Avoid Sucking At Guitar!

Learn How To Develop Great Rhythm And Time With Your Playing

One skill that is absolutely crucial to your musical development, no matter what your style, is the skill of being able to play in time. Focusing on this area will see massive improvement across the board with your playing!

Check this scenario out and see if you can relate:

You are working on a riff to a song that you are learning. All is going well except for one part. When you play along to the recording, this part doesn't seem to fit. You are playing the correct notes, but it just seems to fall apart at this point. You try and try, but to no avail. Down goes the guitar and you storm off in frustration.

Sound familiar?

Certainly does to me when I was learning guitar in the early days. I'd get a lot off a song down, but there were always parts that I struggled with in regard to getting them to sound like the recording. It would frustrate me greatly!

Soon enough I discovered that it was my rhythm and timing that was the problem, not so much the actual notes that I was playing. In other words, the notes were good, but my timing was not.

To improve your rhythm and timing skills, is to improve everything you have ever played and ever will play on guitar!

The good news is that it is not hard to do, and in todays article I am going to show you how exactly to go about this.

The Endless Frustration Of Playing Your Guitar Out Of Time, And What Happens If You Ignore This

If you realise that you have trouble playing your guitar in time, then be thankful, because many people are not even aware that this is a weakness for them.

The reason for timing being such a common problem for many guitar players is that far too often the emphasis is put on what notes to play and not when to play these notes. It's wrongly assumed that if you can play the right notes, then they will also be played at the right time. This is not true, and will end in frustration for you if you adopt this approach.

You can attempt to learn as many songs as you like, but you will always struggle to get them down if you lack good rhythm and timing skills. The feeling of spending many hours learning a song, only for it to fall apart when you try playing it, is very frustrating and leads to embarrassment when jamming the song with friends or in a band.

The Benefits Of Having The Ability To Play Your Guitar In Time

Do not underestimate the effectiveness of the exercises presented in this article due to their simplicity. Do them regularly and you will see a massive improvement in the ability to play your guitar in time on a consistent basis. You will start to "feel" time rather than have to "think" time.

This is the ultimate goal. You want to go from having to think where the beat is, as you play your guitar, to being able to feel where it is, and by extension the notes you play.

Once you achieve this, and you will, a whole new freedom will come to your guitar playing. No longer will songs be a struggle for you to play. You'll find them so much easier and quicker to learn. Jamming with friends, or playing in a band, is something you'll love doing, rather than something you fear and dread.

Playing your guitar in time will never be an issue for you again!

No Need For Your Guitar. Put It Down

The aim is to improve your overall awareness and sense of time as you play your guitar. To do this, there is no need to focus on anything specific in relation to songs etc. Rather, we will focus more on rhythm and time in general, which by extension will then improve everything that you already know on your guitar, as well as everything that you'll learn in the future.

In light of this, you won't need your guitar at all. Put it away, and let's focus purely on the beat instead. Playing your guitar will only be a distraction, we want to focus on rhythm and timing only.

A big advantage to our approach here is that you will be able to work with your timing skills anywhere, anytime. You don't need a guitar, and you don't necessarily need to be at home. All you need is a few spare minutes in your day, something everybody has no matter how busy you are.

The following drills are all in 4/4 time, the most common of time signatures. Start here, but you should also work with other times like 3/4 and 6/8 once you get comfortable with 4/4. Be sure to use a metronome too. Metronomes are an essential tool for musicians of all kinds. They will train your time better than anything else.

You must also be counting each and every beat aloud in the drills below. This is vitally important in developing your awareness of time.

Counting aloud is a means to an end. It's purely for training your awareness and sense of time. Soon enough you will be feeling the beat instead.

Let's start by counting 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4 etc.

Each number you count coincides with a click of the metronome. Your aim is to be perfectly in time as you do this.

Once you have this going, tap on the first beat only as you continue to count all beats (I have highlighted the beats you are tapping in each example below).

Like this:

1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4 etc.

Now let's tap on the 1 and 3 beats like this:

1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4 etc.

Finally, tap on all 4 beats like this:

1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4 etc.

Warning: A very costly assumption that many people make is that rhythm and timing drills, like the ones in this article, are for beginners only. Counting and clapping appears to be simple and therefore you feel you are above these and don't need to do them. This is wrong! You're playing will suffer if you take on this attitude. If you have trouble playing your guitar in time, or you want to increase you awareness of time, then the these drills will help you greatly. Don't underestimate the benefit your guitar playing will receive by doing them regularly.

Divide And Conquer

Creating rhythms in music is all about dividing the beat into various groupings. These divisions of the beat are found in everyday music. Let's begin by dividing the beat into two by tapping twice to each click of the metronome while counting:

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + etc.

Next, let's tap 3 times to each of the metronome and count:

1 + a 2 + a 3 + a 4 + a etc.

Finally, let's tap 4 times to each click of the metronome and count:

1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a etc.

Tapping like this to your metronome provides a great foundation for your rhythm and timing. Before long you will be feeling these divisions rather than having to count and clap them. Remember that our aim is to go from "thinking" to "feeling" the beat.

Mixing It All Up

Once you have worked with the drills above, the next step is to create cool rhythms and grooves by mixing the divisions of the beat together. This is how music is, rhythmically speaking. It's all about dividing the beat up in various ways.

Here is an example of this:

1 + a 2 + a 3 e + a 4 + etc.

and another:

1 + 2 + 3 e + a 4 + a etc.

There are many rhythms that you can create by doing this, and that is exactly what you need and should to do. The great thing is, you can do this anywhere, anytime. Even if you don't have a metronome handy, just tap your foot to provide the beat and start creating rhythms right there on the spot. All you need is a few spare minutes.

To continue developing your rhythm and timing skills in a very cool, unique and fun way, check out this free Video/PDF download on playing percussive guitar.

Specializing in online acoustic guitar lessons, Simon Candy is based in Melbourne, Australia where he runs his own guitar school.

Simon Candy