Why do I need to be a good rhythm guitar player?

guitar blog rhythm guitar

It’s tempting when you’re in your first couple of years of playing guitar to focus solely on playing face melting solos, or getting oneself to the place where they can fluently shred with ease. Woah slow down Daniel-san, this is not Crossroads (it’s a movie, think Karate Kid with guitars) or the guitar olympics, we’re trying to make music here. One thing I encourage before anything else is to establish yourself as a great rhythm guitar player. You know, strumming basic chord patterns, in time to a metronome or to the original song.

You’ve heard the saying ‘ya gotta crawl before you can walk.’ Or ‘you don’t eat the icing before the cake.’.. Well I’ve come up with another one, wait for it, you gotta strum before you can shred. I give you permission to share that one!

In a band or solo or duo setting, 90% of your time is going to be playing/strumming and chugging through chord progressions. Take a listen to brilliant rhythm players classics songs; Melissa Etheridge’s Like The Way I Do, Keith Richards on the Stones Start Me Up, Dave Matthews Jimi Thing or Ed Sheeran’s Sing. All great tunes based on solid rhythm playing.

A great tune I have found in teaching right hand rhythm technique is ‘Long Train Running’ by the Doobie Brothers, a funky rhythmic single chord intro that forces the guitarist to have strong right-hand technique, you can check out the link to a lesson I’ve recorded here.

It’s of paramount importance to practice your chord playing with a metronome as much as possible. Believe me, your fellow musicians will thank you for it and it will make basic and complex rhythm playing a lot easier to learn. In short, if you want to play with others and possibly even perform one day in a group setting, having good timing is key. If you’re rushing or dragging your parts it can be very frustrating for the other players

Another important fact to remember is that now that word is getting around amongst your friends that you’re a badass axeman/woman they’re going to ask you to play a song for them and that’s a little easier to do when you can strum something familiar that they’ve heard on the radio. Single note stuff is not so exciting or recognizable on its own, playing the solo for ‘Sultans Of Swing’ with out a backing track around a campfire loses its shine if it’s completely out of context.

Ok, well I touched on a point here that I want to expand on in my next blog; what to play when you haven’t been learning guitar for long and friends ask you to play something!!….

Until then , practise, practise, practise.

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