Can you learn rhythm?

W.L.Weller

Tele-Afflicted
Silver Supporter
Joined
May 20, 2014
Posts
1,343
Location
Queens
Basically the title, is it possible. If so, what's worked for you? Lots of technical aspects of my playing have been improving, but the rhythmic part absolutely isn't. Whether we're talking about basic beats per minute stuff, or accents and "feel".

I'd love to hear about something that's worked for you.
 

telemnemonics

Telefied
Ad Free Member
Joined
Mar 2, 2010
Posts
33,454
Age
62
Location
Maine
So I'm a rhythm junkie and love/ crave/ need some funky back beat or other interesting beats.
I love Tool stuff in odd times but cannot just play those times from memory, can't count off 11/4.
I also played drums for some years and have a kit in the garage but don't play any more.

My problem is either alone or with a band where I can't hear well, I lost my place in time, or speed up then notice I'm out of sync with the music. IF, I can hear well I'm pretty solid and do interesting rhythmic stuff.
But I don't have a good built in metronome.

As far as learning what's not already there?
I certainly learned improvement and variety, but even as a kid I was very time conscious when I sang all my favorite tunes like The Band, The Platters, Otis Redding, some Country pop etc; I revered time.
Singing songs where the vocal paused for some beats, many or most non musicians do not count off the time between lyrics, while i always did from a young age. Probably not well but it was there as a value or an understanding.
 

brookdalebill

Tele Axpert
Ad Free Member
Joined
Nov 15, 2009
Posts
117,437
Age
65
Location
Austin, Tx
Absolutely!
Find a circumstance where you can play rhythm.
Maybe a Grateful Dead tribute band.
You be Bobby Weir.
Play some Stones, Keef and Ronnie both play great rhythm.
Play rhythm guitar for a bluegrass/country fiddler.
Three chord stuff like Boil The Cabbage.
Use a metronome, set it to a slowish tempo, and play along changing chords every four beats.
This stuff worked for me.
I’m a proud, and ahem, good/solid rhythm player.
Good luck!
 
Last edited:

Killing Floor

Poster Extraordinaire
Silver Supporter
Joined
Feb 3, 2021
Posts
8,475
Location
Austin, TX
I am fully convinced that some people cannot process rhythm. And some people can do it very well. You can always spot the one in the crowd who can't clap along with the tune. Likewise we've all seen babies who nod their heads to the pattern of birds or outside noises.

I do think you can improve your sense of rhythm by utilizing metronomes or similar, even having ticking clocks in the house can help although that is my nightmare.
 

buster poser

Poster Extraordinaire
Joined
May 1, 2018
Posts
6,299
Location
Tewa Land NM
No earth-shattering advice here, but for timing, I would suggest playing along to a metronome, to records, and with other folks. Those are what worked for me.

Technique-wise, I'd start simple, pick up techniques as you play along with those records, and watch YouTube vids. Tomo Fujita is great, Cody Wong too (though I haven't watched many of his instructional/tips vids).

 

medic_90

TDPRI Member
Joined
Jun 6, 2019
Posts
74
Age
32
Location
Los Angeles/Hawaii
Basically the title, is it possible. If so, what's worked for you? Lots of technical aspects of my playing have been improving, but the rhythmic part absolutely isn't. Whether we're talking about basic beats per minute stuff, or accents and "feel".

I'd love to hear about something that's worked for you.

Lots and lots and lots of Jazz Cabbage and Spotify premium. ;)
 

JL_LI

Poster Extraordinaire
Joined
May 20, 2017
Posts
8,844
Age
72
Location
Long Island, NY
I think most of us learned rhythm first strumming cowboy chords to the songs of the day. It came naturally to some of us. Others struggled. There are threads here about metronomes, drummers, bass lines, and other ways of keeping time. But how does one learn it?

I think you have to be born with it. You can’t learn to manipulate what you can’t sense. Just as you’ll never play in tune if you’re tone deaf. So talent plays a big part.

Assuming you’re talented enough, there is a way to get better at playing rhythm. Go back to the beginning, when you were strumming cowboy chords to songs you and your friends liked. Strum along to recordings. Then make a major break from what you’ve been doing with a band. Play SOLO. Alone. You and your guitar. You’ll have to sing the melody and keep everything in time without a drummer or bassist. Learn finger style. Now you’ll be adding a simple bass line and flourishes and you’ll need to keep all that in time with the vocal. Next ditch the metronome. Music is much more interesting when you can hold onto a note or insert a pregnant pause. When you go back to playing with a band, you’ll have a much more highly developed sense of time and your rhythm playing will be better whether you favor rhythm or lead.
 
