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Rhythm Guitar:Part I:Learning To Count

Robert Strait (6660) · [archive]
Style: Theory/Reference · Level: Beginner · Tempo: 120
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6

Rhythm guitar playing is a vital but often overlooked aspect to becoming a complete guitarist. It is probably the most important skill for a guitar player to develop, perhaps even more so than having the ability to play lightning fast or harmonically sophisticated single-note solos.

Being a great rhythm player will provide a guitarist with a variety of skills and opportunities. By working on your rhythm skills, you will become a better listener, as well as a better ensemble player. Alone or with a rhythm section (i.e. bass and drums), you will be providing the vital harmonic and rhythmic backbone that will support vocalists, soloists, and instrumentalists. Solid rhythm playing is like glue: without it, everything you try to build on top of it will fall apart. Also, very good and sensitive rhythm skills are typically in higher demand in live situations and studio work, regardless of the format (solo, duo, etc.). Rhythm playing can be very interactive and alot of fun - it can lead to some very satisfying and rewarding experiences, on a number of different levels.

So what's the first step to being a good rhythm player? Understanding rhythms, of course!

You don't need to be a genius at reading standard notation to understand rhythms, but you do need to familiarize yourself with a number of musical terms and concepts. This lesson will outline some basic musical definitions (most of which relate directly to rhythms), as well as teach you the building blocks of rhythm: note durations and subdivisions.

So what is "rhythm"? Rhythms are sequences or patterns of percussive events that collectively define a meter, beat, or groove.

So what are "percussive events"? Events are any sounds or silences which are represented as notes and rests, respectively. Although all sounds will technically have a frequency, you don't need to clearly percieve a pitch for a sound to be considered a note (for example, as in a hand clap), but every sound (notes) and silence (rests) must occur and exist in relation to time. This time value of an event is known as a note duration, or a beat

Note durations are standardized values which musician's use to communicate the amount of time a note or rest is being sounded. The basic note duration is called a whole note. All the other note durations are created by dividing this whole note, evenly, into other time values which are expressed as fractions: 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, etc. Therefore, a 1/2 note will sound for half the amount of time as a whole note, so there are two 1/2 notes to every whole note; a 1/4 note sounds for half the time of a 1/2 note, and there are two 1/4 notes in a 1/2 note and four 1/4 notes in a whole note; and so on and so forth. Typically, the smallest note value used in most music is a 1/64 note.

As you probably already know, music is written on a group of lines and spaces known as the staff. A piece of music is divided into sections by bar lines, and the space between these bar lines is know as a measure. The way we organize note values in a piece of music is thru the use of measures, meter, and time signatures.

Meter is the pattern of accented or unaccented beats within a measure. An accent is simply an emphasized, or stressed, beat. Meter is also expressed as a fraction, called a time signature.

A time signature is a fraction which appears at the beginning of a piece of music and is used to indicate meter. The upper number indicates how many beats are in a measure and the bottom number tells us what type of note receives one beat. An example of a time signature is 4/4. The top number (4) is telling us that there are four beats in a measure. The bottom number (4) is indicating that a quarter note receives one beat. Therefore, in 4/4 time, there are four quarter notes in every measure.

The rate of speed at which a piece of music is played is called the tempo. Tempo is expressed in beats-per-minute, or bpm. At the top of this page, it says Tempo 120. This means that 120 beats will occur every minute. Metronomes all have tempo markings expressed as bpm.

These are some of the terms and definitions you will encounter when dealing with rhythms, and also throughout the course of this lesson. A few new terms will be added as the need arises.

So let's get to it! ------------------------------------------->