Learn How to Play the Rythm Guitar | Online Guitar Lessons

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It still surprises me how many guitarists concentrate on playing lead guitar to the detriment of their rhythm playing. The fact is that a good foundation in rhythm guitar will stand you in great stead for playing the lead as well.

Learning From the Master of the Electric Guitar

Just consider Jimi Hendrix as an example for a moment. He is widely renowned as one of the greatest guitarists that ever lived. He was a great innovator and pioneer of the many electronic effects that modern guitarists take for granted as a part of their palette of musical textures and tones. He caught the attention of the masses with his flamboyant style and outrageous gimmicks like playing his guitar with his teeth and setting it alight (literally) on stage mid-performance. He also had a superb repertoire of licks and riffs that he was able to improvise around effortlessly.

And people are often distracted by all the hype and flashy showmanship that went hand in hand with the Jimi Hendrix way of doing things. But underneath it all, Hendrix was a highly accomplished rhythm guitarist who served his time on the back row of several bands laying down a solid musical bed for the lead members of the band to work over. His rhythm work was superb and the discipline of keeping precisely in time shone through in his lead guitar work later in his career as he worked the complex webs of licks and riffs in between the chords in his songs.

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Learning to play Rhythm Guitar Helps You Play Lead Guitar, Too

So it’s worth bearing in mind that mastering rhythm guitar principles, such as how to strum a guitar is important for both rhythm and lead guitarists and the two shouldn’t really be thought of as separate disciplines but aspects of playing that any rounded guitarist should feel comfortable with.

What’s the most important technique in rhythm guitar? Well, I’d say that strumming is the most important because without a solid strumming technique your playing will sound less fluid and more awkward.

The key thing to correct strumming is to keep a smooth and relaxed strumming action. You need to strum from the wrist, which makes it easier to maintain a smooth motion by keeping the wrist relaxed, loose and moving freely.

If the wrist is not completely relaxed, you’ll find that you have to move from the elbow, which will never move as freely as the wrist is able to. Moving from the elbow will cause a loss of smoothness and will prevent you from being able to play more complex rhythms.

Try working on your strumming as part of your regular guitar practice routine, you’ll be amazed at the improvements focusing on this aspect of your playing can bring, not just to the rhythm guitar side of your playing, but to every aspect of what you do on your instrument.

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Guitar Practice Routine

Guitar Exercises are very important if you want to get better at playing the guitar. Simply playing your favorite songs over and over again is unlikely to take your playing to the next level.

You need to put in the effort and ensure that you consistently practice those elements of your playing that you struggle with as well as those that you find come easy to you. Only with a well thought through guitar practice routine, including the right guitar exercises for you personally, that takes account of your individual goals, will you ever achieve the results you deserve.

When you first pick up a guitar, you just want to have fun with it. Sure, you’d like to be able to play like Steve Vai or Jimi Hendrix one day but your immediate goal might be to learn the opening bars of Jimi’s “Purple Haze”, which is a realistic goal for any beginner to work towards.

If you were handed a guitar and told that you’re going to play like Steve Vai at his awesome 7-string-guitar-on-fire best if you practice the guitar exercises he uses every day for the next 18 months, you might raise an eyebrow. And that’s the point. We all know instinctively that our ultimate goal might be way off in the future (e.g. a blistering Steve Vai solo), but in order to get there, we need to break that big goal down into smaller goals (e.g. learning the first part of Purple Haze). It’s important not only to know where you are heading but also how you are going to get there. You have a few decisions to make in terms of whether to take guitar lessons, how many hours a week to practice. However, you must always remember that playing the guitar is a skill and that anyone can learn how to do it – there is no such thing as a non-musical person.

Think about where you want to end up in 5 years’ time, 2 years’ time and 2 months’ time. Set appropriate goals for each of these milestones and work out what new techniques or theory you need to learn, what existing skills you need to brush up on, and what elements of your playing that are already pretty good that you need to keep practicing to maintain your current level of skill.

These big goals and their smaller intermediate goals can be used to define the guitar exercises you need to include in your next practice session, and the one after that, and the one in a year’s time. Always have a plan. If you take a moment right now to think about where you are musically and where you want to be in the future, you’ll quickly be able to identify what you need to include in your guitar practice routine. Whether it’s spending more time on training your ear or improving your intonation or even just bolstering your knowledge of guitar theory, you’ll know in your heart what you should be spending your time on.

So do it now. Take a pen and paper and write down your long, medium and short-term goals. List the techniques, songs, knowledge etc that you need to practice and set them out in a logical order. Identify the specific guitar exercises you need to work on to take your playing to the next level. This will give you a “syllabus” specifically tailored to your own developmental needs that you can follow to make sure your goals become a reality.

Make sure you include all aspects of your playing so that your practice sessions are well rounded. Also, don’t forget to include some “playtime” and devote about 25-50% of your practice time to just having fun. After all, non-stop guitar exercises can get dull after a while. This can be playing the songs, blues riffs or jazz licks that you love, or it could be improvising over a jam track or with friends. Playing the guitar is meant to be fun after all, so make sure you enjoy it!

So, now you’ve identified the guitar exercises that you need to include in your guitar practice routine, it’s time to get cracking and put those fingers to work – so get to it!