How to practice playing and feeling the rhythm of the guitar

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Lyrics by Nick Brown.

Including those pesky triplets.

In this column, I would like to focus on the rhythmic side of playing the guitar. Of course, a combination of rhythm, harmony, and melody is needed to be a competent guitarist, but an understanding of rhythm and its applications on the guitar can really help your feel and sound.

Players such as SRV, Prince, Joe Pass, Guthrie Govan and Tommy Emmanuel all display a strong rhythmic sensibility in their playing. Whether it is chord ideas or lead lines, they all have serious mastery. groove and the use of rhythm.

What you will learn:

  • How to verbalize and play triplets.
  • Combine lines and triplets and solve picking problems.
  • Subdivide the rhythms for a better feeling.

Check out all the latest interviews, articles and reviews here.

Figure A is a triplet blues type lick (think about that on an E blues with a shuffle rhythm). Triplets can be counted / verbalized / smelled like “Pine-ap-ple”, “Ham-burger-ger” or “Di-no-saur” (among others!) And note that the first measure begins with two groups of triplets. eighth notes (Beats 1 and 2). Then, for beats 3 and 4, the first note of the triplet group is a rest.

Always count this and mime the hit with your right hand (without actually playing any notes), this helps keep the triplet feeling. All of these two-note chords would generally be played with down strokes (provided the tempo was not very fast) and the last part could be an alternate pick, save, or a combination of pick and drop.

Number B is an idea of ​​a bass line in chords / walking. These types of sounds can be great for adding the extra sense of movement and pseudo sound of a bass player into your normal composition / rhythm playing. The chord progression is a 1-6-2-5 in the key of C major (so C-Am-Dm-G7) but intersects the chords of a walking bass line. Either thumb and finger or pick (for bass notes) and fingers in a hybrid pick style is the choice here.

Combine the first C bass note with the 1+ chord and you get CMaj7 voicing. Beats 3+ creates an Am7 and so on. In between these is a chromatic note one semitone from the target bass note / chord. This creates movement and an additional harmonic flavor.

How about a jagged single note line? Figure C is based on A Dorian and moves between eighth notes and eighth note triplets. This can create some picking challenges, as the alternate selection works well in even groups (2s and 4s), but a triplet means you would end the group of 3 on a down and it could cause some sensation issues to start the next one. beat on an upward stroke. So maybe try an alternate selection for the first 4 notes and then try tilting the selection to help you move on the strings to get the feel going.

One final general comment – subdivide!

Even if you don’t physically count each beat out loud (and of course there are different scenarios depending on the tempo), but the subdivision with eighth notes / eighth notes is so important for the feel and the correct timing.

I really don’t think guitarists give enough importance to this subdivision process. This may be due to the number of self-taught guitarists and / or a general lack of notation reading skills. Conversely, (most) drummers eat this stuff because it is an integral part of developing a solid understanding of time and feel.

In my experience, brass and woodwinds also have great subdivision skills – they learn this early in their development and then use this technique in large ensembles, playing in sections and main lines. So don’t be afraid to get your 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + and 1e + a2e + a3e + a4e + a to really solidify your feelings.

To learn more, see this guide on seven guitar techniques.


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