Get Your Groove On! The Importance of Practicing Rhythm Guitar

by Daniel Ondaro, Guitar Instructor at The Lesson Studio

The Lesson Studio Guitar Instructor Daniel Ondaro

Daniel Ondaro, Guitar Instructor

The craft of rhythm guitar, although not nearly practiced enough or given as much credit as its soloing counterpart, is one that plays a huge roll in the development of a guitarist’s overall musical skills. Practiced wisely, learning rhythm guitar can enhance a player’s sense of time, soloing skills and stylistic adaptability. Both the unaccustomed listener and master player can appreciate a player’s skillful time because of its inherent biological qualities and relation to the many physiological rhythms of our bodies such as the heartbeat. By adding the elements of rhythm to your musical practice you will not only be becoming a solid rhythm guitar player but will learn how to get your groove on in any situation.

There are many things you can do to fine tune your rhythm skills while practicing. Try to learn all the popular rhythmic styles and techniques used by rhythm guitarists. This includes the many strum and fingerpicking patterns used to create grooves found in folk, rock, bluegrass, reggae, blues, jazz, latin and others. Once you’ve learned the appropriate technique to create the groove in a particular style then focus your practicing on starting and maintaining the groove. Practicing with a metronome is essential in this process. Remember to always start your practice of different grooves with the metronome set to a slow tempo. As you become more comfortable with the groove, try setting the metronome to an appropriate tempo for the style. Then, once you feel comfortable playing the groove along with the metronome at this tempo, try turning it off and keeping the beat with your foot by tapping along.
A lot of practice can be done away from the guitar as well. Simply learning to count out and read music can be a great advantage for the rhythmic player. This gives you a practical and theoretical way of looking at rhythm and time and will deepen your understanding of the rhythm guitar. Experimenting with different percussion instruments is also a great way to enhance a player’s time. You could learn to play the drumkit or a host of other hand percussion instruments. Learning percussion will help you better relate to the groove in your guitar playing and will help you gain an understanding of your roll and others within it.
Much of the guitar’s good and tasteful soloing is not simply the notes or speed of the passage played but its overall rhythmic presentation. Think about some of your favorite guitar solos for a moment. How is that you could predict it and sing along to every part? It must be, in addition to the elements of melody and harmony, the way it is shaped and presented rhythmically against the overall groove of the music that has helped you retain and recite it. You can then say that is the players understanding of the groove and how to contrast or compliment it that creates a good solo. The best way to begin incorporating rhythmic ideas into your solos is to try practicing your favorite passages along with the groove. Simply try playing along with a recording of the groove or imagine it in your head as you play with or without the metronome. It’s also helpful to take segments from your favorite solos and cycle them while the groove is playing. This gets the solo under your fingers, into your memory and will give you a sense of how the solo fits with the groove.
The more you learn about rhythm guitar and the more grooves you learn the better equipped you will be to handle many diverse situations as a rhythm or lead guitar player. Take it from somebody who has learned to play a variety of different guitar grooves and percussion parts. I don’t think I could have had the variety of musical experiences I have had if it not been for my willingness to incorporate the craft of rhythm guitar into my guitar playing and musicality. In addition to practicing alone, playing in the groove with others is essential to your understanding of rhythm and its relation to the guitar. I feel lucky to have played with many different players in many different styles. Playing with friends or a trusted teacher can enhance and speed up your ability to feel and incorporate the groove into your playing.

For more information about Daniel Ondaro, please contact The Lesson Studio or call 303-543-3777.

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One Response to “Get Your Groove On! The Importance of Practicing Rhythm Guitar”

  1. JJ Says:

    I’d be more cautious before recommending the metronome.

    Here are some alternate views:
    http://adamrafferty.wordpress.com/2008/02/27/dont-use-a-metronome/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metronome

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