Get Into the Groove: 3 Steps to Playing Better Rhythm Guitar

by Alec Plowman, Jul 5, 2018 . 4 min read

Get Into the Groove: 3 Steps to Playing Better Rhythm Guitar

When you learn to play guitar, it’s easy to focus on the flashy stuff. Ripping leads and scorching solos definitely have their appeal – they’re the yardstick by which the public generally defines “great guitar playing.”

Playing rhythm guitar doesn’t seem to excite beginners in the same way. Perhaps it’s because it seems like “guitar basics 101,” or because standing at the back playing guitar chords doesn’t have the same appeal as shredding upfront with your foot on the monitor.

But, playing rhythm guitar is a fine art, and great rhythm guitar playing is essential to making great music.

It’s the foundation – the thing that holds the song together – and shredding solos won’t mean jack if you don’t have something to build them on.

So how do you take your rhythm guitar playing to the next level? Like everything, it’s a process, but these three tips are a step in the right direction.

Don’t Just Pound on 8th Notes! 

Rhythm guitar might seem basic, especially when compared to lead playing, but this is a misconception.

Great rhythm guitar playing will add texture, subtlety and shade to a song. Bad rhythm guitar playing, on the other hand, will stick out like a sore thumb.

There’s a time and a place for pounding out 8th notes – usually as a song reaches its climax – but if you go full pelt on every section of a song all the time, it’s going to turn to mush pretty quickly.

Next time you practice you rhythm playing, really listen to the groove that you’re following and try to synch what you’re doing to the momentum of the beat. Learn when to play hard and when to ease off, and experiment with different techniques like arpeggiating, palm muting and diamond chords (essentially letting a chord ring – great during solos or epic choruses) to add color to your playing.

Play With a Drummer (Or At Least a Metronome)

As a rhythm guitarist, you’re not working in isolation. Whatever you play will be determined by what the drummer is doing. You’ll want to emphasize the beats that they emphasize.

Developing a feel for sitting in the pocket (musician speak for staying in the comfort zone of the main beat) is essential for great rhythm playing, and it’s really difficult to master if you don’t have a beat to work with.

Of course, finding a drummer to jam with isn’t always easy, but there are other ways to practice this. If you’re using a DAW, then cuing up some drumbeats to play to when you’re practicing is a good shout. And, while it’s not the same as the real thing, playing to a metronome will still help you immensely with your rhythm playing.

It’s all about the beat. There’s no point practicing rhythm guitar without one. Joining a band works wonders!

Experiment with Alternate Tunings

We’ve spoken before about how alternate tunings can enhance your in the Roadie blog, but it bears repeating in the context of rhythm guitar.

Alternate tunings lead you to new patterns and explore different areas of the neck. Therefore, they’re great for coming up with unusual rhythmic textures that buck the trend of tried and tested rhythm parts.

Don’t believe us? Go and throw on some Rolling Stones records. Keith Richards is a rhythm guitar master, and it’s his use of open tunings that has defined some of the Stones’ classic tracks.

Of course, if you want to experiment with alternative tunings to enhance your rhythm playing, you could do a lot worse than pick up a Roadie 2. Its intuitive interface allows you to switch between tunings in minutes and is awesome for experimenting with new rhythmic ideas.

Are you a rhythm guitar player? What advice would you give for better rhythm guitar playing? Let us know in the comments.



Get our free Alternate Tunings Guide!
Submit

Check out some other similar articles

Take advantage of our biggest backer-exclusive discounts and get your hands on this next-generation automatic tuner. Back the Kickstarter campaign today and be the first to receive the Roadie 3.

Today we are gonna look at the three best country guitar licks to learn now. These licks will help you in several ways.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Nov 27, 2020 . 3 min read

As a beginner, there are certain challenges you’re bound to encounter when playing the violin.

Rae Ragay
Nov 23, 2020 . 3 min read

Today we’re gonna be looking at how to play “Moonlight Shadow” on guitar. This song was written and performed by English musician Mike Oldfield. It was released as a single in 1983 and is part of the album Crises.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Nov 20, 2020 . 4 min read

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.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Nov 16, 2020 . 4 min read

Learning how to soundproof your music room is very important. It is also one of the most neglected issues when it comes to home studios. After all, soundproofing or treating your room is not as sexy as buying expensive microphones and gear.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Nov 13, 2020 . 3 min read

So many ask if you can really learn guitar online? The short answer to that question is yes, you can. You can also play soccer wearing sandals, swim with your clothes on and tell your boss that you hate your job.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Nov 9, 2020 . 4 min read

The five best websites for guitar tabs are a great resource. They contain thousands of songs, killer riffs, burning solos, and more.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Nov 7, 2020 . 4 min read

Choosing the best strings for acoustic guitars is a personal process. Just like most things guitar-related,

Rodrigo Sanchez
Nov 2, 2020 . 4 min read

Finger pain associated with playing guitar is a real problem. The same is true for joint pain, tissue pain, and muscle pain.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Oct 19, 2020 . 4 min read

Downpicking exercises are a must for many guitarists. Do you play metal? Better start working on that downpicking today. Do you like Rock? You will definitely be downpicking a while. Do you ever play power chords?

Rodrigo Sanchez
Oct 16, 2020 . 4 min read

Do you know when you should upgrade your guitar? That is a very personal question that will therefore have quite different answers.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Sep 25, 2020 . 4 min read

In this guitar tutorial, you will learn how to play “Down By the River” by Milky Chance. This song was released as the second single from their debut album Sadnecessary.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Sep 21, 2020 . 4 min read

Guitar pedals are a dime a dozen. There are just so many types, variations, blends, and flavors. I could write an encyclopedia on guitar pedals available.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Aug 25, 2020 . 4 min read
We'll be bringing you recommended tabs and plenty of interesting quotes from guitar legends along the way!