In this article we will explore five simple methods how to improve your rhythm playing on the guitar. I hope this guide will help you to break down more complex rhythms you may encounter during your playing.
Being able to put across a strong rhythm on the guitar is a necessary skill which will make whatever you play sound much better. Of course, playing rhythm guitar is not only about strum patterns. It is about understanding what you do in terms of the kind of chords you play, their function, understanding the divisions of the bars in the music, and what you can do yourself to manipulate the rhythm of the song. This simple guide is here only one part to making you a better musician and guitarist. Try to immerse yourself fully in the songs, or music you want to play with all what it takes and take your time to experience your growth as a complete musician.
# Break Down Rhythm in Down Strums:
Whatever rhythm you play, bring it down to only using down strums, since they are easier to control for less experienced guitar players. Use the down strums also in places where the rhythm falls on the off beat. The idea is to get your playing as clean as possible so anyone can hear the feel of the song-or musical idea. When strums are not clear, the rhythm is obscure and not obvious, therefore, try to be as precise as you can, do not rush it until you have nailed down your strum pattern to a strong grove.
# Regular Strum Pattern Or….?
Once you have your strum pattern in place, ask yourself what is going on: Is the pattern I play here occur over one bar, or over two or more bars? Is it a regular occurring pattern, or does the pattern change somewhere mid song? All of these questions help you to become more aware of what is going on in the music or song you are playing.
At some point most of the mentioned above will become second nature, and —hopefully— you will be able to make any rhythm changes on the fly of the moment. For now, just take it slow and make sure you understand what is going on with regards to the rhythm of the song.
#Play Strum Pattern Using Up-and Down Strums:
Once you are comfortable with the strum pattern you play, have a look at where the up beats are in the pattern. Once you are aware of your upbeats, play the strum pattern you have been playing before, by using down-and up strums. Use down strums for playing on the beat, use the up strums for playing off the beat. This will result in a smoother execution of the rhythm.
Clap the rhythm you want to play by using your hands, or use simple hand percussion such as tambourine or a simple woodblock. Being able to play simple percussion instruments, or even drums, will improve your understanding of rhythm even better. You may say: “I only want to play a few songs on the guitar” I hear you, but it takes time to get those songs right and whilst you are on your journey you may become aware of how much fun it can be to play some simple percussion instruments. Play the back beat of the song you are working on on a tambourine. Once you start to feel where you place those beats with the tambourine you may be able to play those same beats on the guitar without too much effort. Keep working at it, also count where you actually play. All of this will become second nature after a while, it will also help you to correct errors or get through difficult passages in songs.
#Change Strum Pattern:
Try this idea once you feel you have absorbed all the above, since changing the strum pattern on purpose, will create a change in the rhythm and feel of the song.
Change the strum pattern by creating a pause, a rest, a moment where you do not play, in the music. If you have a strum pattern which occurs on every bar, why not create a two bar strum pattern with some variety, something which may add a bit of excitement to your playing. Once you will start working with some of the above mentioned ideas, you will discover the endless options you have for creating different feels–strum patterns— which will make your songs sound more alive.
Keep working on your playing and keep counting, but have fun at the same time.