Mastering Rhythm Guitar Playing
By Tennyson Williams, Author of The Essential Guide To Guitar Virtuosity
Sadly, one of the most neglected areas of guitar playing for shredders or shred newbies is rhythm guitar playing. Not only is working on this crucial to your song writing, but its also very much need for developing more speed with your single note actions.
Part of getting fast at playing the guitar involves a lot of work with good timing and rhythm. I would recommend that for best results you spend a good half hour to an hour first working with chords and different types of rhythm variation before moving on to solo practice.
If you want, you can use a metronome for this part, but I actually prefer not to do this, because for me personally the goal is to be as odd as possible with my time signatures all on my own. Trying to do that with the use of a metronome I find to be very challenging.
Instead, I’ll actually use a recording program to set up the most basic drum beat imaginable. The good old kick, snare, kick, snare, and add high hat on the kick portions. The tempo is usually about 120 as this gives you time to really take it all in.
Once you have this beat ready to go, loop it, plus in your guitar and get crackin’. At first its a good idea to keep chords simple, especially if you are not very comfortable with doing chord changes, nor do you know a lot of different chord variations. Power chords are more than acceptable for this part, and in fact I recommend using them instead of more complicated types such as augmented and diminished full chords.
If you have been studying heavy metal for a while for instance, this can be a perfect opportunity to work with classic metal rhythms. Its here that you can do gallops, triplets or even quadruple rhythm picking, which is of course a lot harder, but still something to work up to.
Riding either the E string or A is always a good choice. You can insert chords in between on either the A, D and G strings, or the D, G and B strings.
What’s very important when you are doing this is to pay attention to the tiny accents. Notice how the slightest touch of your picking hand palm can great dampen unwanted noise, or create cool sounds that you do like.
Try to be consistent with these sounds, which is easier said than done, but trust me – the impact that this will have on your lead work is amazing. This will give you an edge with techniques such as sweep arpeggios or in situations where you need switch between tapping and straight picking without making too much noise.
Finally, and I feel that this can really make a good guitar player great. Try your hardest to create rhythms that DON’T come in on the beat. Even some of the best guitar players are very boring because they always come in with a chord or note on either the kick or the snare.
This is very challenging but can give you total artistic freedom on down the road. Try to invert what is going on sort of like in Reggae music.
Then try to combine the two elements. By creating these layers, it won’t only keep your mind young and fresh, but will push the boundaries of what you can accomplish with your playing and shredding on the guitar.
Best of luck to you and keep practicin’!
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