I've been playing guitar for about 2 years on and off, I play chords more than anything else, and I think I can keep a rhythm when playing on my own. I never really played to a metronome, or even played while the tracks were going(big mistake, I know), I kind of just looked up tabs and would play the songs the way I knew them.

I just recently started taking guitar seriously, and playing with the song in the background, and I noticed I can keep the rhythm for a few bars, and sometimes longer, but I'll find that I accidently speed up or slow down at random parts(not by too much, but enough to know that I'm like half a beat behind or ahead of the song)... But I can tap my foot to a beat while I'm not playing with no problem, just I'll mess it up when I am playing and think I'm in the groove -.-

And this led me to think that maybe I'm not in rhythm while playing alone, considering I don't have something to compare it to? I don't think it's terribly noticeable If that is the case, but still something I'd like to fix.

So, I guess what I'm asking is, what exactly is not having rhythm? Is it what I previously mentioned, or literally not being able to count a beat even when I'm not playing? Is the problem I'm having common with many new musicians, and will I be able to fix it?

Sorry for the loads of questions, I'm just really curious about this D:
Last edited by Terowyn at Sep 28, 2013,
'Not having rhythm' would be 'not staying in time with others/a recording', like you mentioned. When you're playing on your own (without a metronome and whatnot) it's easy to play around with the time a little, because nothing is binding you.

When you're on your own, you may think 'this line sounds a little prettier a tiny bit slower', or it might just happen accidentally... And it probably won't be noticeable to a crowd.

However, when you are playing with others you have to be in rhythm with what they're doing, and you slowing down or speeding up could mess up quite a bit.

We're all learning, so 'messing up' is not that big of a deal... Which is basically what it comes down to; Making mistakes, getting better, building skill. Rhythm is just one of those skills (like musical hearing, dexterity, etc.) you need to practice on. Playing along with a metronome helps... And especially playing with others. My goal is generally to sound good, and that takes more effort with more people, which is a (FUN!) challenge that really helped me get better at various things (including rhythm).

I believe I never had too many issues rhythm-wise because I got started with a band quite early on; I was always 'forced' to keep a steady tempo. A metronome should do the same though, if you're not into that. Good luck!
Tell me who's that writin'...
Last edited by Kylianvb at Sep 28, 2013,
I think rhythmic sense is a scale and not a "you have it or you don't" deal. You sound like you're between not having any sort of rhythm sense to being so good at rhythm you don't even need a metronome.

Does this problem occur on every single song, or just that song?

This may sound like shit zenny advice, but maybe you're concentrating too much on what you're playing even as the song is in the background, since you don't have problems keeping beat while not playing. Listen to what you're playing for mistakes that you're making, but also listen and try to feel the music that you're playing to.

I find that this used to happen to me when I'm playing a fast lead passage and I'm just winging it and shitting all over the notes.
So you're saying rhythm is just a skill that you pick up on, just like anything else. So that whole "if you don't have rhythm, you never will" is a fallacy? (like the gorillaz lyric :P)
Actually, now that you mention it, it kind of happens more when I'm anxious and thinking about it. And yeah, it's certain songs that I really mess up on, some other songs I can stay in rhythm throughout(I may mess up a bar but I'll quickly get back on rhythm)

edit: sorry for the double post, didn't see both replies :S
It is very common amongst musicians to be, and you should certainly work on it. Studying jazz guitar for example means for most people working on timing and groove more than 50 percent of the time. It is a lot about gaining awareness through hard practice.
I read that when a lot of the old-time blues players moved out of the rural south where they usually played alone and started recording with groups, they had a lot of trouble with time....
They played like they felt.
Some got it, of course; the Muddy Waters blues band was tight as hell.

There are always going to be some folks who literally have no sense of rhythm, who "can't count to four" as we say. This is likely due to brain-development problems much the same as folks who have other difficulties hearing or interpreting music. But they're pretty rare.. Most folks can simply practice.
Rhythm is not the same as tempo. Rhythm is the organization of accents/articulations in relation to the pulse. In other words, Rhythm refers to your ability to play something rhythmically interesting, not just in tempo.

But you need to be able to play in tempo before you can touch playing rhythmically. Just sit down with the metronome and do warm ups every day before you start playing. Make sure you can play and count. Keep your foot tapping with the music.