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3 rhythm guitar skills all players should learn: pentatonic riffing, folky chord strumming and rock groove

Pearl Jam
(Image credit: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Guitar lesson: Seasoned players and guitar newbies alike need to stay in shape when it comes to core skills like strumming and timing – so that’s what we’re looking at here. And if you thought the minor pentatonic scale was only for lead guitar, think again! 

This vital scale is at the heart of countless riffs, from Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love to Royal Blood’s bass-fuelled Little Monster. Try out our riffs and hone these essential playing skills.

1. Folky acoustic strumming 

From Coldplay style pop to the folky roots-rock of Ryan Adams, basic strumming forms the backbone of countless players’ rhythm styles. this 6/8 rhythm keeps things interesting by adding a light swing feel to the 16th notes so listen out for a slight ‘bounce’ to the 16ths at the end of each bar of music.

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(Image credit: Future)

2. Pentatonic riffing

if you fancy yourself as a bit of a riff-meister you’ll need timing, note choice and creative ideas aplenty, so, inspired by Led Zep’s Jimmy page, we’re using the E minor pentatonic scale (E G a B D). 

Powerchords and open strings help fill out the sound; accents and vibrato add flair. Develop the idea by experimenting with notes that aren’t in the scale.

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(Image credit: Future)

3. Rock N' Roll Groove 

Sometimes, all you have to do is just lay down a groove and stick to it. our rock ’n’ roll style riff has a straight eighth note feel in the vein of songs like Chuck Berry’s Johnny B Goode and Status Quo’s rockin’ all over the World. use downpicking with an accent on beats 2 and 4, and aim for rock steady timing.

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Tab

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Learn more: 5 rhythm guitar styles