Four Interesting Ways to Use Rhythms in Your Guitar Playing That You May Not Have Thought of

Rhythm is a very interesting concept. Most of the time when people think of rhythm on guitar, they think about strumming some chords over a chord progression. This is the very basic concept of rhythm guitar. However, many musicians (without formal training) never think about how rhythm might affect their lead playing. So, for those aspiring rock guitarists who don’t have this formal training, let’s have a quick conversation about the benefits of rhythm within the context of lead guitar.

1) Rhythmic figures to your lead phrases

Most guitarists who aren’t conscious of their rhythmic structures in their leads end up playing the same four rhythmic structures over and over. If you find your playing gets boring when you improvise, this is probably your problem (or at least one of them).

 Learning rhythmic structures, understanding them, and internalizing them will allow you to execute these shapes on command. It will also give you a massive pool of endless ideas you can take from. Contrary to popular opinion, understanding music from a more formal or professional perspective doesn’t limit you. It allows you to see all the possibilities. It allows control.


2) Using rhythms on slides and bends:

One of my absolute favorite things to do is to experiment with how I use ornamentations and nuances (slides, bends, double stops) in unison with rhythmic structures I like. This takes everything gone over during the first part of this article and multiplies them by a seemingly infinite amount. Each rhythm structure has its own interesting sound. When combined with the interesting sounds of these nuances, you have so many possible different melodies and harmonies to work with.

To the left you’ll see a structure of eighth notes where we perform the bend starting on a down beat and another where we start on an upbeat. Below you’ll find the basic four sixteenth note shapes with multiple bends started on them. You would greatly benefit by simply adding all these bend variations to your playing.


The great part is the above examples are only one combination of bends. What would happen if we started from a pre-bend? What if we worked in other kind of bends? The point is that the options are limitless. Consider what you could do if you put the rhythms up above on slides, for example. 

The bottom line is this - experiment with the rhythmic structures of your bends and slides. You’re sure to have endless permutations to add to your arsenal. 


3. Rhythmic Structures in your arpeggios, pedal point licks and scale sequences:

But wait, there’s more! If you thought using rhythmic structures in normal lead lines and ornamentations would give you enough options, there are still more to add. Try adding these rhythmic phrases to your scale sequences, pedal point phrases, and arpeggios. Too many times you only see straight eighth notes from younger guitar players when there is so much potential for rhythmic diversity within these beautiful shred-styled lead phrases. If you can shred through a rhythmic arpeggio than you really have something magical going on. 


About the Author:

Chris Glyde teaches guitar lessons and voice lessons in Rochester NY. Chris comes from a less traditional background in music, but learned how valuable that traditional path is.