Rhythm Guitar Theory

Posted by Mike Schuck

Music is a beautiful thing that can be enjoyed for many things, not just listening but also creating your own music or performing it for others to enjoy! One of the most popular instruments in this world is the guitar. There are several different styles and genres of guitarist, each with their own unique style and licks.

Some people may know how to play simple chords and melodies by ear, without having formal training. This is great if they want to perform some songs they have in mind or even make their own music!

For more experienced musicians, there are times when they will look into theory (the study of how to improve their playing) and rhythm theory being two major categories.

Join the JA team and grab a cool t-shirt!

Check out our Jam Addict attire and become a part of the team that has been training drummers and musicians for years!
Jam Addict Course

This article will go over both of these concepts, as well as some basic terms used in theory.

Definitions of rhythm

rhythm guitar theory

What is meter?

A metric unit or measure of time in music comes from an Italian word that means “in place” or “after a fixed pattern.” That term, vesica piscis, refers to the way the feet move in a quick/slow dance rhythm.

The most common type of meter in Western music is called syncopation. This was popularized by Mozart and Beethoven, and you probably know it as a one-two-three pattern in songs like there’s not enough water left in the world.

That three-note sequence happens once per bar (a group of four beats) with two short notes and one long note. The length of each note within the sequence varies; some are half the size of a normal beat, while others take up almost all the space.

This effect creates something close to a sense of floating because the mind doesn't have firm anchors for where the song is heading next. It's also what makes dancing to this kind of music so fun!

There are many types of syncopated rhythms in music, but they all share a few characteristics. For instance, every second note is separated by a shorter interval than the rest. And the longer notes usually match the number of beats in a bar. - Daniel M.

How to identify and practice rhythm

rhythm guitar theory

The first step in learning how to play guitar is to learn how to recognize what notes are and when they occur within a chord or song. This is called identifying the root note, or the name of the chord.

After you know the root note of a chord, then you must be able to determine which notes go along with it! This is referred to as establishing a bass line for the song. These other notes that go along with the root are known as chords “layers”or “streets”.

By knowing your roots and layers, you now have a basic understanding of how to play some simple songs! To advance beyond this, however, you will need to establish more complex bass lines, understand modes, and study music theory.

Learning the drum set

rhythm guitar theory

The next step in your rhythm guitar journey is to learn how to play some drums! There are many great resources available for anyone who wants to take this beginner’s music lesson seriously, but what size of instrument you should start with depends mostly upon your budget and desire to pursue this as a career option.

Most people begin by learning the bass drum before moving onto the snare, then the kick, and finally the cymbal. These are all very common percussion instruments that almost everyone knows how to play at this level. By playing these parts separately, students get familiar with each one and how it fits into making music.

Next comes the pattern element – where different rhythms can be built out of combinations of beats and pulses. For example, there is a way to make a walking beat by setting a foot down on every other pulse (one whole beat equals two pulses). Or a quick tempo swing-crooked walk can be made using a regular bounce off a steady pulse, followed by a slow roll across several pulses. This article will go more in depth about patterns and their components!

Another important part of any drummer’s toolbox is the use of percussive sounds. A simple way to add this to your repertoire is to grab an old broom handle or something similar and tap it slowly against a hard surface like a wall.

Recording your own rhythm tracks

rhythm guitar theory

A lot of guitarists get really obsessed with theory, which is great! Learning about chord structures, note values, intervals, and so on is totally worth it. But what most people don’t do is learn how to actually play their songs themselves.

Many musicians have a song they love that features a cool licks or riff in the main part of the song. These riffs are usually either two notes (like a c major second interval) or three notes (like a Gm bdim).

What many non-musicians don’t realize is that you can probably just take these pieces and create your own version of them and add your own flavor to them. You can use this as a starting place to make your own riffs and licks!

And while it may sound like a simple thing to do, creating your own riffs and licks takes practice, skill, and technique. This article will go into more detail on some ways to do this.

Mixing your own rhythm tracks

rhythm guitar theory

In our last lesson, we took a look at some basics of bass guitar rhythm. Now it is time to take those skills one step further by mixing your own rhythms!

Making your own songs using only bass, drums, and guitars can be very fun and easy if you are willing to learn the basics. By adding other instruments like piano or violin, you can create more complex rhythms that add depth to your music.

There are two main types of mixed-instrument pieces – ones with an exact pattern (like a steady beat) and ones without (where the instrumentation changes).

In this article, I will go over how to practice making both kinds of beats in any key.

Understanding rhythm

rhythm guitar theory

The term ‘rhythm’ can be confusing. Some people seem to use the word in different ways. What does it mean for someone who thinks that they know music?

It can also vary slightly from person to person. In this article, I will go into more detail about what the classic definition of rhythm is, as well as some other important concepts related to it.

I will then give you an example of a song with a basic rhythmic pattern and how you can add additional rhythms to the piece. Finally, we will discuss some common types of rhythms used in songs.

Learning to read music

rhythm guitar theory

Most people learn how to read music by learning notes and note values first, but this is only half of the story! The other part is determining which notes make up a song or piece and what order they are in. This process is called reading music, and it’s definitely not trivial.

It’s very hard to tell if someone knows their scales well until you see them apply that knowledge to something else. For example, most people can identify the major scale, so they would know that any sequence of tonic-dominant-mediant-submediant (or 1–3–5–#1) is a major chord.

But what about a ii – V – i? Or an A natural minor second chord? These chords use different notes than the major scale, and thus they don’t follow the rules for identifying a major chord. To play these songs correctly, you need to be able to determine when such chords should occur, and how to play them.

This is another way that rhythm guitarists differ from lead guitarists. Lead players usually focus more on playing individual licks, whereas rhythm players pay closer attention to the meter and structure of a song.

Online rhythm courses

rhythm guitar theory

There are many great resources available to you online for all levels of rhythm guitarists! You can find beginner level lessons, intermediate level lessons, and even advanced level lessons. Some focus more on theory (learning how music works) while others teach you how to play licks and patterns by ear.

Some sites offer both, but what is really helpful is being able to compare one style against another. Which ones seem easier to you? What styles do you like? How well could you play those songs if you gave your self this time?

There are so many options out there it can be hard to know which ones are worth investing in. Make sure to check them out and see which ones feel good for you as a student.

envelope linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram