Learn How To Play Killer Rhythm Guitar Riffs
If you love listening to rock and metal, you know that killer guitar riffs are a fundamental part of what makes these styles of music so great. Any average song can instantly become totally kick ass with the addition of a cool rhythm guitar riff. I get a lot of messages from guitar players who want to know the best way to improve their rhythm guitar playing so that they can make their own killer riffs. In response, I have decided to write an entire article to explain how to both creatively and effectively practice rhythm guitar.
Starting off, you will likely need to think about rhythm guitar playing in a totally different way than the way you are used to. In order to make cool riffs for rhythm guitar, you need to think less about the specific notes you are using and more about HOW you play the notes you use. Fact is, you can take even a simple power chord and make it sound awesome without using any additional notes. Additionally, you don’t need to rush out and learn a bunch of new chords in order to create interesting rhythm guitar ideas.
You’ve likely already considered practicing at least a few of the factors that are important for becoming a better rhythm guitar player. However, if you are currently having trouble with making your own rhythm guitar riffs, this means that you are struggling in multiple areas of your guitar playing as well. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you specifically what YOU must work on to improve in your guitar playing since you are not taking lessons with me (and I don’t know anything about your current skill level). However, by mastering the following musical skills you will be able to quickly enhance your rhythm guitar playing:
1. Think about the way the actual rhythms you play work together to make the guitar riff as a whole. Similar to lead guitar, many guitarists ‘overdo it’ when playing rhythm guitar riffs. The truth is that you can make great guitar riffs by using only one or two notes. It’s easy to get caught up in all the various aspects of rhythm guitar playing, but remember…rhythm guitar is about RHYTHM!
By stripping your guitar riffs of any excess notes, you will force yourself to think more about the actual rhythms being played. To practice this, start by writing down four measures worth of 8th notes on a piece of paper. Then remove 6 of these notes at random and replace them with rests. After doing this, play the rhythm you have just created using only a single note or chord on guitar. Once you give this exercise a try, you will quickly notice that you can create nearly endless rhythm ideas for your guitar riffs. As you become accustomed to this creative process, you can add in more complicated meters and rhythmic ideas.
2. Practice making your rhythm guitar playing as clean and TIGHT as you can. Being able to do this is necessary for playing great sounding guitar riffs. The majority of guitarists know that you must be able to play consistently in time in order to play good rhythm guitar, however few guitarists know what it sounds like when someone is playing TIGHT rhythm guitar that locks in with the metronome. If you can’t consistently play in time, your rhythm guitar ideas will not sound good even if they are really cool ideas.
An easy way to test your rhythm guitar timing is to record yourself playing quarter note rhythms using a single note. To keep the beat, use a metronome that is playing quarter notes. If you are playing the rhythm with perfect timing, you will start to notice how the click of the beat seems to blend together with the notes of your guitar, creating the illusion that the click has been turned off. However, if your timing is a little off, the click of the metronome will sound like it happens slightly before or slightly after the notes you are playing.
In addition to playing with great timing to a beat, it is important to play tight in various other areas of rhythm guitar such as palm muting and pick attack articulation. By mastering these additional parts of rhythm guitar playing, you will not only improve your ability to make guitar riffs, but you will save a great deal of time and money if you ever decide to record music in the studio. Find out how to improve this aspect of your rhythm guitar playing by studying this free recording guide for guitar players.
3. Practice to improve your vibrato technique and pinch harmonics on guitar. By incorporating these ideas into your guitar riffs, you will be able to play powerful and intense guitar riffs. Using vibrato technique gives your guitar playing a voice-like quality. Once this is combined with pinch harmonics, your guitar riffs will let out a powerful scream that will be sure to catch the attention of anyone listening. For an extra cool effect, use these techniques at the end of your riffs to really finish strong.
4. Learn creative ways to combine guitar chords together. This will enable you to think of many cool sounding groups of chords to use in your rhythm guitar riffs. If you are familiar with the idea of ‘keys’ when using chords, this will be much easier for you. However, if you don’t know about this yet, simply combine different major and minor chords together with power chords. For instance, if you are playing a guitar riff that contains an A power chord, you can add in the notes of an A minor chord to get a different sound. Experiment with this idea to expand power chords into full major or minor chords.
5. Use a single rhythm to create many new guitar riffs. Take an interesting rhythmic pattern and use it with 5-15 different groups of chords or notes. This will greatly expand your capacity to play creative rhythm guitar. Additionally, you can use this idea from the opposite perspective: Use a single chord or note to play 5-15 different rhythmic patterns. This will give you a lot of material to use when coming up with new guitar riffs.
It will certainly take time to become a highly creative rhythm guitar player. However, after reading the points in this article, you can see that there are many things you can do right now to start making progress in your guitar playing. When you learn how to write your own rhythm guitar riffs, you will have a great time coming up with cool ideas on guitar with little effort. By practicing your rhythm guitar skills you will become a much better musician overall. On top of that, if you would like to become a professional guitarist, these skills will be very useful while performing live shows on stage and recording songs in the studio.
To find out more about becoming a solid rhythm guitarist, check out this free guitar player’s recording guide.