Rhythm Guitar For Intermediate To Advanced Players

author: sparxzero date: 04/29/2009 category: guitar techniques
rating: 8.8 / votes: 59 
Right, first a little bit of background. This is my first lesson I have ever written, and as such I can only hope it meets the standards people are looking for. I was searching around on UG and other such sites the other day for some information on advance guitar rhythms, being more of a rhythm than a lead guitarist myself. Having been unable to find much that was aimed at the more technically advanced guitarist, I decided to piece together the knowledge I have gained over my few years playing guitar. This article is as such aimed at an intermediate to advanced player, looking to strengthen their right hand, and left-to-right hand synchronisation. Those reading this article should already have a reasonable understanding of metres and timings, such as 16th and 32th notes. This is not a lead guitar lesson! Please don't read this expecting an article on soloing techniques such as sweeps, alternate picking, legato, and vibrato e.t.c. If this article is received well I may consider other such lessons, but for know I'm going to stick to the rhythm side of playing. Ok, now we've got that out the way, onto our first technique. A rhythm guitarist has a multitude of techniques out there for his use. The first of these, and in my opinion one of the most important and widely used, is the down-stroke (in this article the symbol for down-stroke will be v). The following exercise will help to improve your right-hand strength and stamina. Try to play this exercise cleanly and smoothly, with as little slipping or missing of the strings as possible. A metronome may help to keep you in time, but don't set it too fast to play with, try to find a speed which is comfortable but still challenging, and just go until failure. Punching to far above your ability level will not help to increase your abilities faster, it may in fact hinder your progress. Key: C 1/4 Note E 1/8 Note S 1/16 Note T 1/32 Note v Down-Stroke ^ Up-Stroke Exercise 1: The Down-stroke (Check out the middle section of Dream Theater's Pull Me Under)
  E E E E E E E E   E E E E E E E E
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  v v v v v v v v   v v v v v v v v
So, the exercise above is designed to strengthen your right forearm in preparation for the more complex rhythms ahead. Once you can play this rhythm at around 180bpm for at least 2 minutes solidly without tiring, then you are well on the way to becoming a much better rhythm guitarist. Exercise 2: Alternate Picking (Check out the intro of Trivium's Enter the Conflagration)
  S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S   S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S
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  v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^   v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^
This second exercise introduces us to another technique commonly used in pretty much every style of music involving a guitar. Each note should be picked cleanly and evenly, alternating between down and up-strokes. I'm not going to insult you by explaining what an up-stroke is, cause if you are reading this then you should already know, right? Anyways, try playing this technique with a metronome again, aiming at around the 180bpm mark for advanced players. Oh, and for those of you who are thinking Yup, that's me, I'm amazing, he called me advanced, just shut up and go back to having no social life, or go for 250bpm, then you can happily boast your asses off. But not here. No one cares. Exercise 3: The Gallop (Check out the Breakdown to Lamb of God's Black Label)
  S S E  S S E  S S E  S S E   S S E  S S E  S S E  S S E
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  v ^ v  v ^ v  v ^ v  v ^ v   v ^ v  v ^ v  v ^ v  v ^ v
This third technique is widely used in death and speed metal, giving a sharp and aggressive feel to the rhythm of the music. This technique was first popularised by English metal band Iron Maiden, in particular verse and chorus rhythms in their songs involved high speed repetitions of the move. This move should create a one-two-three-rest one-two-three-rest feel to your rhythms. Perhaps start really slow, counting the beats in your head or out loud, to a metronome of course, and gradually up the tempo as you feel more confident. Yet again, do not go too far above your comfortable level, as the faster you go the sloppier you become, and you may develop bad habits. I know I did and so cannot stress this point enough. Exercise 4 + 5: Adding Complexity (Check out Paul Gilbert's Technical Difficulties)
 |3|    |3|   |3|   |3|    |3|   |3|    |3|   |3|
  S S S E  S S S E  S S S E  S S S E   S S S E  S S S E  S S S E  S S S E
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  v ^ v ^  v ^ v ^  v ^ v ^  v ^ v ^   v ^ v ^  v ^ v ^  v ^ v ^  v ^ v ^
Yeah, it's impossible to write triplets in the new version of Word that line up, which kinda sucks. Anyways, this exercise expands on the alternate picking idea, using a more complex rhythm note; the 16th note triplet. Try this at around 150bpm for advanced guys, or maybe 100 - 120bpm for less technically proficient players (Don't worry, you'll get there eventually).
  S E  S E  S E  S E  S S S S   S E  S E  S E  S E  S S S S
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  v ^  ^ v  v ^  ^ v  v ^ v ^   v ^  ^ v  v ^  ^ v  v ^ v ^
This is out last technique I'm going to cover today. Don't know what to call this one, so I'm going to call it the Up-Down Gallop, cause that's kinda what it is. This is one of my personal favourite rhythms, especially coupled with bouncing notes on the E-String on every 1st note of the couples. This in turn can be combined with hammer-ons and pull-offs, creating a really funky and syncopated rhythm, which sounds and look kinda cool, especially with the constant up-down drill of the right hand. This rhythm may look easy in theory, but is definitely not for the faint hearted, and only those completely secure with the other techniques I have covered should attempt this. Just go for this at any tempo you feel like. There was no tempo I could find which would prove a challenge enough for those who are able to complete all other challenges I have set throughout the text. This concludes my Rhythm Guitar for Intermediate to Advanced Players lesson. I hope you have enjoyed this lesson, and it has helped to push you into new areas of playing and new styles of music. I know these techniques certainly gave me the edge I needed to create far more complex and interesting songs.
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