Magazine article Guitar Player

EZ Street: Get Rhythm

Magazine article Guitar Player

EZ Street: Get Rhythm

Article excerpt

RHYTHM IS THE HEARTBEAT OF MUSIC. BUT unlike a heartbeat with its predictable pattern, musical rhythm is most exciting when its accents skip, jump, and shift within the context of a steady tempo. Understanding these shifts, and knowing when and how to incorporate them into your playing, is essential for any guitarist hoping to hold a listener's attention. With this lesson, we'll begin exploring the world of rhythm and discover ways to harness its energy and momentum.

Our journey begins with one word: syncopation. A rhythm becomes syncopated when its accents fall on the upbeats. Many guitar styles, including jazz, R&B, bossa nova, blues, and funk are defined by syncopation.

Take a look at Ex. 1, which contains three rhythmic patterns. The first measure is very straightforward: Beats one and two are quarter-notes, and beats three and four are subdivided into eighth-notes. Mute the strings with your fretting hand, and strum them slowly, playing the one, two, three-and, four-and rhythm. Follow the picking indications (down, down, down-up, down-up), and repeat the four-beat phrase several times.

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Next, play the second measure, in which you skip beat four's downbeat. Rather than stopping your strumming for the eighth-note rest, you may find it helpful to maintain the down-up, down-up hand motion, and simply dodge the strings on the skipped downbeat. Can you hear the rhythmic kick in the second half of this measure? Welcome to the world of syncopation. …

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