Great rhythm guitar playing is the unsung hero of ALL popular music. We can all call out dozens of our favorite solos BUT it’s the rhythm groove that gets our blood boiling and our feet moving. Can you imagine any AC/DC or Stones tune without Malcolm’s or Keith’s rhythm guitar part? From Rock to Blues to Pop, Country, Funk and everything in between; rhythm guitar is the lifeblood of all popular styles of music.

Explore popular genres with Robbie and he’ll reveal its key progressions, must-know rhythms for the style, essential chord vocabulary and a tasty selection of stylized tricks of the trade. Get your groove on!

Blues: Blues Stomp

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this rhythm lesson.

Playing in time against this bare bones backing track is going to present a challenge for you because all you’ll have to lock into is the downbeat of a bass drum and tambourine. The tendency will be to rush the licks so be mindful and really listen to the beat and stomp along. The main lick is a triplet figure so the aim is to get that feeling smooth and to hear three notes against each quarter note stomp.

This is going to be a great exercise for you if you are a finger picker and you want to be able to play chords and licks within the context of one guitar part. Of course there are many variations I could have shown you but once you get the main lick under your fingers you can add the flavors you hear for yourself.

If you feel really adventurous you could put a slide on your little finger and add single note slide licks while holding down the groove. If you’d like some video on that, you could check out my course on TrueFire called SoloCraft.

Minor Blues: Voice Leading & Chord Melody

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this rhythm lesson.

In this example I’ll be showing you how to add some nice melodic variations to the top voices of your chords. You’ll notice how I’m adding the (2) or the (9th) to the top of my Ami7 and Dmi7 chords and then removing that note again to give us a simple melody. If you’re feeling adventurous you could also add the C note above the B (2nd) on the Ami7 chord and the (F) above the (E) on the Dmi7 chord.

Instead of playing the F9 and E9 chords I have chosen to play F7 and E7 on the top four strings. I also added the sus4 to those two chords and a move up the fret board to give me an inversion. Watch the video and you will see and hear how cool this sounds. You’ll get the chance to jam over the track with me playing just the spreads so that you can try out these new chord melody ideas.

Remember that nothing is written in stone when it comes to music and musical expression. If it sounds good, it is good.

Classic Rock: Hendrix Licks

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this rhythm lesson.

The classic rock track that I have put together is very reminiscent of “All Along The Watchtower” which was made famous by Jimi Hendrix and the writer, Bob Dylan. I’m approaching this vibe more in the style of Hendrix by playing the chords and adding some of those really cool Hendrix/R&B style licks from the A minor pentatonic scale.

The best way of approaching this is to play the Ami7 chord, G5 and F5/2 chords as per the progression and instead of playing the G5 on the last 2 beats on the way back to the Ami7, you play a lick from the A minor pentatonic Sscale instead. Check out the video and you’ll see and hear what I mean. I’m alternating the licks to add some cool variations. You could start the lick on the 2nd and 3rd strings the first time round. The 3rd and 4th strings the second time, etc. The key here is to manage playing the first three chords and then still being able to articulate the licks smoothly before returning to the Ami7 chord.

This is a great chop building exercise if you’ve never alternated between chords and leads fills before. The chord progression isn’t too challenging but pulling it all together with the licks should give you something cool to work on for a while.

Stadium Rock: U2 Pedal Tone

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this rhythm lesson.

The band U2 created some of the most memorable songs of the 80’s, 90’s and the new millennium. “The Edge”, U2’s guitarist played very simple ideas in conjunction with multiple delays to create hooks and riffs and I wanted to show you something in that style to play over our Stadium Rock progression.

The idea I’ve created is based around an Emi7 chord at the 7th fret. I started my thought process there because I know the progression is an E Aeolian modal progression. This means the progression has a key center of G but has a tonal center (resolution point) of the VI chord, Emi7. What I do when I’m in the creative process is to listen to the music bed and try to hear ideas that I can sing. Once I have a framework for that I transpose the vocal melodies onto the guitar and under my fingers. This is how I came up with this guitar part. Please learn the guitar part that I’ve played using the transcription we’ve provided for you but also come up with an idea of your own that you can play over the backing track.

The “Edge” uses delays to create his signature sound, so you’ll need to hook up a delay pedal or rack effects to make this sound authentic. If you have a tap tempo on your delay, play the track and tap the tempo switch to get the delayed timed to the track. This is very important as you want the repeats to be in time with the music. Set your feedback levels higher than you would for typical lead guitar delays as well. You’ll want the feedbacks to start lapping over each other. If you can play in stereo all the better. Use the ping pong or panning delay so that you can set the delays to pan across the stereo field for a more spatial experience.

Pop: Adding Layers

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this rhythm lesson.

I’ve capo’d the acoustic guitar at the 7th fret now to play a 3rd strumming guitar part. Play the video and you’ll hear me play this new guitar part over the previous two takes. I hope you like how this sounds. I use this capo technique quite a lot when I’m recording in Nashville because it works really well for singer/songwriter demos and of course that also translates to playing those songs live with another guitarist.

In an ideal recording situation I would put my main guitar part in the center of the mix and pan the other two parts hard left and hard right to separate them all. If you have the access to a recording set-up try this yourself. You’ll be amazed at just how incredible double and tripled tracked acoustic guitar parts can sound.

In total, RhythmCraft drills down deep on 45 rhythm guitar techniques across a wide variety of blues, rock, pop, funk and country stylings so you don’t have to panic! Head on over to the full course to check it out for even more inspiration.