Do you wish you could write cool rhythm guitar riffs for rock and metal? If you are like many rock guitarists, you have much stronger lead guitar skills than rhythm guitar skills. In most cases, guitar players only learn the basic power chords, open chords, or barre chords when learning to play rhythm guitar. As a result, they have great difficulty coming up with cool rhythm guitar riffs because they do not truly understand how to play rhythm guitar in a creative way. For the rest of this article, I will talk about how you can by use creative rhythm guitar practice methods to write your own rock and metal guitar riffs.
First, it is important to understand that being able to play interesting rhythm guitar ideas means focusing more on HOW you play what you play than WHAT specific notes you are using. The truth is that you can make any basic guitar chord sound great without adding in many new notes. In fact, you can probably already start writing good rhythm guitar ideas with just a fundamental understanding of power chords and open chords. However, in order to truly master the ability to play great rhythm guitar riffs, you will need to learn new guitar skills that you probably haven't thought of before.
You probably already know that to truly master rhythm guitar playing, you must work on improving a variety of different skills and you may even know what some of those skills are. However, if you are still having a hard time writing rhythm guitar riffs that you are happy with, most likely your approach to practicing this area of guitar playing could use additional help (even if you aren't aware specifically of "what" skills need to be improved). If you would like to understand exactly what needs to be done in order to improve all areas in your guitar playing, I recommend that you seek out a great guitar teacher who has already helped many other guitarists make significant progress toward their musical goals. In the meantime, there are 5 essential ideas that you can use to make great rhythm guitar riffs regardless of your current skill level. Once you have become comfortable with using these ideas in your rhythm guitar playing, you will be able to make creative guitar riffs any time you pick up the guitar:
1. Create multiple guitar riffs by using the rhythm of just one. Find an interesting rhythmic pattern that contains no actual pitches and apply it using any number of different sets of chords, notes, or chord progressions. By doing this, you will massively improve your rhythm guitar creativity. Also you can do this the other way around: Take one chord, note, or chord progression and play guitar using a variety of different rhythmic patterns. This will give you a lot of material to use when coming up with new guitar riffs.
2. Think about the way the actual rhythms you play work together to make the guitar riff as a whole. Similar to lead guitar, many guitarists ‚Äòoverdo it' when playing rhythm guitar riffs. That said, in order to make awesome rhythm guitar riffs, you only really need a few notes at most. Although it is fun to learn new ideas to use in your rhythm guitar playing, keep in mind that your number one focus is to play something with an interesting ‚Äòrhythm'!
By stripping your guitar riffs of any excess notes, you will force yourself to think more about the actual rhythms being played. To practice this, start by writing down four measures worth of 8th notes on a piece of paper. Then remove 6 of these notes at random and replace them with rests. After doing this, play the rhythm you have just created using only a single note or chord on guitar. Once you give this exercise a try, you will quickly notice that you can create nearly endless rhythm ideas for your guitar riffs. Additionally, you can make things more interesting by using various time signatures or alternate note durations.
3. Practice making your rhythm guitar playing as clean and TIGHT as you can. Being able to do this is necessary for playing great sounding guitar riffs. The majority of guitarists know that you must be able to play consistently in time in order to play good rhythm guitar, however few guitarists know what it sounds like when someone is playing TIGHT rhythm guitar that locks in with the metronome. If you can't consistently play in time, your rhythm guitar ideas will not sound good even if they are really cool ideas.
A good way to test your ability to play rhythm guitar ‚Äòin time' is to record yourself playing a row of quarter notes using any basic chord (that uses 3 strings or less). Record yourself over a quarter note drum track or metronome. If you can play with perfect rhythmic timing, you will notice that the beat seems to become silent as it matches up in unison with your guitar playing. If you are not playing tight, you will easily hear yourself falling behind or getting ahead of the beat.
Aside from having great timing when playing guitar to a beat, it is important to improve other areas in rhythm guitar playing such as palm muting control and pick attack articulation. Having the ability to play well in these areas will not only help improve your overall rhythm guitar skills, but it will save you A LOT of cash in the studio if you ever record an album. Learn how to master these aspects of rhythm guitar by checking out this free guide about learning how to record guitar.
4. Work to improve your pinch harmonics and vibrato skills. These two guitar techniques can make your guitar riffs sound very intense (especially in rock or metal guitar playing). Vibrato is useful for giving your guitar a voice-like quality, and when you combine it with pinch harmonics, the end result is a powerful guitar riff that is sure to get the attention of your audience. If you have not fully mastered these techniques, start by using them separately. Once you are more comfortable with each one, combine them both together at the end of your guitar riffs for an extra strong finish!
5. Learn creative ways to combine guitar chords together. This will enable you to think of many cool sounding groups of chords to use in your rhythm guitar riffs. If you are familiar with the idea of ‚Äòkeys' when using chords, this will be much easier for you. However, if you don't know about this yet, simply combine different major and minor chords together with power chords. For instance, if you are playing a guitar riff that contains an A power chord, you can add in the notes of an A minor chord to get a different sound. Experiment with this idea to expand power chords into full major or minor chords.
Mastering the ability to play creative rhythm guitar riffs does not happen overnight. However, as you have read, there are many things you can work on right now to make good progress in this area of your guitar playing. When you learn how to write your own rhythm guitar riffs, you will have a great time coming up with cool ideas on guitar with little effort. By practicing your rhythm guitar skills you will become a much better musician overall. On top of that, if you would like to become a professional guitarist, these skills will be very useful while performing live shows on stage and recording songs in the studio.
To learn more about becoming a really TIGHT rhythm guitar player, read this free guide about learning how to record guitar.
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Tom Hess is a professional touring guitarist and recording artist. He teaches, trains and mentors musicians from around the world.