Basic Guitar Rhythms

One of our lovely new friends at facebook messaged us about songwriting. They asked about songwriting as a whole - and that's a rather big topic. Epic even! One thing that came out of our dialogue was they were learning guitar and wanted to know about the interplay between writing lyrics and creating guitar rhythm. Once again, that's another big topic. We helped them focus on just one aspect out of that whole big kettle of fish then we made them a promise. We would create a set of beginner guitar rhythms just for them. So, all you beginner strummers let's taker a look at some beginner guitar rhythms.

All these rhythms in the following exercises are in 4/4 timing. That means that each bar has four beats. You count like this "1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4", and so on. As you will learn shortly things can get more complicated. Let's start at the beginning. This first rhythm uses only down strums. It plays each down strum on each count. Make sure you count out loud! That is very important. Use any chord. Or even no chord. We'll get to chords later. The arrows show you which way to strum. These are down strums (from your thick string down to your thin string).

beginner guitar rhythm image 1

The next step is to learn up-strums. Before you play anything say this out loud, '1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and'. That's a great basic beat structure. To play this on guitar play each number with a down strum and each 'and' with an up-strum. Go as slow as you like. Speed is not important. Getting your up and down strums accurate is important.

beginner guitar rhythm 2

The two lessons you have just learned are the building blocks for an amazing variety of rhythms. Over time, and with practice, you will eventually learn how to play some very complex rhythms. The most important thing now is to develop accurate timing. Because a sloppy rhythm player is a very, very bad thing. 

Using the concept of up and down strums you can create new patterns. Look at the next pattern but before you play it count this out loud, 'one and two three four, one and two three four.' Follow the arrows, go slow, and make sure you count out loud as you play. That will force you to play on time and develop good rhythm style.

beginner guitar rhythm 3

Let's try an alternate version of what you just learned. This time the up-strum will occur at the end of the bar. A common mistake here is that beginner players accidentally shift the rhythm because of the up-strum. That's why counting is so important. You have to get that first beat spot on!

beginner guitar rhythm 4

We can go a step further now. You can add more off-beat strums at the start of the bar. 

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And... you can play an alternate version of this rhythm Play the upbeat strums at the end of the bar. Remember- you should always be counting out loud! Aim for a smooth, accurate playing style.

beginner guitar rhythm 6

The next thing to learn is space. Not playing anything at all is a very valid technique. And keeping your timing accurate during moments of space is an excellent technique to learn. With this technique it is more important than ever to make sure you are counting your beats accurately. Use only down strums for the next exercise. Play through this multiple times to really get the rhythm working.

beginner guitar rhythm 7

Counting beats is super important for the next exercise. Because beat one is silence. If you do not count out loud then beat two will sound like the first beat. That will lead to musical disaster. So take the challenge with this next example. Count out loud and get some nice, accurate down strums.

beginner guitar rhythm 8

Now it's time to make things a little more complex. If you don't get the next rhythms on your first few attempts, that's ok. It'll take a little practice. See the little box above beat one of bar one? That's called a chord box. It's blank here so that you can play any chord you want. Notice how the chord you have chosen will go across two bars, and that the rhythm changes but the chord never does. More information about chords will be given at the end of this post.

beginner guitar rhythm 9

The next example goes back to the basic pattern of four down strums for each bar. But, now there are two chord boxes. Play a different chord for each bar. This exercise will continue to build your rhythm skills. Also it will build your skills at changing guitar chords. Make sure you go slow enough to keep your chord changes accurate. Chords you could use are D and G, C and F, E and A, e minor and a minor or C and a minor. Those are all nice changes.

beginner guitar rhythm 10

The next exercise shows how you can start using combinations of techniques. Varying your rhythm style can make your rhythm playing sound very interesting. 

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The next example uses rhythms you have already learned. Again, the two boxes are a hint for you to change chords. Use chords you already know, or try some new chords. Go slow, keep your chord changes accurate, and keep your rhythm accurate.

beginner guitar rhythm 12

Ok, we've gone through a lot. Don't under estimate all the examples shown here. It's actually a massive amount of information. Go over these examples again and again. After a while you might like to mix and match your own patterns. And use your own choice of chords. Guess what - you're on your way to writing songs. Another thing to pay attention to is when you learn songs from bands you like. Perhaps you will see patterns and ideas they use and that can inspire you also.

Now... to chords. It is quite easy to look up chords on the internet. Or perhaps you have a guitar chord book. To make things easy for you we're adding a few simple chords at the end of this lesson. Also, if you want a full chart of chords simply click here. A chart of common chords from us will open in a new window. Ok. As we always say- 'happy jamming!'

 C Major

C Major

 e minor

e minor

 a minor

a minor

 G Major

G Major

If this lesson was helpful to you get our print quality Super Beginner Rhythm ebook. It's 18 pages of more lessons, more chords, full explanations and other great information to help you learn rhythm guitar. Get Super Rhythm Guitar.

We hope you enjoyed this lesson. If you did please remember to like the post by clicking on the little heart at the bottom. Comments are most welcome. Happy jamming!

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