Tight rhythm when playing guitar is one of the main keys to sounding like a pro vs sounding like an amateur. As a guitar teacher, when many students first start taking lessons with me they don’t understand the importance of having great rhythm. Even if you want to be a killer lead player, rhythm is extremely important. The good news is, you can train yourself with practice to have great rhythm on guitar. Here are 4 elements that will help you develop awesome rhythmic timing.
Use A Metronome
The first thing you want to do is get a metronome app or an app with drumming patterns that you can set the tempo. It’s crucial to have a precision tool to help you get your rhythm very tight.
Set the tempo to a comfortable speed, where you’re unlikely to make mistakes on the item you’re practicing. Your guitar should be slightly louder than the metronome, but make sure you can hear the click from the metronome as well.
The goal here is to make the click disappear. If you are right on the beat your guitar will “cancel out” the click from the metronome. If you hear the click while you are strumming, you’re slightly ahead or behind the beat.
Tap Your Foot
Part of having great rhythm is feeling it. When you are locked in with the rhythm you don’t have to pay as much conscious attention. In time, tapping your foot will help you to develop the body-mind connection with the beat of the music.
You want to have a similar goal here. Practice with the metronome and make the click disappear. Wear shoes so you can hear your foot tap on the floor.
Especially if you are a solo guitar player, that foot has to be accurate keeping the time for you while you’re playing.
Count Out Loud
This one is absolutely crucial. It’s likely not something you’ll have to do forever, but if you practice counting out loud you will eventually be able subconsciously feel the rhythm and no longer always have to keep counting in the front of your mind for most songs.
For some reason, this is the one many students are most likely to resist. Don’t be shy, even if you’re practicing with a teacher or other students. And if you’re practicing alone, don’t cut corners here. Accurately counting out loud (along with tapping your foot) to a metronome or even a song on the radio is the fastest way to develop a strong sense of rhythm.
Keep Your Arm In A Constant Pendulum Motion
Keep your arm moving in a pendulum motion when you are strumming: down, up, down, up… This will help you when you go to learn more complex strumming patterns.
For example, if you have this strumming pattern:
1 2 3 + 4 + (One Two Three and Four and)
your arm should constantly be moving up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down. You should be making a motion (either up or down) on every half beat but only strumming the strings on 1, 2, 3, the ‘and of 3’, 4, and the ‘and of 4’.
Your arm should be coming up on the ‘and of 1’ and the ‘and of 2’ but you should not be strumming on those half-beats.
This constant pendulum motion of your arm combined with using a metronome, tapping your foot, and counting out loud will create an ear-mind-body-guitar connection that will give you rock-solid rhythm.
Put some time and effort in with focus, don’t skip any of these 4 elements, and you will transform your rhythm playing on guitar. You’ll be the go-to man or woman that other musicians will be excited to play with.
About The Author:
Ryan Popovic is a professional music instructor providing guitar lessons in Minneapolis – St Paul, MN. He is a member of the Elite Guitar Teachers Inner Circle, the Music Teachers National Association, and the Minnesota Music Teachers Association.