How do you get rhythm and what is rhythm? You will know you have rhythm when you get it. It’s one of those guitar things we practice hard to get. It is one of the essential “spices’. It’s takes a lot of work to be extremely rhythmical.
That being said, rhythm came to me the first time by surprise. I really felt it that night and the next night I was looking forward to be even more rhythmical. Well I could not even remember the rhythm I was playing the night before. It was a few more months of playing before I felt it again. What I found out was that rhythm begets rhythm. In other words, the more you practice your rhythm techniques, the better you will get. And for myself, rhythm comes harder than my fretting hand.
What is rhythm, it is timing, pure and simple. Timing is being able to play a piece from beginning to end without speeding up or slowing down. Timing is difficult to acquire and develop, especially in your early stages when you are focusing on your frethand. Bad timing is way more noticable than playing a bad note, and the audience will notice that too.
To learn timing, theoretically one must have a solid background in reading musical notation and that will assist you in figuring out timing issues by yourself when you read a piece of music. Without timing, notes are just notes. I’m not recommending that you take a course in music theory, that in itself is a lesson of monumental magnitude. One can absolutely play the guitar without theory lessons or even being able to read music.
Rhythm is the “feel” we put into the music. It actually is how we make a measure of music interesting. Meaning that if timing is 4/4, or 4 beats or notes per measure, than instead of playing 4 notes at the same speed at 75 BTM (beats per minute), we can play 2 notes fast, rest a slit and play 2 notes fast again. In reality if you used the tools available such as a metronome after tuning your guitar properly, than simple rhythm’s can be learned.
A Metronome is the tool I was raised on, old time metronomes, not modern electric ones or machines that produce certain beats. I still use a metronome at certain times, believe it or not, most of the timing skill I have developed came from playing along with songs on the records. No matter how you approach it, logical practice techniques are the keywords. Concentrated, focused long term practice sessions seem to be the most realistic way. Obviously you don’t want to over practice at any one time in order to avoid sore wrists and elbows or other related injuries. Limit sessions from one to one and a half hours, than back at it, if you want.
Rhythm and timing must become instinctual, like the notes you play with your fretting hand, muscle memory is unavoidable in order to become secure that your vibe is instinctual. No thinking aloud at the point of being instinctual! It sounds logical, right?
Graduating to a level that allows you to play Hendrix, one will find out how precise his timing was in order to make the beautiful sounds Jimi created. What was his secret? Other than super human abilities, he played rhythm for Little Richard, The Isley Brothers and Chuck Jackson, Slim Harpo, Tommy Tucker, Sam Cooke, and Jackie Wilson. Known as the Chitlin Circuit. Point being that most of the time he left a band was because he stole the show, not on purpose, it just happened that way. His array of super sonic hammer ons and pull offs using open strings helping to expand our musical vocabulary is not fully understood by the average guitar player, and quality players generally don’t play Hendrix tunes exactly like Hendrix because of the complexity. So many subtle things going on, lots of players never really know it. Jimi picked out beautiful notes, and they can be played without his quirky timing, they still sound beautiful, but sound nothing like Hendrix without his timing. This is true for most songs, however, most songs don’t have the timing complexities of Hendrix.
That being said, pick out a simple song with 3 chords, one you are familiar with and learn the chords. Put your tune on your player and play the chords to the music. Don’t become frustrated, it takes time, it is also very gratifying when you start to pick the rhythm and timing to the song, especially when you can recognize it. More complicated chords can be used as you mature.
The basic vibes we, at Guitar Players Center are trying to relay to you is that rhythm is absolutely necessary, but obtainable and very satisfying once you start to obtain it. Comment about your rhythm experiences and how you obtained it. Or better yet Share It with other players. Thanks and Enjoy