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Got Rhythm? - Part 2

By Jonathan Vipond

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In my article, 'Got Rhythm?' I talked extensively about the importance of Rhythm guitar and making sure that you make the most of this valuable aspect of guitar playing. This article is an extension of that but more based on practical exercises to help you develop your sense of timing or 'time feel' as I have seen it referred to sometimes.

Having a good sense of rhythm is also not just limited to chords and riffs. Anything that you do with music must be perfectly timed. Half of what we study is our choice of notes then other half is when we play those notes. What matters is your own feel for how a steady and precise rhythm should be played. Everything else - leads, chords, riffs - is based on this and will follow from this point.

What this article will do is give you some simple exercises to help you get your sense of timing spot on. No matter what you background or playing style is there will be most likely something here that can help you to develop you timing. The most important thing to do with these is to work with a metronome at all times. No one piece of gear has proven to be most useful when it comes to practicing guitar. Another tool that will prove very useful is something to record yourself with, be it a simple tape deck or a full blown Pro-tools setup. I strongly advise that you something like this to make the most of this article and your playing.

Ok, so let's get started. This first exercise looks very simple to play, and it is. For all those who haven't been playing long this is a great exercise to start with.

Ok, got that? Really? Now, with the metronome, record yourself playing this exercise. When you play it back listen to each individual note and whether it is played exactly on the beat with the metronome pulse. If each not doesn't occur at the same time at the beat then you know what you need to practise. This next exercise is similar but uses a different combination if fingers for each string and so helps develop individual finger co-ordination.

As always, record yourself playing, listen back and objectively assess what you hear. Are those notes really in time? Over time you can speed these up and push yourself further with them but always start with you metronome at a slow tempo and work up from there.

Once you've mastered both of these exercises it's time to put a slightly different spin on them. Both of these exercises are in 2/4. This means that in each bar there are 2 beats - 8 notes per bar, therefore 4 notes to every beat. What you are going to do is to give the first note of every set of 4 notes a little push - emphasise it and make it a little more noticeable that the rest. For the first 4 bars of each exercise this should be fairly straight forward but after that it gets a little tricky. What you are in fact doing is training yourself to count and play in 2/4 time despite the fact that your fingers are playing slightly varying patterns. Again, this is worth recording to track your progress. Also, try counting out loud “One, Two, Three, Four” as you play for an extra challenge.

For this next exercise I hold my hand up and say that I unashamedly stole this idea. It was shown to me by my friend Tom Quayle who is an amazing guitarist and teacher in the West Yorkshire area of the UK where I live. It works by using the following C major pattern.

Again this is an exercise that, like the previous exercise, shifts around the timing of the notes in a way that is quite unusual but helps you to think about timing in differently. Notice the rest at the beginning of the 3rd bar.

As the notes are arranged in pairs as soon as the rest occurs in the 3rd bar the emphasis of the notes are changed. Whereas when the scale is ascending the emphasis and accentuation should be on the 1st beat of every pair the rest changes it around so that the accentuation is on the second. Work through it with a metronome and record yourself to test your accuracy.

The next exercise is very similar in that it uses the same C major scale position but the timing is again designed to give you a good workout.

As the rhythm in this exercise is quite challenging is would be advisable to have your metronome set to pulse on each note and rest. Before attempting this you could also work out and practice the rhythm by tapping or clapping the rhythm along with your metronome.

The final part of mastering this comes through application. Rhythm is a part of all things musical so when working on learning and playing a new piece or exercise, always bear in mind that working on getting a tight rhythm to everything that you play will make a big difference to how your end piece sounds. Good luck!

Jonathan Vipond

Copyright 2007 - Jonathan Vipond

Jonathan Vipond is a professional guitar instructor in West Yorkshire where he runs the Jonathan Vipond School of Guitar. With over 15 years of practical experience he has written and recorded albums and EPs, toured with several bands and has notched up hundreds of live shows to his name. Jonathan is currently studying with master musician, composer and teacher Tom Hess (

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