Welcome to the world of rhythm! In this lesson we will explore all the basics of rhythm and strumming techniques, as well as learning how to keep good time (as it applies to the guitar). If you have a metronome then place it in front of you ready to go, if you do not have one then why not use our online metronome (new window).
Rhythm Slashes & Conversion Chart
Firstly, let’s explore note, rest and rhythm slash values using the chart below. Looking at the first and second column you will see U.S Name & U.K Name, these are the names given to each note relative to geographical area, and rather than tell you to learn one set of names, I recommend learning both names, as this can only help your musical knowledge. The next column is an image of the note in question (all examples are G), so take a good look at each note and put them to memory.
The next column has two == signs which means is equal to or the same as, and the next column is the rhythm slash equivalent of the previous note, so for a quarter note/crotchet note, the equivalent is the quarter slash/crotchet slash. Next we have another == equal to sign, then we have the equivalent rest to the previous rhythm slash or note, so for a quarter note/crotchet note or slash, the equivalent is the quarter rest/crotchet rest.
The final column is the Note Value (quarter note) column, and what this means is that for instance, an eighth note/quaver has a note value of 1/2 a beat relative to a quarter note/crotchet, or half a quarter note/crotchet per eighth note/quaver. Another example is that a semibreve has a note value of 4 beats relative to a quarter note/crotchet, or four quarter notes/crotchets per semibreve. As you can see it's all basic mathematics, but to make things easier, for each chord chart below I have included a sound sample giving you a better idea of how notes are meant to sound and for how long.
Ok let’s get straight into it starting with chart 1.a, you have the option of either playing chords and strumming the rhythm (for more advanced players) or alternatively you can simply play an open G note (third string open) and concentrate on the rhythm only, which is the goal here. As you can see I have included red arrows above each rhythm slash/note to help you with up and down strumming or picking. Set your metronome to around 80bpm/Adagietto and count in four beats before starting the chart. If you need an idea of what this rhythm chart should sound like, then play the sound sample further below.
Now onto chart 1.b which introduces some rests (a rest is a silent period) so take another look at the rest values in our notation chart at the top of this page to refresh your memory. let's move on to chart 1.c which introduces eighth notes and rests, remember, an eighth note gets half a beat in 4/4 timing and please pay close attention to the up and down picking/strumming on the chart, this is very important and you need to always follow the arrows. Always use the sound sample below the chart to help you with note values. Once you have these first three charts down, move onto the next part of the lesson; complex rhythms.
|Rhythm chart 1.a
|Rhythm chart 1.b
|Rhythm chart 1.c
More complex rhythms
let's begin the second part of this lesson by starting with chart 2.a below. This chart introduces three new elements: sixteenth notes, dotted rests and ghost strumming. There are four sixteenth notes per beat/quarter note or 1/4 of a beat each and again, make sure you follow the up and down strumming/picking outlined in the chart, very important. A dotted note, slash or rest signifies that the note should be given 1 & 1/2 times its value, so for example a dotted quarter note has a value of 1x quarter note plus 1x eighth note, and a dotted half note has a value of 1x half note plus 1x quarter note. Ghost strumming is a technique used to keep even timing, basically you do the "motion" of a strum/pick, but you do not actually hit the string or chord, it's a way to keep your picking hand moving in a constant up and down motion. Ghost strums/picks are marked via a blue arrow.
Now onto chart 2.b which introduces ties. A tie is a curved line attaching two notes together and has the effect of joining these two note values together, but the second not is never played. Ties are generally used when a note needs to span over a bar line, you see each bar must add up to the time signature otherwise we are in real trouble. As an example, in 4/4 timing (which all charts are in this lesson) there can be no more than four quarter notes per bar, or two half notes, or one whole note or even eight eighth notes, try to see it as basic mathematics. So when we have a rhythm that goes over the bar line, we simply make the current bar add up to the time signature and tie the last note over the bar to the next, making sure the tied notes value is correct for our rhythm.
Now for our last chart in this lesson, chart 2.c. This is quite a hard chart so don't be too disappointed if you can't get it right away, remember practice makes perfect. Please use the rhythm chart audio samples further below to give you some additional help. Be careful with the dotted notes and rests in this chart, and also the ghost strumming being sure to follow the arrows.
|Rhythm chart 2.a
|Rhythm chart 2.b
|Rhythm chart 2.c
If you managed to get through all the charts then congratulations, you have come a long way young Jedi. If not then don’t worry too much and keep coming back for another crack, it would have taken me a number of weeks to get all those charts when I was a beginner. I must admit, rhythm charts are a ton of fun once you get the basics down, why not try and write some of your own rhythms?
Cheers and enjoy!