Learning rhythms is part and parcel of developing yourself as a complete and well-balanced musician. In this lesson, I will teach you how to play some basic rhythm patterns as well as how you can learn to strum them in tempo.
Before we delve deeper into the lesson, I would like to explain some basic music theory and notations used in music. Generally speaking, most of the songs and musical pieces you will come across will have a 4/4 time signature. In layman’s term, this simply means that each bar of music contains 4 beats.
To find out what I mean, simply turn on your radio and try to count along with the drum beat of any songs you are listening to. Chances are, you will be able to count 1, 2, 3, 4 along to the beat naturally. For a start, most of the stuff you are going to learn here is based in 4/4 timing.
The bottomline is: there are usually 4 beats in each bar!
When playing rhythms on the guitar, rhythm slashes are typically used to denote how you should strum a pattern. The rhythm slash looks like the normal standard notation except that the heads of the notes are flat instead of rounded. This illustration below is an example of what you would see…
Now, let’s start with something really simple. Use a metronome and set it to 80 bpm in 4|4 timing. Listen to beat and count 1, 2, 3, 4 in sync with the metronome. Some of my students find that tapping their feet along to the beat helps alot! Anyways, once you make a habit out of counting beats, you will naturally get better with rhythms.
Next, hold a C open chord and strum the guitar in the direction shown by the arrows. Hint: Remember to tap your feet together with the beat when you strum 1, 2, 3, 4.
Easy? Let’s do something simple again before we move to more complicated stuff.
Once again, set your metronome to 80 bpm. Tap to the beat with your foot. Count “1” when the heel of your foot is down and “&” when the heel of your foot is up, so on and so forth. Then, repeat this exercise using the C major chord strumming in a down-up down-up pattern.
1. The hardest part of learning rhythm guitar is learning the strumming patterns and maintaining a steady and firm tempo. So, make sure you always listen and play with a metronome!
2. The strumming motion should come from the rotation of your wrist (NOT elbow)
3. The choice of pick should be something that you are comfortable with. I would recommend using a pick with medium gauge.
4. When holding the pick, do not show too much of the pick when strumming or there will be insufficient grip and this will cause the pick to move around when it hits the strings.
5. For best results, play directly over the sound hole.
6. Make sure that all the strings being played ring out clearly. If they are not (i.e partially muted), find out why and rectify the problem.
7. Do not strum too hard as this can create an awful rattling sound.
Here are 2 very common strumming patterns you will hear in basic rhythms. To keep things simple and manageable, all of these examples are played with the C major chord.
Play the .mp3 file and you can hear how the guitar rhythm sounds like. Thereafter, try and play it out. When you are able to repeat the basic rhythm consistently with no mistakes, try strumming the patterns according to these progressions.
When you are comfortable with playing these rhythms, feel free to move on to even more complex rhythms. Also, you can try downloading the tablature files for your favorite songs and use Guitar Pro 6’s loop function to help you learn them.
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