat!

This technique can also apply to songs that use triplets (three notes per measure) such as most blues tunes. When playing those songs, each chord will have its own set of drums lined out for it!

Reading drum lines is another way to learn how to play swing rhythm guitar.

Learn how to sing harmonies

how to play swing rhythm guitar

One of the most important things for any guitarist to learn is how to play chords with another note as your second chord. This other note can be either a third, fifth, or seventh degree (or whole-step) tone that goes alongside the first chord.

To illustrate this, take the song “Happy Birthday” where the bass plays an A major chord and then a G natural minor triad comes down one string. The gong sound in the music box is a fourth degree (whole step) tone which goes along with the A major chord.

This technique is called harmonic substitution and it’s very common in rock guitar songs. When you hear this done well, it creates a nice sense of flow and consistency to the rhythm section.

There are several ways to learn how to do this effectively. By practicing repeatedly, you will eventually connect the appropriate notes with the correct timing.

The easiest way to start is by learning some basic melodies.

Learn how to use a metronome

how to play swing rhythm guitar

A metronome is a device that helps you learn how to play rhythm guitar. It can be used for both beginners and advanced players, and it’s helpful in any style of music. The best way to use a metronome is as a guide.

A beginner could start by setting the tempo very slowly and simply counting out the beats while playing their bass line or chord pattern. As your skills grow, you can increase the speed of the drummer and add more detail to your song.

For example, if your guitarist loves songs with an easy drum part then she/he can create a simple bass line and stick to the basics when using a steady beat-box type instrument like a bongos or djembes. Or they could add some syncopation or short interludes between the notes to make the song interesting.

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