How to Get Better at Rhythm Guitar: Essential Tips

How to Get Better at Acoustic Guitar
September 16, 2020
How to Play Electric Guitar for Dummies
September 16, 2020

Rhythm is one of the most underrated aspects of playing the guitar. But it is also one of the most crucial things that set apart beginners from more advanced guitar players. Many novices have a difficult time wrapping their heads around musical rhythm.

The truth is, with only a few things in mind, you can revamp your practice sessions and becoming a better rhythm guitarist. If you’re confused about how to get better at rhythm guitar, these tips will be well worth your time!

Practice with a Metronome

Many beginners, as well as more experienced guitarists, overlook the benefits of using a metronome for practice. A metronome is a device that accurately beeps out the assigned beats per minute. So, if you’re just starting out, get a metronome and set it to 60-70 bpm. You can gradually increase the tempo with practice.

If you practice with a metronome, you’ll start keeping better time, which is essential for a musician.

Memorize the 4/4 Timing

The time signature or meter refers to how many beats are contained in each measure or bar. The 4/4 is the most commonly used time signature in music. Most songs, from pop to rock, use a 4/4 time signature.

To start off, set your metronome to your desired bpm then count over the beats, “1, 2, 3, 4, 1,2,3,4…”, and so on. Time signatures divide beats in this way.

A 4/4 is a simple quadruple meter. This simply means that the measure or bar will be divided up into 4 distinct beats. Practice the 4/4 by playing along to your favorite songs, which use this time signature.

Learn Subdivision: quarter notes, eighth notes, triplets, and 16th notes

When you play in a 4/4 meter by strumming your chord 4 times and then moving onto the next chord, you are playing in quarter notes. This is because the whole measure or bar is divided up into 4. If you strum only two times in a bar, it will be called half notes. Then there will be only two strums in the bar, to put it roughly.

Once you have the 4/4 down with quarter notes, you can move on to eighth notes, triplets, and 16th notes.

Eighth notes mean you divide up the bar in 8 beats per measure. This can be done by counting “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 1 and 2 and 3 and 4…”. The “and” also means a strum in addition to the numbers. For this, you will strum more quickly, precisely 8 times in a bar. Tip: use alternating downstrokes and upstrokes to ease you along.

If you divide each of your quarter notes into three notes, they will become eighth note triplets. You can count them as follows: “1-trip-let, 2-trip-let, 3-trip-let, 4-trip-let…”. Maybe you’ve noticed, each beat now has three beats (3 syllables).

Further on, we have sixteenth notes. This is when you divide each quarter note beat into 4 notes. So, you get 4×4=16 beats per measure. You can count this out by saying “1-e-and-a, 2-e-and-a, 3-e-and-a, 4-e-and-a…”. As you might have noticed, each beat now has 4 syllables or 4 notes.

Tap Your Foot to Get a Feel of the Rhythm

One way to get a sense of the rhythm is by tapping your foot along to the beats or clap your hands or pat your knee. Rhythm is a very bodily aspect of music. It helps if you can move along to the rhythm. This’ll help your guitar playing come out as fun.

Use Palm-Muting

Palm-muting is one of the essential techniques that every rhythm guitarist needs to learn. You just lightly put the lower side of your palm on the strings near the bridge. As you strum along with your palm near the bridge, your strumming will get muted.

Use this interchangeably in different strumming patterns. For instance, in the above example of eighth notes, you can mute the “ands.” Or you can do the same thing with sixteenth notes. Mix it up! But remember to keep in time and follow the rhythm.

Learn Other Time Signatures

Once you have the 4/4 learned by heart, along with the different subdivisions, you can move onto different time signatures. 3 / 4 is a popular one. But there are plenty of others like 5/4 or 7/8. Learning these will be trickier than 4/4.

You will need to get a sense of the rhythm and adapt your strumming to the new feel. If you need help with these more progressive and advanced rhythm patterns for the guitar, check out this online guitar lessons resource.

So, if you were wondering about how to get better at rhythm guitar, we hope these essential tips are useful for you. By working on these basic essentials, you can improve your rhythm guitar playing in no time!

Hi, I'm Red, the Chief Editor of Red Diamond Audio.