Beginner Rhythmical Exercises

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To read and play rhythms on the guitar is easy!

Playing rhythms on the guitar is easy to understand. All you need to do is pair the rhythms with up and down strokes.

As long as you do this you can always work out how to play any strumming pattern.

Before we dive into the rhythmical exercises, let’s first ensure we understand the basics of notated rhythm:

  1. All rhythms are named after being in the time signature of 4/4
  2. A note that lasts a whole bar of 4/4 is called a whole note; it lasts 4 beats.
  3. A note that lasts half a bar of 4/4, or two beats is called a half note.
  4. A note that lasts one beat is called a quarter note since there are four of these in one bar of 4/4.
  5. A note that lasts half a beat is called an eight note since there are eight of these in a bar of 4/4.

Rhythm Tree

Rhythm Tree

We can use a rhythm tree to more clearly see the relationships between the different rhythms.

If you play in a different time signature than 4/4, the notes are still called the same.

A half note, for example, wouldn’t take up half a bar of 3/4, it would take up two beats.

Reading Rhythms

If you play rhythms that contain whole notes, half notes, quarter notes and eight notes then your right hand need to work as a pendulum of eight notes.

No matter what length of notes you are playing, as long as the shortest is an 8th note, move your arm at an 8th note pace.

This pendulum action will keep you in time so make sure your right hand never stops moving:

Down Up Down Up Down Up Down Up
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and

Strumming Pattern Videos

The exercises will teach you how to read rhythm, simply compare to audio example and think of rhythms as up and down strokes.

It’s very important that you focus on reading the rhythms as up and down strokes, not as sheet music symbols. When you transcribe, simply reverse the process!

After getting the hang of the exercises, push BPM for a technical exercise.

Beginner Strumming Pattern 1-5

These exercises will teach you how to read and play rhythms.

There are 5 exercises here, all very simple, your aim is to play them whilst maintaining the pendulum movement.

Make sure you can see the connection between: Rhythmical Symbol – Place in Bar – Up or Down stroke.

Beginner Strumming Pattern 6-10

Once you can play an example, start pushing the BPM!

Not only will this keep you in time, it’ll make you play without fluctuating in tempo as well.

As you start seeing the connection between rhythmical symbols and up and down strokes you are actually starting to learn how to read music.

Beginner Strumming Pattern 11-15

The last five strumming patterns are slightly more difficult and should test your rhythm reading skills.

Don’t rush ahead though, make sure you can play every example perfectly. Increase each individual exercise’s BPM slowly and steadily.

When you feel really comfortable, start changing between different tempos. For example, try it really slowly at 60 BPM followed by 100 BPM.

Changing tempo drastically like this will make you much better really quickly.

Conclusion Rhythmical Exercises

These rhythmical exercises in combination with the rhythmical Chromatic Exercises will give you a very good rhythmical understanding.

Pair this with studying exact strumming pattern from the Acoustic Songs.

You’ll learn more about strumming patterns, reading and writing charts for all songs and how to get most out of practicing when you take the Beginner Guitar Course.