Episode 29 of the Bite-Size Guitar Podcast looks at how you can improve your rhythm skills on guitar. Rhythm is a core part of playing guitar and any effort you put into improving your rhythm skills will have a big impact on your overall abilities.
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Check out these lessons and guides to help you get started working on your rhythm skills.
- Easy Chord-Based Songs with Strumming Patterns
- 8 Fingerpicking Patterns
- How to Read Music
- Best Ear Training Apps
- What is Ear Training
If you’re new to the podcast, earlier episodes cover a lot of related topics such as ear training and reading music.
Podcast Episode 29 Transcript
Hi, I’m Aaron from guitargearfinder.com and this is episode 29 of the Bite-Size Guitar podcast.
In this episode, let’s look at how you can get better at your rhythm skills on guitar. Rhythm is such an important skill and some guitarists don’t realize just how important it is.
It doesn’t matter what style of guitar you play or if you think of yourself as a lead guitarist, if you improve your rhythm skills, you’ll become a better guitarist.
Typical Rhythm Exercises
Before we get into how to get better at rhythm guitar, let’s just have a quick look at the typical advice you’ll see and hear about improving your rhythm skills.
The typical advice you see is to work on exercises such as strumming patterns, picking exercises, and metronome drills. All of these are useful ways to improve your rhythm abilities, but they’re only one piece of the puzzle.
My goal with this episode is for you to finish it knowing three different methods you can work on your rhythm skills and how each method helps you improve in very different ways.
After you finish this episode, whenever you see or listen to a lesson on rhythm skills, you’ll be able to break down whatever they teach you into the three methods I’m going to talk about.
How to Feel Rhythm
The first method of working on rhythm skills is the one that all the teachers and YouTube lessons focus on. I call this method ‘how to feel rhythm’.
You work on your feel of rhythm by working on rhythm exercises, playing along with songs, and using the metronome for drills.
When you work on a strumming exercise over and over until it feels natural, you develop a better feel for rhythm. That one strumming exercise doesn’t just help you play that pattern better, it will help you improve your overall feel for rhythm.
The important lesson to remember with working on your feel for rhythm is that you can always get better. If you try to learn a song and you think that the rhythm is way too hard for you, remember that with enough practice, you will be able to get a feel for it and it will eventually feel completely natural.
I won’t talk any more about this method for improving your rhythm skills because there are countless lessons out there that focus on it. Whenever you’re physically practicing something on your guitar, you’re working on this method.
I have guides on my website that cover these type of exercises if you’ve never tried any before, so check it out to learn more.
How to Think About Rhythm
The second method for working on your rhythm skills is to work on how you think about rhythm. How you think about rhythm plays a massive part in how easily you can learn to play something, yet not many teachers talk about it.
If you’ve ever seen a musician sight read a piece of music they’ve never heard before and they were able to play it perfectly, they developed that skill by improving how they think about rhythm. They’re able to look at sheet music and understand how that rhythm should sound.
But this isn’t just about learning to read music. How you think about rhythm impacts the type of strumming patterns you come up with. It impacts the type of riffs and licks you write. How you think about rhythm determines so much of what you can play.
What’s tricky about the way you think about rhythm is that there are plenty of different ways you can think about it. Some people can count the beat in their head and subdivide from there, while others think about the motion of their hand when strumming and split up a rhythm pattern by thinking about up and down strokes.
The first step to improving how you think about rhythm is to first look at how you currently think about rhythm. When you hear a strumming pattern or a rhythm part in a song and you try to copy it, how do you think about that pattern in your head?
Do you break the pattern down into quarter, eighth or sixteenth notes? Do you count 1 e & a 2 e & a or some similar counting method? Do you try to visualize the pattern in written form?
Work out how you currently think about rhythm and how comfortable you feel with that method. Once you have a clear picture of how you currently think about rhythm, spend some time learning about other ways to think about rhythm.
Learn how to read rhythm notation and see if that system works for you. Try learning to count the beat using different systems and see how that feels. Learn how to visualize strumming patterns and get a feeling for what that’s like to use.
I have guides on some of these options on my website if you want to learn more.
The big lesson to remember here is that you can improve your rhythm abilities by working on the way you think about rhythm. If you’re able to think about rhythm in a few different ways, you’ll find it easier to learn complex or confusing rhythm patterns.
While so many guitarists spend most of their time working on improving their technical rhythm skills, not many guitarists realize that working on how you think about rhythm can have a massive impact on your abilities.
So I definitely recommend spending some time working on this so you can see how important it is.
How to Hear Rhythm
The third way you can improve your rhythm abilities on guitar is to work on how you hear rhythm.
At first this might sound the same as how you think about rhythm, but they’re very different skills.
How you think about rhythm is all about how you can hold a rhythm pattern in your head. How you hear rhythm is your ability to listen to a song or performance and work out what is being played.
Drummers realize the importance of their listening skills and it’s why so many drummers can listen to a song once and instantly learn complex beats, patterns, and fills.
As a guitarist, you can develop this same ability if you practice in the right way.
The good news is that working on your rhythm listening skills is easy. I’ve talked about ear training in earlier episodes and I have guides on the website explaining how to start ear training.
While I talked about ear training apps for chords and scales, you can also use ear training apps to work on your rhythm listening skills.
I used an ear training app to work on my rhythm listening skills when I was a teenager and it was surprising how quickly my skills developed.
The way these apps work is that they play a clicking rhythm, then you need to repeat that rhythm by tapping the screen or pressing a key on your keyboard.
The rhythms start out simple and gradually become harder. This means anybody can start working on this skill and improve.
These exercises are excellent training for your rhythm listening skills. The apps will tell you how accurate your timing was and whether you have a tendency to be early or late in in your timing. Getting this type of feedback on your playing is something you can’t get anywhere else.
I actually enjoyed trying to hone in my rhythm timing so I could achieve perfect scores in each exercise.
After you spend some time working on this skill, you will notice that you’ll be able to listen to a song and develop a stronger understanding of what rhythm is being played.
All Three Methods
So to recap, there are three different ways you can improve your rhythm skills on guitar.
The first way is to work on how you feel rhythm. The second way is to work on how you think about rhythm. The third way is to work on how you hear rhythm.
Just think to yourself, feel, think, hear. If you want to develop tight rhythm skills, work on all three.
To work on how you feel rhythm, spend time with an instrument in your hands working on rhythm exercises.
To work on how you think about rhythm, spend time learning different ways to see and understand rhythm. Learn to read rhythm notation, learn to visualize rhythm patterns, and learn different counting systems.
To work on how you hear rhythm, use ear training apps and spend time listening to music and try to analyze the rhythm patterns you hear.
Hopefully, I’ve made it clear why all three methods are important to work on. Each one works on your rhythm skills in very different ways. The good news is that these three methods overlap, so if you work on one, it will help you work on the other two.
Check out the links to useful lessons and guides at guitargearfinder.com/podcast/episode-29
I have quite a few resources to help you work on rhythm that will give you a good starting point.
If you’ve been finding these episodes helpful or interesting, please help spread the word by sharing it on social media or telling other guitarists to check the podcast out. I appreciate all the kind messages and feedback I’ve been getting for the podcast, so if there’s somebody you think would find this podcast helpful, please let them know about it.
Spend some time working on your rhythm abilities this week and I’ll talk to you next time.