Last edited:

etype

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
Sep 23, 2014
Posts
1,938
Location
Dallas
Learning how to play a basic fingerstyle pattern was the one thing that helped me more than any other. But playing with a metronome is a close second.
eHS2PvS.jpg
 

Grateful Ape

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
Mar 16, 2013
Posts
1,307
Location
UK
Use a metronome to install a sense of metronomic time. Do this every day for a few mins.

Listen to music you know has a strong rhythmic side. Go by artist, not genre. Listen to how they play with the beat - anticipating it, stretching it.

Get Allen Slutsky's 'James Brown Rhythm Section' book and develop an obsessive love of Mr Brown. Ditto The Meters. Play along. It will take time to play it as it is, not 'how you think it is.'

Review all practice materials but from an added rhythmic emphasis.

Keep at it. I definitely believe you can massively improve your time feel.
 

Sparky2

Poster Extraordinaire
Joined
Apr 15, 2017
Posts
5,064
Age
62
Location
Harvest, Alabama
Great advice here all around.

I'll add:

* Practice and play with other guitar players, bassists, and drummers. All that you can.
You get better at rhythm when you are working with humans, and real drums.
Metronomes are good, but working with other players is paramount in the process of building your chops.
Because you get human feedback and on the spot critique.

That said,
* Embrace the notion of swing.
That ebb and flow in the timing of the verse leading toward the chorus,
the pregnant pause before the solo,
and the stuttering stagger toward the grand finish.
Swing.
It's a thing.

That's all I got.
I'm gonna shut up now.

:(
 

BelindasShadow

Tele-Meister
Joined
Feb 23, 2011
Posts
312
Location
USA
I've been practicing counting out loud with my child while he practices drums, sometime practicing alongside him on another drum. It's helped my guitar rhythm and vocal phrasing noticeably in a rather short time. We do this both with and without a metronome.

I tend to count while practicing scales and strength exercises too. It's a great habit which bears fruit over time. Turns out all my band directors were right: count out loud, sing the line you're playing.
 

nojazzhere

Doctor of Teleocity
Ad Free Member
Joined
Feb 3, 2017
Posts
18,201
Age
70
Location
Foat Wuth, Texas
Basically the title, is it possible. If so, what's worked for you? Lots of technical aspects of my playing have been improving, but the rhythmic part absolutely isn't. Whether we're talking about basic beats per minute stuff, or accents and "feel".

I'd love to hear about something that's worked for you.
My personal opinion is that some people are just born with "rhythm", and others won't have it if their lives depend on it......but many can improve. And the answer is the same as almost everything music related.....PRACTICE. Practice doesn't always mean going over something a couple of dozen times......it means several hundreds of times. This past year, since I wasn't able to play out, I "amused" myself by sitting down and learning a bunch of stuff NOT in my "wheelhouse". YouTube is a "God-send" for me......there were songs I learned in the morning, and then played twenty-thirty times a day for weeks.....until they became second nature. Rhythm can encompass strum patterns, tempos, time signatures, and syncopation. (and probably more) The more you do it, the easier (and more automatic) it becomes.
It's called "wood-shedding". ;)
 

fretWalkr

Tele-Holic
Joined
Apr 10, 2019
Posts
665
Location
DFW
I've been practicing counting out loud with my child while he practices drums, sometime practicing alongside him on another drum. It's helped my guitar rhythm and vocal phrasing noticeably in a rather short time. We do this both with and without a metronome.

I tend to count while practicing scales and strength exercises too. It's a great habit which bears fruit over time. Turns out all my band directors were right: count out loud, sing the line you're playing.

Thats probably the best thing you could do for your rhythm. And its not even on the guitar. I have to count playing my midi drums or I get lost or turned around. Counting helps you learn to internalize the rhythm. I dont always count but I always internalize the rhythm and try to get a good rhythmic feel going.
 

control voltage

TDPRI Member
Joined
Jan 28, 2018
Posts
89
Location
3rd from the Sun
Like several others have said, playing with a metronome is helpful, especially one that can play different time signatures and subdivisions, like the inexpensive Korg MA-30.

Many people don't like the DigiTech Trio+ pedal, but I have found it to be very helpful, and more fun to play with than a click. The Trio+ can be a simple looper, or it can "listen" to a chord progression you play, and provide bass and drum accompaniment in different styles. It's good rhythm training just learning to play consistently enough for the pedal to interpret your input the way you want it to. It's a little expensive, though, and some people can't stand the bass lines, especially. For practice, I think it's useful.

Playing drums is very helpful, too, but may not be for everyone. The more I do it, the easier I find it to be to make sense of rhythms in music I hear.

Counting and singing the line is very good advice:

I tend to count while practicing scales and strength exercises too. It's a great habit which bears fruit over time. Turns out all my band directors were right: count out loud, sing the line you're playing.
 




Top