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Beginners guitar lessons, rhythm - 3 tips to get the most from your strumming
Rhythm guitar playing is a lot more than playing a few open
chords, it's a real art form. When people listen to music the
first thing they hear (or feel) is the rhythm. In fact it's the
determining factor as to whether a listener likes the song or
Often the beginning guitarist purchases a chord book with the
view of learning to play their favorite songs, so they set about
learning a whole bunch of difficult chord shapes, eventually many
potential guitarists give up playing the guitar because they
could not produce the sounds they were hearing on their favorite
The trick is to be able to identify the real problem, where these
guitar newbie, tone deaf, untalented or did they simply not know
how to go about learning.
The answer is "they simply did not know how to go about learning
the guitar". In a nutshell, those who know how to learn, get it
and those who don't ...don't!
Here's a list to help you choose what to practice to develop your
beat and eliminate the confusion.
Tip 1 -- shaker
I recommend developing an awareness of your rhythm without the
guitar at first. The good news is everyone has a natural sense of
rhythm, it's just a matter of building an awareness of your
To develop your rhythm, (a) take a plastic drink container and
convert it into a shaker by half filling the container with rice
(b) Next, put on some music you enjoy and simply invent a rhythm
with the shaker (imagine you are a percussionist sitting in with
(c) Make certain to tap your foot while listening to the music
and using the shaker, this may be tricky for a start, it's a bit
like "patting your head and rubbing your tummy", it takes a
different type of concentration, with practice you will get it.
(d) Use your strumming hand for the shaker (right hand) for right
When you feel comfortable with the shaker and foot tapping, pick
up your guitar, block out the strings with your left hand
(assuming you are a right handed player) don't press the strings
down to the frets, just cover the strings lightly so that you
strum the strings with your right hand you make a percussive
sound when you strum, we don't want to produce any chord sound at
This effect is what I call a "blank guitar", because you are not
concerned with the harmony (chords) of a piece of music you can
concentrate 100% on the rhythm.
For a right handed player their right hand is their "rhythm" hand
and their left hand is their "colour" (harmonic textures) hand.
By tapping your foot you are becoming aware of the "ground beat".
Tip 2 -- picks
It's important to be able to transfer your "gut energy" onto the
strings and project yourself through the guitar. To do this avoid
thin picks. Thin picks are a hazard to speed and accuracy.
I recommend using medium picks -- Fender (brand), medium
thickness picks are good for beginners.
Ideally, as you gain more control of your strumming hand a heavy
pick will give you the best sound quality and projection.
Tip 3 -- down and up strums
Although it's obvious that guitarists use down and up strumming
patterns, the thing that is difficult to discern from watching is
that good rhythm guitarist only play a few strings when strumming
For example if we play an open "E minor" chord you would strum
six strings for the down strum and only two or three for the up
This lets the chord breath, and invites the listener into your
music. Usually the first two or three strings work well on most
chords for the upbeat.
The single most important thing for a guitarist to develop is
their rhythm, their "beat". It does not matter how many chords
you know, if you haven't developed your beat, your playing will
sound lifeless and dull to the audience.
How to Play Guitar
Rave Reviews for Express Guitar:
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Stephen J Reid
Guitarist & Musician
course teaches us how to learn, how to retain, and how to recall
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Sunshine Coast, Australia