This lesson requires a working knowledge of music theory, intervals, triads, chords, inversions, and scales. You may also want to check out part 1 of this series, Rhythm Guitar:Part 1:Learning to Count. If you are not familiar with any of these concepts, search the WholeNote lesson and article directory for more info on these subjects.
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. Through chordal work, it can be easier to experiment with, understand, and absorb various harmonic and rhythmic concepts than it can be through doing single-note work. 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 really be very satisfying and rewarding on a number of different levels.
This lesson will focus on "strumming" concepts. Strumming
is a rhythm technique whose main features are striking the strings rhythmically and in an up and down motion. This can be done either or with a finger (usually the thumb), or with a pick (more common).
Take a look at the chord shapes below. These fingerings will probably look familiar to you (especially those following the CAGED method). Many players begin playing guitar by learning the basic, open position chord shapes, such as the major chord forms shown here:
As well as the basic, major barre chord shapes shown here, which have their root notes on the 6th or 5th string, respectively:
Next, we have the open position, minor chords:
And the minor barre chord shapes:
Once you realize that you can transpose these shapes to any key (by locating their root notes on either the 4th, 5th, or 6th strings using either the barre chord forms or a capo) and you also become proficient at smoothly changing between them, you quickly realize just how far this knowledge alone can take you. You will be able to strum thru countless progressions from popular songs, perhaps from the Beatles and many other artists. This is the beginning of rhythm guitar playing: being able to provide a rhythmic and harmonic foundation which can be the basis for accompianing a vocalist, a melody, another instrument, a soloist, or even stand by itself as a satisfying musical statement. I never cease to be amazed by just how far these simple chord forms can take you, and even after 16+ years of playing, I play these chord shapes all the time! In fact, the first chord my fingers automatically go to when I first pick up a guitar is usually an open position G chord! I will never stop loving those basic chord shapes...they can be your bread and butter in countless situations!
There are lots of little tricks and embellishments you can add to these basic chords (while rhythmically strumming them, of course!) to add a little bit of movement and spice. The following pages will outline some of these techniques while also giving your strumming a rhythmic workout. Let's go! ------------>