One of the hardest, yet most crucial, elements to master in playing guitar, or any musical instrument, is rhythm. Everybody’s got it, but most seem to lose touch with it when they begin to learn an instrument. Randolph Walker, who teaches guitar in Roanoke, Virginia, and who has a profile on FindaGuitarTeacher, has a strong opinion about the necessity of paying attention to the beat, especially when playing with other musicians. He was kind enough to send us his thoughts about the subject, in the form of an article for our blog, and we invite you to read the article today to find out why, and how, rhythm is so integral to music and music collaboration.
To see an interview that Randolph did with Lessons.com’s James Berry, please visit the Randolph Walker guitar teacher page by clicking here.
Rhythm Connects You With Other Musicians
Playing the right notes on the right fret and string is important, of course. But there’s another dimension of music that’s equally important, and that’s the rhythm, or timing.
I played in the school band starting in fifth grade, and loved it. When I got to high school, I couldn’t be in concert band unless I was also in marching band. Marching was not my thing, but the two years I spent marching drilled the 4/4 time signature–four beats per measure, left! right! left! right!–into my feet and every other part of my body.
Guitar students who previously had band or orchestra, or piano with a good teacher, have an advantage when learning rhythm. But everyone can learn to play rhythmically, even people who lack a natural feel for it.
Unfortunately, I’ve had many students who studied with a previous teacher who never stressed the importance of rhythm. These students may be able to play a sequence of notes or chords, but do it with herky-jerky timing. And that means they are unable to play with other musicians. They’re isolated.
Fortunately there are many techniques to strengthen rhythm. The metronome–online, as a smartphone app, or as a stand-alone box–is your best friend. Almost all method books now come with a play-along CD. For my private students, I make MP3 demos of the songs we’re working on.
Even though the vast majority of guitar students don’t learn to read sheet music, everyone learns tab. And the rhythmic aspect of music notation–such as eighth notes, quarter notes, etc.–can be added to tab. It’s called rhythm tab, it’s not difficult to learn, and it helps immensely.
There are many ways to improve your rhythm. Take advantage of them, and you’ll add a critical dimension to your guitar performance.