[Series] Guitar for Beginners > Lesson 9: How to Practice Rhythm Guitar: Tips for Strong and Steady Rhythm
When you’ve learned how to transition swiftly between chords, it’s time to take a look at rhythm.
Rhythm is what your right-hand does while your left hand is fretting the chord. By changing up your strumming or picking rhythm, you can add a certain type of spice or texture to your playing.
Watch the video below and I’ll guide you through several different rhythms you can try, including the very useful “boom-chick”.
Practicing Rhythm Guitar: 5 Useful Exercises
Now that you know a few rhythms, let’s take a look at a few ways you can hone your technique.
While rhythm guitar might seem tricky at first glance, it actually becomes a lot easier with practice. As soon as you get used to the feeling of your two hands doing very different things, you’ll find it all starts to come together naturally and easily.
I’ve outlined a couple of rhythm guitar exercises below to help you not only nail rhythm guitar but also to have lots of fun with it.
Understand Strumming Patterns
The first thing to get to grips with is strumming patterns.
To preface the various patterns in the video above, here are a couple of the most basic ones below.
Every guitar player starts with consecutive downstrokes first.
The next step is similar to the above but you’ll include alternating upstrokes.
The third version I’ll show you is including rests. The two versions above require you to strum every eighth note.
In this version below, we’ll take a couple of rests, i.e. no strumming on a couple of notes.
Use a Metronome
The next rhythm guitar exercise is simple yet exceedingly effective – play along with a metronome!
In my experience, people are either fully on board the metronome train or not at all. I highly recommend using a metronome as they’re a useful way to hone your guitar skills.
To start, set the metronome to a tempo that’s slow enough that you feel comfortable playing to, then start playing whichever pattern above that you’re most comfortable with.
As you develop competence, slowly increase the tempo and try out different strumming patterns.
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Learn How to Fingerstyle
Fingerstyle, or fingerpicking refers to when you pluck the strings with your fingers instead of your pick.
This can transform the feel of any piece of music. It’s a surefire way to add your own personal style to whatever you’re playing.
That being said, fingerpicking can be a bit tricky at first.
But with a bit of practice, strong fingers, and the right exercises, you’ll definitely get there.
Here’s a simple exercise I recommend when learning how to fingerpick:
- Place the fingers of your picking hand as follows: your thumb covering E, A, and D strings, your index covering the G string, your middle finger covering the B string, and your ring finger covering the E string.
- Slowly fingerpick the following open strings in this order: E, A, D, G, B, and E.
- Next, reverse it: E, B, G, D, A, and E.
- As soon as you feel more comfortable, form a chord with your left hand and repeat the exercise.
For more details, check out my fingerpicking guide that outlines common pitfalls and includes other exercises.
Master Chord Changes
Once you’ve gotten comfortable with strumming patterns, it’s time to apply them to different chords.
You do this by selecting two chords that you’re comfortable with, choosing a strumming pattern that you can play quite easily, then switching between the two while maintaining the rhythm.
Form the Em chord, then start playing according to an alternating strumming pattern. Without breaking tempo or rhythm, switch to the Am chord while maintaining the same rhythm.
You’re likely going to make a few mistakes here, but that’s totally okay. The key to getting this right is to go slowly, and only increase the tempo when you feel that you’re transitioning between chords and maintaining a steady rhythm without any mistakes.
Play Along With Songs
Throwing on your favorite song and playing along to it is one of the best ways to practice many guitar techniques – including rhythm guitar.
What’s great about this technique is that it builds your listening skills. If you add in visuals – watching a video of someone playing one of your favorite songs – it’s even easier to copy what they’re doing.
While playing along, keep an ear out for when your playing deviates from the song. Mark it down so you can correct your technique the second, third, or fourth time around.
Keep practicing this way and you’ll soon be playing along without any pauses.
Get Stronger on Rhythm With a Consistent Routine
If you’re wondering where to go after practicing rhythm, then check out Tony’s Acoustic Challenge for fresh practice routines.
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