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5 ways to boost your rhythm guitar playing

(Image credit: Future)

ELECTRIC GUITAR WEEK: Get some essential chord shapes and changes down, then take your timing to the next level with our 16th note strumming exercises.

Electric Guitar Week is brought to you in association with Fender. Check out the Electric Guitar Week hub page for more tips and tutorials.

1. Practise tricky changes

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Before you even think about your strumming hand, take a moment to check you’ve got any tricky chords or changes down. Remember this for any rhythm part you play. And, if you’re in the mood for a finger-twisting challenge, try cycling through these four shapes to see improvements right away. Don’t worry about the complicated names. Just play the chords.

(Image credit: Future)

2. Five chords to cross the fretboard

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Yep, we’re still talking about chords! These five shapes will help you traverse the whole fretboard with your riffs and rhythms – the secret lies in how they link up. Each chord shares at least one note with its predecessor. So what? Well, armed with five shapes of the same chord, you can start to think of ways to transfer your ideas from shape to shape, transfer your ideas from shape to shape, unlocking new creative ideas in the process.

(Image credit: Future)

3. Build speed and stamina with downpicking

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This thrash metal-style riff starts slow, like a jog, before doubling speed with a quick sprint finish. This short burst of speed should be manageable without tensing up and is something to build upon with longer ‘speed sprints’ over time.

4. Feel the downbeat and build a groove

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This Nile Rodgers-style rhythm is played using constant 16th notes. Emphasise beats 1, 2, 3 and 4 with a heavier downstroke to lock in with the backbeat and play the other pick strokes more gently.

5. Develop your timing with syncopated 16ths

(Image credit: Future)

Another funk/disco riff, this rhythm includes space for a more creative sound. For perfect timing, use constant down- and upstrokes, strumming slightly away from the strings on the rests.