To read and play rhythms on the guitar is easy
15 play along videos lessons
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Learn how to read and write rhythms with simple video lessons
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 playing some beginner rhythmical exercises using easy to follow video lessons, let’s first ensure we understand the basics of notated rhythm.
These are the basic rules:
- All rhythms are named after being in the time signature of 4/4
- When a note lasts a whole bar of 4/4 is called a whole note as it lasts for all 4 beats.
- A note that lasts half a bar of 4/4, or two beats, it is called a half note.
- When a note lasts one beat it is called a quarter note since there are four of these in one bar of 4/4.
- A note that lasts half a beat is called an eight note since there are eight of these in a bar of 4/4.
The pendulum movement
If you play rhythms that contain whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, and 8th notes then your strumming hand/arm need to work as a pendulum at 8th note pace.
No matter what length of notes you are playing, as long as the shortest is the 8th note, move at an 8th note pace.
When you start seeing the connection between rhythmical symbols and up and down strokes you are learning how to read music.
As well as learning how to read rhythms, the pendulum movement will keep you in time so make sure your right hand never stops moving, like this:
Strumming pattern 6-10
Once you can play an example along with the video, start pushing the BPM using a metronome on your own.
Practicing to a metronome will help you play without fluctuating in tempo, a very important skill for a musician to acquire.
When you can play along with the video, try it on your own to a click as well. To take this even further, change the chords as well.
We expand on these rhythmical exercises like this in the beginner guitar course.
Strumming pattern 11-15
The last five strumming patterns are slightly more difficult and should test your rhythm reading skills. Don’t rush ahead, ensure 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, play really slowly at 60 BPM, followed by 100 BPM.
Changing tempo drastically like this will make you much better, really quickly.