Rhythm Guitar Lessons...
Add Some Sizzle!

If you're into electric guitar playing, you know that it's not all about the solos. These rhythm guitar lessons will show you some basic techniques that will help you learn to play rock guitar. This lesson is best for "advanced beginners" to "intermediate" guitar players. However, if you searched this page you're probably here for a reason. Check it out...




If you're jamming or playing in a band, you'll notice that at least 95% of what you play is rhythm guitar. What is rhythm guitar? Well, it's basically anything you do that is supporting the song. Usually there's a singer involved. If not, another instrument could be soloing.

There's not one great rock guitarist you can name who's not a great rhythm guitar player. Oh, and by the way...your soloing will improve as you learn to play rhythm guitar. I'm going to list a few of the essential qualities and skills that make up good rhythm guitar playing.

  • Solid timing. Making the chord changes on the beat.
  • Good "feel". This means the strumming is synchronized with the drums and bass.
  • Listening to others. Not overcrowding the song with busy playing.
  • Knowing the song structure and realizing ahead of time where the song is going.
  • Coming up with creative variations on chords and rhythm patterns. Not just the same old, same old.
  • Not being creative just for the sake of it. In other words, we're back to listening to others. Sometimes it's best to keep it simple.

There are definitely more qualities to being a good rhythm guitarist. However, for the purposes of these rhythm guitar lessons, we'll stick with the basic issues that most people have.




Timing and Feel...these are the fundamental skills I'll be dealing with in these rhythm guitar lessons. We'll keep things basic with 4 beats to the bar. If you feel unsure about what this means, please see music theory basics for some important insights. I'll list below what the necessary ingredients of timing and feel are.

  • Being aware of how many beats are in the bar.
  • Being aware of how those beats are subdivided.
  • Is it "straight" or is it "swung"?
  • Remember... you can strum down or up. You can hit low strings or high strings. Keep it simple.
  • Knowing where the downbeats are and which offbeats are accented.
  • Being aware of where the backbeat is.
  • If playing with a drummer, being aware of how the above elements are expressed on a drum kit. For example, the backbeat is usually played on the snare drum. The subdivided beats on the hi-hats or ride cymbal, etc.
  • As in the guitar video lesson, practice playing your guitar like a drum kit. Remember the word strumming is very similar to the word drumming.
  • Knowing what the tempo is and not rushing it.

Again, if any of the points listed above are confusing, please see music theory basics.

It'll help get you up to speed :-) And the guitar lesson video at the top of this page will also fill in some gaps.


In a nutshell...get your strumming hand together first. Then work out which chords or riffs you may want to play with your fretting hand. Be sure that you can synchronize both hands without losing the "groove". Make the chord changes on the appropriate beat. Don't be too early, don't be too late!




Some More Tips To Learn Rhythm Guitar

  • Count out loud when learning or working out your parts. I can't underestimate this point. Be disciplined with it if you want results!
  • Get comfortable with the volume knob on your guitar. If you're not playing for a couple of seconds, turn down completely. If it's a mellower part, turn down a bit. Experiment!
  • Maybe a guitar method book taught you to use alternate picking. That's fine for certain picking patterns or lead work. But with many rock rhythms, continuous down picking/strumming may give you a better feel. Experiment and find out.
  • Some funkier rhythms will be various combinations of down and up. Again, listen to the drums and try to copy them on your guitar.
  • Be creative. Listen to your favorite players and to the different effects or tones they use. This gets beyond the scope of this lesson, but you know what I mean.

The rhythm guitar lessons are demonstrated in the video at the top of the page. Watch the video. Take notes if necessary. Read this page. These are seeds that if nurtured, will grow. Trust the process. Enjoy your journey of electric guitar playing.

Thanks for tuning up ;-) I hope these rhythm guitar lessons have been helpful. They can't be learned overnight. I hope I've inspired you to keep dusting off your guitar :-)

Dave

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