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Master Rhythm Guitar Playing By Learning These 5 Main Ideas

Tom HessAre you struggling to create cool rock and metal rhythm guitar riffs? I receive many e-mails from guitar players each day and a good portion of the questions I receive are about rhythm guitar playing. Fact is, many guitarists do not learn much beyond basic chords and end up with weak rhythm guitar skills when compared to their lead guitar playing. In this article, I will help you avoid this by giving you the all the tools you need to become a great rhythm guitar player and make awesome guitar riffs.

Starting off, you will likely need to think about rhythm guitar playing in a totally different way than the way you are used to. In order to make cool riffs for rhythm guitar, you need to think less about the specific notes you are using and more about HOW you play the notes you use. Fact is, you can take even a simple power chord and make it sound awesome without using any additional notes. Additionally, you don’t need to rush out and learn a bunch of new chords in order to create interesting rhythm guitar ideas.

You’ve likely already considered practicing at least a few of the factors that are important for becoming a better rhythm guitar player. However, if you are currently having trouble with making your own rhythm guitar riffs, this means that you are struggling in multiple areas of your guitar playing as well. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you specifically what YOU must work on to improve in your guitar playing since you are not taking lessons with me (and I don’t know anything about your current skill level). However, by mastering the following musical skills you will be able to quickly enhance your rhythm guitar playing:

1. Focus on playing rhythm guitar as cleanly and ‘in time’ as possible. If you cannot do this well, your rhythm guitar playing will sound mediocre at best. Most guitar players understand that being able to play in time means to play consistently to a beat, but few of these guitar players can determine when rhythm guitar parts are TRULY in time. If you can’t play tight to a metronome or drum beat, your rhythm guitar playing will not sound good regardless of the notes you play.

An easy way to test your rhythm guitar timing is to record yourself playing quarter note rhythms using a single note. To keep the beat, use a metronome that is playing quarter notes. If you are playing the rhythm with perfect timing, you will start to notice how the click of the beat seems to blend together with the notes of your guitar, creating the illusion that the click has been turned off. However, if your timing is a little off, the click of the metronome will sound like it happens slightly before or slightly after the notes you are playing.

Aside from having great timing when playing guitar to a beat, it is important to improve other areas in rhythm guitar playing such as palm muting control and pick attack articulation. Having the ability to play well in these areas will not only help improve your overall rhythm guitar skills, but it will save you A LOT of cash in the studio if you ever record an album. Learn how to master these aspects of rhythm guitar by checking out this free guide on how to record guitar in the studio.

2. Focus specifically on the rhythms of the notes you are playing. Just like with guitar soloing, many guitar players tend to use way too many unnecessary notes. That said, in order to make awesome rhythm guitar riffs, you only really need a few notes at most. Although it is fun to learn new ideas to use in your rhythm guitar playing, keep in mind that your number one focus is to play something with an interesting ‘rhythm’!

By stripping your guitar riffs of any excess notes, you will force yourself to think more about the actual rhythms being played. To practice this, start by writing down four measures worth of 8th notes on a piece of paper. Then remove 6 of these notes at random and replace them with rests. After doing this, play the rhythm you have just created using only a single note or chord on guitar. Once you give this exercise a try, you will quickly notice that you can create nearly endless rhythm ideas for your guitar riffs. As you become accustomed to this creative process, you can add in more complicated meters and rhythmic ideas.

3. Use a single rhythm to create many new guitar riffs. Take an interesting rhythmic pattern and use it with 5-15 different groups of chords or notes. This will greatly expand your capacity to play creative rhythm guitar. Additionally, you can use this idea from the opposite perspective: Use a single chord or note to play 5-15 different rhythmic patterns. This will give you a lot of material to use when coming up with new guitar riffs.

4. Practice to improve your vibrato technique and pinch harmonics on guitar. By incorporating these ideas into your guitar riffs, you will be able to play powerful and intense guitar riffs. Using vibrato technique gives your guitar playing a voice-like quality. Once this is combined with pinch harmonics, your guitar riffs will let out a powerful scream that will be sure to catch the attention of anyone listening. For an extra cool effect, use these techniques at the end of your riffs to really finish strong.

5. Learn creative ways to combine guitar chords together. This will enable you to think of many cool sounding groups of chords to use in your rhythm guitar riffs. If you are familiar with the idea of ‘keys’ when using chords, this will be much easier for you. However, if you don’t know about this yet, simply combine different major and minor chords together with power chords. For instance, if you are playing a guitar riff that contains an A power chord, you can add in the notes of an A minor chord to get a different sound. Experiment with this idea to expand power chords into full major or minor chords.

It will certainly take time to become a highly creative rhythm guitar player. However, after reading the points in this article, you can see that there are many things you can do right now to start making progress in your guitar playing. When you learn how to write your own rhythm guitar riffs, you will have a great time coming up with cool ideas on guitar with little effort. By practicing your rhythm guitar skills you will become a much better musician overall. On top of that, if you would like to become a professional guitarist, these skills will be very useful while performing live shows on stage and recording songs in the studio.

To learn more about becoming a really TIGHT rhythm guitar player, read this free guide on how to record guitar in the studio.

To get more help with your guitar playing, check out these free guitar playing tips.


About The Author:
Tom Hess is a successful professional guitar player, composer and the guitarist of the band Rhapsody Of Fire. He also trains musicians to reach their guitar playing goals in his rock guitar lessons online. Visit his website, to read more articles about guitar playing, get free guitar tips and guitar playing resources.

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