Rhythm Guitar For Intermediate To Advanced Players

This article is aimed at an intermediate to advanced player, looking to strengthen their right hand, and left-to-right hand synchronisation.

45
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
|||
|||
|||
|||
|||
|00000000|00000000|
  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
|||
|||
|||
|||
|||
|0000000000000000|0000000000000000|
  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
|||
||-|
|||
|||
|||
|000000000000|000000000000|
  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
|-||
|-||
|-||
|-||
|-||
|0000000000000000|0000000000000000|
  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
|-||
|-||
|-||
|-||
|-||
|000000000000|000000000000|
  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.

73 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    deluded_reality
    stealer42 wrote: FINALLY someone focused on the rhythm side of metal =) thank you so much. I swear if I see one more lesson on sweep arpeggios i'm going to kill someone
    +1. I'm so tired to going through a truck load of lead guitar lessons. Thanks so much for the lesson!
    smiledoc
    sparxzero, This was some good information on how to get better at playing the rhythym parts. I did the downstroke for 2 minutes and my forearm was burning but I didn't loose tempo. I did notice though that I typically set the butt of my hand on the bridge, or whatever it is called where the strings come out at, and man there was no way I was going to make 2 minutes like this so I immediately took my wrist off and moved my whole forearm. This seems to be the proper way to pick notes. FYI, In Mark Tremonti's new video he gives some instruction on how to become a better guitar player, or at least how he did. And, one of the first excercise he shows you is just what you told us and that is to set there and play a string for two minutes to strengthen the forearm and playing skills. Smiledoc
    SydRic
    If you guys want to make it harder, get creative. Strum those patterns while changing frets. like PM PM PM PM PM PM PM PM PM PM PM |--3--| |--3--| |--3--| |--3-| S S S E S S S E S S S E S S S E E||-----|| B||-----|| G||-----|| D||-----|| A||-----3- ----5-----7--5-----3--|| E||--0--0--0--3--0--0--0--5--0--0- -0--7--5-0--0--3--||
    TigerSteve
    Thanks! I am a lead player, but I love sitting back on a good rhythm. My down picking could use some work and I think this is really going to help!
    Niiko
    I'm more of a lead player, and I found this extremely helpful, thanks man!
    led-air
    mate, i think u shud try and add a few smilies to ur writing, cos at the moment u seem to be lacking... good lesson, but it only teaches about quite basic rythms, i.e. there are no rests and stuff, which perhaps you could include, and also muting these rests, which i have a lot of difficulty with. but, it is good.
    andymvo
    instead of my forearm hurting its my right bicep...any suggestions?
    abhimanyu
    good lesson, thanks for writing this! And props for stressing on starting slow and building up to a comfortable speed, so many people don't do that right. Also, don't worry about people considering your lessons too basic - there's always someone who'll find it useful. Thus, you can ease up on the defensive parts (it's also a bit distracting for readers). You're doing a great job, keep it up!
    woodenbandman
    I never realized just how much my downpicking sucked until now. I alternate pick pretty much everything. Gotta work on that downpicking now.
    guitarmaniac182
    Great lesson. I'm don't play a lot of rhythm parts, but I like to expand on my playing and this really helped. Thanks a lot!
    sparxzero
    sorry folks, have been very busy at college nd havent really had a chance to write up part two...i will try n get started durin the up comin half term i have been takin all ur comments into consideration, cheers people im thinkin sumfin on time signatures? nd perhaps some pedal-note rhythms?n just general left ahdn incorporation into rhythms?
    SteveHeyn
    good lesson to show what great possibilities there are in rhythm play. It's good to show something that goes further than downstrokes only. I like you "updowngallop" a lot. Oh, and for the good challenge on that particullar rhythm: try it with your pink only
    hanselrocks1
    could you make a part 2 involving good chord/fret speed, great lesson though keep em coming
    zorbozate
    your first lesson? ... good work i enjoyed it ,i,ve been playing rhythm for over 20 yrs, theres always something to learn in music weather some believe or not, it,s true!!! thanx !rock on rock hard!
    SIRRON_KCUHC
    i love this lesson its good to see someone is actually focusing on something else other then the lead crap i think its better to develop your rhythm skills before you develop lead skills so this is much appriciated since ive been looking for some rhythm instruction i play lead but like i said its better to develop the ability to play fast and accuratly first
    dr_johnston
    thanks man, sweet lesson. im especially grateful cause all i ever learn is the rhythm parts to metallica songs, cause i sure as hell cant play the solos. only nothing else matters lol. fail on my part
    JD Close
    I Don't Think the name is right, it's not rhythm guitar at all, it's picking orders and techniques, but, great lesson anyway.
    espforme
    Great write up man...And you mentioned tempo/timing. The 16's I love and rip through them. I can play lead but always find myself going to the rythem especially when warming up with the band. A good downpick excercise to try out for beginner/intermediate would be Creeping Death rhythm. Metronomes are something Im finding out a lot people do not use : (( If you have the money and are looking for a good one with drums (live recorded drums so they sound very good) I would suggest the BOSS DR-880) very good practice tool for stringed instruments...Keep writing on rhythms - it is the ground work for songs - Dont get me wrong I love lead but rhythm makes melody...
    amincgf
    Having a bit of trouble understanding the last exercise, is it in a time signature other than 4/4? Correct me if I'm wrong but I'm trying to figure out where the down beats are and i'm coming up with: 1st beat: S E S = C 2nd beat: E S E = ? 3rd beat: S E = ? 4th beat: S S S S = C
    doofus41
