Want to know how to play with awesome rhythm guitar technique? Stop trying to “learn random guitar riffs to play” and get started learning how to make ANY guitar riff sound totally killer. Remember, it’s not WHAT you play – it’s how you play it!
Here are five key things you must work on to become a great rhythm guitar player:
1. Use A Strong Pick Attack In Your Guitar Playing
Many guitar players do not use much picking hand power when playing rhythm guitar. This generally occurs when you want to play with speed and your picking hand starts sacrificing power for speed (this makes your playing sound very weak). The best way to play with speed and power (without losing stamina) is to strike the strings hard and then immediately relax the tension after playing each particular note or chord.
2. Learn The Most Effective Way To Separate Your Picking Hand From Your Fretting Hand
One of the worst guitar mistakes is to let your fretting hand become very tense as your picking hand plays faster (and/or with more articulation and power). This will make you get tired a lot faster and makes playing guitar harder than it needs to be.
What you need to do is focus on separating both hands while practicing rhythm guitar riffs. It really isn’t important how strong (or how soft) your picking hand is striking the strings – your fretting hand must only use the necessary amount of tension needed to allow the notes you play to be heard. In general, your fretting hand must use much less power and strength to fret notes than the picking hand uses to pick notes in your rhythm guitar riffs.
You should always be focusing on level the tension in your hands/arms while you play. Change your focus when practicing and make sure that both hands use the right amount of tension.
3. Practice Playing Guitar For Real-Life Performance
Unless you only want to play guitar alone in your room, you’ll need to practice making your guitar playing consistent while playing in front of other people (and/or recording in the studio). Playing alone and playing in front of others are two completely different things. Most guitarists never truly practice for real-life performance, because:
-They haven’t studied with an excellent guitar teacher and learned how to do it the correct way.
-They erroneously believe that their live playing skills will improve on their own through simply “playing guitar more over time”.
4. Learn To Play Guitar As Tight As Possible
For many guitar players, rhythm guitar training is limited to only “practicing with a metronome”. Fact is, perfectly tight playing requires the mastery and integration of the following concepts:
-Playing with excellent intonation on all strings while strumming power chords (or any other chords). This is particularly critical if you are using double (or quad) tracking for your rhythm guitar parts for recording.
-Getting rid of noises being made by strings that are not being played.
-Playing pinch harmonics in the correct key and using vibrato (that corresponds to the rhythm of the music) to emphasize them.
-Cutting out unwanted squeaks or scratchy noises that sometimes occur while changing between chords.
-Making sure not to strike strings that are not part of the riff (or chord) you are playing.
-Muting all noises during the silences that occur between notes/chords.
-Utilizing consistent palm muting.
-Doing all of the above with impeccable timing.
Great guitarists have spent tons of time practicing and developing all of these elements to the highest level. To become one of them, you need to do the same. The first thing you need to do to achieve mastery is identify how well you can hear the difference between excellent rhythm guitar playing and playing that is weak.
If you don’t already understand the best approaches for practicing the elements of great rhythm guitar playing, find an excellent guitar teacher to help you improve fast.
5. Train For Long-Lasting Stamina (Ability To Play Tight Guitar For Extensive Periods Of Time)
In addition to managing correct levels of tension in your hands, rhythm guitar stamina is gained using specialized practicing in this aspect of playing. This practice is done to improve how long you can play rhythm guitar parts with 100% accuracy and consistency as fast as possible.
There are three pieces involved in practicing for great rhythm guitar stamina:
-Command over general rhythm guitar tightness and accuracy (elements discussed in this article)
-How fast you can play before your accuracy breaks down.
-How long you can stay in control/accurate/tight at that speed.
Practicing for rhythm guitar stamina is best done on two distinct levels:
Level One: Pick a guitar riff that you would like to increase your stamina with, choose a time goal and practice to raise the speed at which you can play with total accuracy for that length of time without getting tired. For instance, play the guitar riff you selected for 25 seconds non-stop at 120 BPM using your metronome. Once this becomes too easy, increase the beats per minute 5-10 beats and go for another 25 seconds. Do this until you find a speed at which your accuracy starts breaking down. Then continue practicing at this speed until you can play the entire 25 seconds perfectly.
Level Two: Select a metronome speed and try to play a rhythm guitar riff for as long as you can without stopping. When you can go longer than the previous time record you set, you will know that your stamina has become better.
Using these two approaches will help you quickly get better in this area of your rhythm guitar playing. You can use any rhythm guitar riffs for these practicing exercises.
NOTE: If you start feeling pain during practice, don’t keep going – stop and take a break. Don’t ever play guitar while you are pain!
Now that you understand the main elements you must master for playing killer rhythm guitar, test yourself to find out how close you are to mastering this aspect of your guitar playing.