Creative Practice – Learning Rhythms on Guitar
Rhythm is central to music and as guitarists, we have an obligation to play rhythms correctly and in tempo to be able to work effectively with other musicians.
In this lesson we are going to explore learning rhythms on guitar through studying some basic forms in 4/4 and hearing how they sound as well as how we might apply them. The whole subject of rhythm is vast and this article will only really scratch the surface, but hopefully it might give you some new material to work with in your practice sessions. There is no doubt that if you have a good sense of time and an ability to execute rhythms accurately in your playing, then your worth as a musician increases greatly.
Let’s begin by taking some very common subdivisions in 4/4 time:
How to Read Rhythms
If the reading of standard music notation is completely new to you, these rhythmic symbols above might seem almost alien at first, but I think you will quickly see that they just represent simple maths.
The first bar (or measure) above indicates that you will play two notes within a bar of 4 available beats, each note being played for the duration of half the bar. In the second bar you play a note on every quarter note beat. The third bar has you playing 2 notes on every quarter note beat (i.e. 8th notes) and in the final bar, you are playing 3 notes per quarter note beat (8th note triplets)
Now try playing these rhythms with a metronome set at around 60 BPM. You might also want to re-read the above description of the rhythms a few times (perhaps whilst listening to the audio file below) and you should quickly hear what the written rhythms sound like in action.
Also make sure you play each bar several times (you can use a single note or even a chord for this) before moving on to the next rhythm. Once you are playing each rhythm accurately, try to switch rhythms without losing the beat. Harder than it sounds sometimes..so take it slowly. Learning rhythms on guitar isn’t too hard, it’s just a case of counting accurately and taking your time.
Learning more rhythms
Now let’s take things further and look at more rhythms in 4/4. The PDF file below will give you 12 different rhythms to work with and some creative ways to apply them to your practice. I’ve also included an audio file where you can hear all the rhythms and exercises played against a click for reference.
Ok that’s it for this lesson, which I hope you found helpful in learning rhythms on guitar.