    pretty basic but excellent lesson. if you do another one you should put the rhythm from Disposable Heroes by Metallica, Laid to Rest by Lamb of God, and Oblivion by Mastodon... do that and it will be a solid continuance of this lesson
    FacetOfChaos
    Hey, just wanted to point out that a 1/4 note would be a Q instead of a C, since they are quarter notes.
    ChosenIA
    a good way to make this more challenging is play outside of your comfort zone if you play with your hand against the guitar lift it and vice-versa also instead of open notes just add some stretches and things like that like |-0-1-2-3-4-3-2-1-0-2-4-6-8-6-4-2-0-1-3-5-6| always a good idea to do exercises to improve not just learning songs
    mbhoch
    This is awesome, I've been needing help with staying on tempo for a while, after doing these a few times I realized that I have just been un-disciplined. My playing has def tightened up since I've been practicing these.. Thanks man.
    MeTaLHed92809
    yea, were not all lead guitarists, its great to see something for rhythm guitarists too, we are the ones that make the bad ass breakdowns
    sub5446lime420
    Hey I have a question about metronomes. I'm using this one online http://webmetronome.com/. If I set it for 180 BPM at 4 beats per cycle do I hit the string once every time that the metronome changes the numbers or 4 times or what?
    sparxzero
    yo guys hey i actually have no time at all to write another lesson and to be fair i dont think i will be able to quite a long time, im in about 4 bands atm, and i have college and part time work and a girlfriend so ya no.... if anyone wants to continue on and write sumfin to follow on from this, say about time signatures or complex breakdown rhythm pattersn at speed (Born of Osiris, August Burns Red e.t.c.) then please go ahead oh and if all u crazy peeps wanna a rhythm challenge, try and learn Insomnia by Periphery ive been workin on it for a week and have just got it down :O tis crazy hard cheers PS. my tv just said 'and now u can penetrate the fish' good ol' jamie oliver x
    psychotim
    sparxzero wrote: 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.
    Haha, this made me laugh! As for the lesson, I kinda expected rhythm gitar techniques for acoustic gitar, strumming patterns etc, not specifically metal. Apart from a misleading titel the lesson was quite good.
    fenne50
    This is all extremely easy man.great lesson for those who didn't figure all this out by them selfs. Can u make another rhythm lesson cause i want some rhythm that i can do to get even better than where i'am at.
    panterafever
    The best songs to practice downpicking is anything by Slayer usually Kerry King downed picked most of the time and very fast.. Like right after the intro riff to Raining Blood is all downpickedll
    ibanezboy1992
    I agree. There is no sycronization of the left and rght hand because your right hand isn't doing anything.
    Crovo717
    Excellent, kinda like a metalcore breakdown lesson, but more general, you should try to write a lesson about open note breakdowns, and the patterns incorporated, some of them have really intricate timing, and I know a lot of people that have trouble with it, I think it'd be helpful for some people =]
    FiendForce
    i been wantin a lesson like this for weeks now, you ought to continue this into a series
    killtrend
    HeatMaster22 wrote: do you play 2 notes per beat on the down stroke thing?
    yea, there 8th notes, so its: one-and-two-and-3-and-4-and make sure to use a metronome!
    David Blackbird
    Georginaguitar wrote: I'm really stupid!!!! I don't get what the key means!!?
    The key is the relative legnth of the notes, where each note is held half as long as the one above it. ie whenever you see an s in the tab, the note below it is half the legnth of a note with an e above it. -e-s-s- -0-0-0- however fast you play the first note, the second and third are half as fast
    TonyIommi2557
    For the last one, I guess you could check out the verses of "E.vil N.ever D.ies" by Overkill.
    fagelamusgtr
    24HRaDAY wrote: and this is for intermediate and adv.?? players>
    Are you playing to a metronome and to the correct speed? That is the challenging part.
    sparxzero
    sparxzero, This was some good information on how to get better at playing the rhythym parts. I did the downstroke for 2 minutes and my forearm was burning but I didn't loose tempo. I did notice though that I typically set the butt of my hand on the bridge, or whatever it is called where the strings come out at, and man there was no way I was going to make 2 minutes like this so I immediately took my wrist off and moved my whole forearm. This seems to be the proper way to pick notes. FYI, In Mark Tremonti's new video he gives some instruction on how to become a better guitar player, or at least how he did. And, one of the first excercise he shows you is just what you told us and that is to set there and play a string for two minutes to strengthen the forearm and playing skills. Smiledoc
    heya smiledoc, yeah i knew bout the mark tremonti DVD, that is one of my main sources as to why i did this in the first place as for technique of the action itself, whatever feels most comfortable is always best , but most professional guitarists take their rhythm movement from their wrist alone, and only use there forearm during incredibly fast tremolo passages
    and this is for intermediate and adv.?? players>
    24HRaDAY, do u mean this is too easy or too hard? id be happy to try a beginners version of this article, or you could simply increase or decrease the tempo to change the difficulty accordingly
    FINALLY someone focused on the rhythm side of metal =) thank you so much. I swear if I see one more lesson on sweep arpeggios i'm going to kill someone
    tis true, there are far too many lead lessons and nowhere near enough lessons for the poor old rhythm guitarist but...thats what i wrote this for! glad taht someone else shows as much appreciation for the heavier side of music check these for serious rhythm: Lamb of God, Trivium, DevilDriver, Arch Enemy, Bury Your Dead, and of course the mighty SlipKnot cheers all
    badassvinnie
    Yeah I never thought to just strum evenly for 2 minutes straight, the alternate pick ****ing kills, anyway thanks for the lesson man I never can find any rhythm lessons, good to see someone cares about the rhythm guitarist!