Rhythmic Reality...

Composing music with interesting rhythmic patterns is not only a lot of fun, it's excellent practice for learning how to discover new musical phrasing ideas.

When our music applies more complex rhythmic grooves we tend to expand our skills for rhythm into uncharted territory. This is really good work and can be taken to whole new levels if we force ourselves to create charts for everything we compose.

When it comes to becoming a better composer, there is one thing that I would stress above all others and that's notating your musical ideas. Learning how to write out a chart with the correct rhythms and phrasing subtleties is one of the best practice concepts I can think of.

Being able to notate concepts like strange sixteenth-note grooves and knowing how fast licks and runs look notated with accurate rhythmic concepts is an excellent skill.

Of course, this skill does not appear quickly and easily. This will take a very long time and a lot of practice.

These days I am making music and TAB charts all the time. I create them for my students enrolled in my studio lessons. I make charts weekly for posting on my various; Blogs, my Guitar Micro-Lessons, and for my weekly video lessons. And, I make charts for new guitar eBooks and the curriculum I sell off of my websites shopping cart system. It's a lot of work, but because I've practiced it for 30 years I don't find it very difficult. In fact, it's the opposite. I find myself looking forward to making charts and especially discovering how the rhythms will operate.

Since the introduction to the two most popular TAB software, (back in the late 1990's), known of as, "Guitar Pro" and "PowerTab," making charts has become a lot easier compared to when I first started. Whether you're using one of the popular guitar notation software systems, or if you're using, "Finale" or, " Sibelius," making charts is a lot easier than when I was starting out.

The main benefit nowadays is an instant test for the accuracy of our rhythmic content. Before this, constant testing, counting with a metronome, and double-checking was crucial. Now, if we feel unsure about a section we've notated, we can simply use the handy MIDI playback functions available in all of these software systems to quickly check the accuracy of rhythmic ideas.

As musicians, we are generally trying to push ourselves in order to become better. However, the area of 'rhythmic development' tends to take a back seat compared to more fun practice concepts like improvising, or developing better guitar techniques.

I don't think I've ever met a student who couldn't stand to improve their ability to read rhythms and to better control their sense of; meter, timing and groove on the instrument. This is why we need to balance our practice time between fun guitar topics and more complex systematic learning.

One of the best ways to stretch ourselves rhythmically, (aside from always learning how to become better at reading rhythmic notation), is to compose more complex rhythmic lines and chord progressions.

This is not only fun but it adds a much needed, "extra devotion," to playing better rhythm on the instrument. It also forces a higher level of attention to rhythm. However, when you first start down this path it can feel like someone's thrown a monkey wrench into your guitar skills.

To help you with getting started in this direction I wanted to suggest a couple of study ideas that will get you thinking about different kinds of rhythmic units and how to use them to become better "rhythm pattern players."

In example one, I have a very choppy sixteenth-note rhythmic groove that leans to the style of Funk guitar. This phrase not only uses several broken sixteenth-note phrases, but it also loops the phrase in a partial segment.

Learning how to both play and notate these types of rhythmic phrases is excellent work that will build better playing skills while also stretching your ability to notate complex phrases in a TAB and rhythm chart.

Listen to the audio example and then learn to play the part notated below.

In the next example, I've created a melody that applies a mix of longer sustained note durations along side of faster sixteenth-note fills. There's even a very quick hammer-on, pull-off slide lick that is played in the sixteenth-note triplet feel. Take your time learning the faster sections of this example. And, always use a metronome to build speed and accuracy.

Listen to the audio example and then learn to play the part notated below.

Before I wrap up I'd like to mention that learning to compose, perform and eventually notate more complex rhythms will never be an absolute skill. You'll get parts wrong and you'll become frustrated with different sections of music. This is natural for all musicians. We are artists and the musician in us never plays or notates music perfectly (like a robot) all of the time.

When you become highly involved with composing, you'll start realizing that it's a living and changing thing. You'll change parts and play ideas differently all the time. And, you'll be heading back to your notation to make changes until it feels better for you. You might even make changes as you're recording in the studio!

Just realize that it's all good. Composing interesting rhythms is a challenge, but it's a fun challenge and the more you do it, the better you'll get. One thing is for sure. The more composing you do with complicated rhythms, the better your improvisational skills will become.

Remember that composing is still learning to play the music you hear in your head. The only difference is that improvisation is more spontaneous, so you will need to speed up the composing process many times faster to improvise.

Thanks for reading this week's Blogger post.
- Andrew Wasson


  1. Just wanted to say that I bought your single finger chords ebook and the chords are basically the bar type but it was surprisingly good for my rhythm practices. Thanks