Got a few minutes? Here’s an essential beginner guitar tip on finding, counting and applying rhythm to your playing. Just bounce your pick hand down and up to the count, and your guitar playing will be instantly more musical.
You’ve all heard the saying that you’re either born with rhythm or not. If you think you’re in the latter group then let’s fix that right now!
Here are three steps that will help you gain more confidence with rhythm.
Step 1: Find the Pulse
We’ve all clapped along or sung along to our favorite song. What we are doing when we do that is we are naturally feeling the pulse of the music. Here are some musical examples to clap along to:
We Will Rock You – Queen
Imagine Dragons – Demons
Starts at @90bpm then at 1:08 they slow down to @70bpm
Wake Me Up – Aloe Blacc
Meshuggah – Rational Gaze
Carpenters – Top of the World
D’Angelo – Brown Sugar
That pulse or beats per minute is your quarter note.
Step 2: Find the ONE
Step 3: Got it? Now *you* find the ONE
This can be difficult at first because you may not be used to sifting through everything that’s going on in the music.
- There is usually a pattern (rhythmic or melodic) that is constantly repeating.
- There is usually a spot that feels or sounds like the beginning of it.
- Hit play, listen, feel the beat and then find the one.
- Once you find the one start to count up: 1, 2, 3, 4.
- You may find that it fits in to two counts of 4. Like this 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4.
- Or possibly just a count of three. 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3.
Most music is in four. Which is called common time, or 4/4. Four beats per measure. Three is the second most common count. 3/4 time. Three beats per measure. After that you get into what’s called odd meters. Like 7/8 and 11/16 and more.
Here are some examples:
Primus – My Name is Mud
Here’s a song that cycles a riff that is one count of four at about 96bpm
Katy Perry – Dark Horse
That four note repeating pattern in the intro fits nicely into four beats twice. This tune is at @132bpm.
2Pac – Ghetto Gospel
At @81bpm this one is in four.
Joe Satriani – Always With Me, Always With You
Here’s one in three. It’s at @130bpm
Note lengths and Rhythm Patterns
It’s important to become familiar with the different rhythmic subdivisions to help you quickly identify what rhythm you are hearing.
Here are two charts with the most common note lengths.
Practice strumming your whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes and sixteenth notes so that it will become second nature. Then mix them up into one or two measure patterns to create rhythms.
In this video I quickly discuss the topics above and then go deeper into some rhythms and note lengths: