A Rhythm Guitar Study That Just Kills It...

Rhythm guitar technique (strumming and chord learning) is often the cause of problems for a lot of guitar students. Not only are there what seems like a never-ending amount of chords to learn, but implementing those chord patterns with good feel and smooth chord changes can take a lot of work... 

This lesson explains how to establish an exercise that targets the art of strumming with performing a long series of manageable chord changes. Over time, the ability to switch chords easily while maintaining a smooth sense of rhythm guitar will become ingrained physically.


All it takes to get started with improving your technique here is to work on using just one rhythm guitar strum pattern and apply it across a lengthy chord progression (to establish endurance with performing the groove). Once you do this several times, you'll be well on your way to having a more successful level of ability to perform solid rhythm guitar.

The first step is selecting a rhythm strum pattern. Choose something fairly basic at first. Design your strum pattern so that it is manageable to strum. Have it be one that makes reasonable sense to your hand movements.

Begin by counting the phrase you select as your rhythm pattern. Play it while counting out loud, strumming it over and over until it feels smooth and easy to comprehend technically.

Write the phrase down on paper if you can. Or, try entering it into a music notation software program like Finale or Guitar Pro.

Once you've established the rhythm strum pattern, turn on a metronome or drum machine and begin applying it over a few chord changes. Below are a few examples that you can start with if you need some ideas to get you going...

Rhythm Example #1).

Rhythm Example #2).

The idea presented in "Rhythm Example #2" is the rhythm that was performed in the video demonstration. If this rhythm feels comfortable to play through, use it as a starter rhythm to work on your own studies. If Rhythm #2 feels a little too complex, try using Rhythm #1.

Once you've established your rhythm strumming pattern, (remember to only select one rhythm strum pattern), the next step is to put it into action.

You may want to begin by selecting a group of chords to work with, a harmony from a song you know, or a series of chords from within a key center. These can include any chords you wish. But, for ease of use and simplicity of application, it would be best to choose chord fingerings on the neck that you know quite well.

Develop long chord progressions, (beyond 16 bars in length), for maximum effect. As your skills get more balanced, make the progressions even longer. Whatever length you decide to establish, be sure to write out the chords on a chart, (staff paper). Do this rather than going randomly through chords. If you're following a chord progression that you've notated, (rather than randomly flipping through chords), your rhythm playing will be much better and it will feel more balanced.

As you get more proficient at playing through the chord changes of your progression, try increasing the speed and eventually you should try adding another rhythm pattern.

Learning to become better at performing rhythm guitar takes a lot of time and effort. The other part of this game is that, you'll only get so good practicing at home. The real development will come from playing rhythm guitar in a band. 

So, this means that anytime that you can get an opportunity to perform with other musicians; guitarists, drummers, bass players, piano players - just do it. That collaborative work is the road to "rhythm guitar perfection" over time.

Once your rhythm skills reach a level at where you don't need to practice these rudiments any longer, be sure to start finding new and different styles of music to study. 

Different styles of music will offer you a wide spectrum of variation when it comes to rhythm guitar. This means your horizons will branch out as you try playing; folk, country, pop, jazz, rock, punk, latin, funk, blues and many other styles.

Keep your mind open to new playing perspectives and always test different guitars, amps and electric pick-up settings to determine the most authentic sound for performing rhythm guitar in each new playing style.



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