Rhythm Guitar Lesson 1a: Note divisions, terminology and practice ideas

Click here for the link to our audio for the first part of the first lesson in our mini-series on rhyth,

This is the first lesson in our new mini-series on the topic of rhythm. RIP Jeff Beck 😦

Dan and I, in our first lesson look over the basics of rhythm: Firstly, covering what the difference between a quarter note, eighth note and sixteenth note along with the synonyms of crotchet, quaver and semi-quaver. Next Dan talks about staccato, dotted notes, tied notes, off-beats and counting; along with guitar strumming techniques which work for him. Finally, we look at some reggae and funk examples – although the funk examples will be reserved for next instalment of the podcast when we will release the second half of the first lesson. Stay tuned for some brilliant reminders for your practice and how to play sixteenth note funk strumming patterns  with confidence and so that they sound groovy – all coming up in Rhythm Guitar Lesson 1b. I have been adding to my own new practice regime lots of metronome work based on what we will discuss next time.

I have always struggled with rhythm playing: it doesn’t come very naturally to me. Recently, I have been coming to the realisation that this aspect of my playing, while I have already worked hard to really improve it, needs a lot more work and practice. I remember having a discussion with a musician friend of mine and we were discussing ‘groove’ and ‘being in the pocket’ and he mentioned a person who he played with sounding so professional and being of the mind that it is because her rhythm playing is so strong and well-rehearsed. This rings true for me and I can hear that same level of precision and expertise in Dan’s playing.

In order to make improvements, I have been using a metronome a lot and playing through the ‘spider gym’. I have also been using the metronome to get in a groove and get my foot tapping. This is something which I still find very difficult to maintain and be consistent with , particularly when playing off the beat or using sixteenth note syncopation. Recognising how much more work I need to do, I turned to a program which I have had for many years – EarMaster – which has really improved in its capacity to use an interface and hence a guitar to input a response. With this realisation I began to play through a course on ‘reading rhythm’ really valuing the real-time responsiveness of the program to show me where my playing is in terms of the beat.

I really recommend this program, however, I do appreciate it may not be for everyone and enthusiasm for it may well be determined by confidence and other methods of rehearsing rhythm – e.g. if I could be playing live or with other musicians more regularly then I’m sure that this would be something I would want to do instead. For me, this support for my woodshedding is timely, helpful, and engaging.

Timings for the SoundCloud audio version

00:01:25A few words on Jeff Beck
00:04:45Intro to rhythm and a reminder about how important it is to work on
00:05:32Quick bit on EarMaster and how Gary has been using it in his practice
00:07:22Look at the real basics of note values and rhythmic divisions in a bar
00:08:27Dan’s breakdown of rhythmic values and basics of music reading
00:14:22Stacatto notes
00:14:52Extending notes with dots or ties
00:15:34Using the spider gym for warming up, rhythm and playing without tension
00:16:01Variations of Spider Gym finger patterns – see notes
00:16:51Funky and reggae rhythms and use of syncopation and off-beats
00:18:40Keeping track by using down and upstrokes to help your rhythmic work
00:20:21Reggae: focussing on the offbeat on the high strings

Spider Gym finger patterns:

Use these columns to work on all finger combinations of the spider gym
I found this video very helpful on the Spider Gym


Keep watching, listening, and getting in touch.  We really want to hear from you!

You may want to check Dan Davies out in action.  You can find Dan’s album on Spotify and other streaming music sites, like Apple Music (click the links to take you to his album ‘Flight’)

Enjoy your musical journey and be in touch!

Gary and Dan

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