To master rhythm guitar is to become a good guitarist. As a guitar player, you will be playing rhythm most of the time. Sorry to break it to you, but you won’t be soloing most of the time.
I know, I know. You want to shred. And shred you will, especially if you master rhythm guitar. Wait… what? You read that right. Not only will you be playing chords and riffs most of the time, but you will also be playing rhythm when you shred. After all, solos are entrenched in rhythm. In other words, there is rhythm in absolutely everything you will ever play on the guitar.
And trust me, few things are worse than listening to an out of time solo. As a matter of fact, this whole division of lead vs rhythm guitar is detrimental. Legends like Jimi Hendrix, Steve Vai, Slash, and Joe Satriani are all masters of rhythm. And they can play great solos precisely because their sense of rhythm is so good. Without further ado, here are four ways to master rhythm guitar.
Use a metronome
There is no way around this one. You need to use a metronome to get better. A metronome is a perfect companion to develop a keen sense of time. Go slow at first. Once you have mastered the passage or phrase you are working on at a slow speed, you can then take it up a few notches. Repeat this process until you reach the desired speed. This can take time. It may not be a comfortable thing to do all the time. But practicing with a metronome will work wonders for your sense of rhythm. Check out our Roadie 3 tuner, which features a cool integrated metronome.
Play along with recordings
This is another great way to develop good rhythm, as well as many other aspects of your playing. This is especially helpful if you have already worked out the song or parts with a metronome. Playing along with recordings will help you match not only the time but the feel and overall intention of the performance. Play that funk song and really feel the rhythm of the guitar. Or try matching every nuance and attack in the recording of that heavy metal riff that you love. This applies to any style. And it goes well beyond rhythm guitar. Playing along with recordings also works wonders for soloing and anything in between.
Break it down into simple parts
Want to learn a killer riff but it’s too complicated? Break it down into as many parts as necessary. It can be even just four notes at a time. Work on those with a metronome and then speed them up. Then tackle the next part and so forth. This will provide a greater understanding of the part that you are trying to master. It can be an arpeggio intro or a Drop D riff. This applies to all styles and situations.
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Sing the rhythms beforehand
This technique is incredibly useful but often ignored. Listen to the recording of the part or song you are trying to master and then sing the rhythms. It does not matter if you are singing in tune, or what syllables you use. It can be ta-ta-ta-ta-ta or whatever you like. The point is to understand the rhythm you are trying to play intellectually before attempting to play it. If you are an advanced musician, try writing down the rhythm in standard notation before you play it.
If you can’t play rhythm guitar well, then you just can’t play guitar well. It’s that simple. These four ways to master rhythm guitar can go a long way. Despite the fact that there seems to be much more attention and ink devoted to lead guitar, rhythm is truly indispensable. And if you ever want to play professionally and make money as a guitarist, even if it’s just playing covers at your local pizzeria, you better start mastering rhythm guitar. Not only will it make you a stronger musician, but you will also have a lot of fun.