Rhythm Guitar


The most commonly understood meaning of the term rhythm guitar is a member of a rock band who plays the chords on which the music is based, usually by strumming the guitar in a rhythmic pattern. Rhythm guitar is also commonly understood to mean the music played by a rhythm guitarist. In the context of the visualinear tablature guitar series, the meaning of the term rhythm guitar is considerably different, and has only a marginal connection with rock music. It is therefore of some importance to define exactly what is meant by the term rhythm guitar, since this definition is the basis of the rhythm guitar component of the series.

As demonstrated in Melody Guitar and the Guitar Ensemble Core Catalog, the guitar can be used to play monophonic (one note at a time) music. But the guitar is first and foremost an instrument of chords, and it is best suited to playing chord-based music that is more self-sufficient and more complete sounding than a melody or a monophonic part in an ensemble arrangement. This is the main appeal of the guitar among aspiring musicians that it can be used to play satisfying and self-sufficient music by oneself. This is obviously an important consideration for anyone who do not have the advantage of being able to play music together with others in an ensemble, and only a relatively few people enjoy such an advantage.

In the context of the visualinear tablature guitar series, rhythm guitar refers to any guitar music, or any style of play on the guitar, that is based on chords, and is more self-sufficient and complete sounding than a melody or a monophonic part in an ensemble arrangement. A guitar chord is a specific combination of fretted and/or open (unfretted) notes. Together with melody, chords are the basis of all music, at least in the Western world, and chords create a context in which a melody makes musical sense. Polyphonic instruments like the guitar or the piano are capable of producing more complete sounding music than monophonic instruments because they can be used to play chords as well as melodies.

Another important component of the definition of rhythm guitar, again in the context of the visualinear tablature guitar series, is the fact that the two basic styles of play are given equal emphasis. Rhythm guitar music can be played either by striking the strings with a flatpick, or by plucking the strings with the thumb and fingers of the playing hand. Most rhythmic styles of play on the guitar employ one or the other of these two basic styles of play (flatpick or fingerstyle). An equal emphasis on the two basic styles of play allows for the development of a broader range of skills as a rhythm guitarist. This in turn allows for the crafting of effective rhythm guitar arrangements for a wider variety of musical settings.

Rhythm guitar arrangements are typically played as an accompaniment to singing or in combination with other instruments, but seldom as solo pieces. Nevertheless, a well-crafted rhythm guitar arrangement should make sense musically regardless of the context in which it is played, and should be able to stand alone as a complete sounding piece of music. This is an important common feature of every arrangement included in the rhythm guitar component of the visualinear tablature guitar series. All of the arrangements have a musical sense about them, however simple at times, and they are more than an exactly repeating pattern of play applied to a progression of chords. This does not necessarily mean, and it is important for beginners in particular to take note of this, that musically sensible arrangements are any more difficult to play than strictly formulated arrangements.

In theory at least, any piece of guitar music can be played on any type of guitar. In practice, however, classical and flamenco guitar music is normally played on a nylon string acoustic guitar, and rock and jazz guitar music is normally played on an electric guitar. Most other styles of guitar music (including folk, contemporary acoustic, blues, popular, country, traditional, and bluegrass) are normally played on a steel string acoustic guitar. Of the three types of guitars, the steel string guitar is best suited to playing music in a wide variety of styles, and in either of the two basic styles of play. All of the music contained in the visualinear tablature guitar series, and especially the rhythm guitar music, is written for, and meant to be played on, the steel string acoustic guitar.

The unparalleled and unquestioned popularity of the guitar is a direct result of the fact that there are a great many well-known and widely admired styles of play. In the context of the visualinear tablature guitar series, rhythm guitar refers to any and all of these diverse styles of play, since elements from a wide variety of styles were drawn upon in fashioning the rhythm arrangements. The diversity of styles of play thus developed is intended to serve as a general introduction to numerous more specific styles of play, and to allow for the development of a well-rounded understanding of, and skill at playing, rhythm guitar music. While it is true that a great many styles of music are touched upon in the rhythm guitar component of the visualinear tablature guitar series, there is a predominant emphasis on the folk and classical musical genres, and the rock guitar and jazz guitar genres are barely touched upon, primarily because they are based for the most part on the electric guitar.

In conclusion, then, in the context of the visualinear tablature guitar series, rhythm guitar refers to styles of play on the steel string acoustic guitar (either flatpick styles or fingerstyles) that are based on chords, that draw upon elements from a wide variety of musical styles and genres, and that allow for the creation of sensible and self-sufficient music. Rhythm guitar also refers to the music produced by any of these diverse styles of play.

About Rhythm Guitar

Rhythm Guitar is the manual for the rhythm guitar component of the visualinear tablature guitar series. The main purpose of Rhythm Guitar is to provide a carefully developed course of study for learning to play the steel string acoustic guitar in a musical fashion and in rhythmic (chord-based) styles of play. An important secondary purpose of this book is to allow for the development of familiarity with rhythmic visualinear tablature. This in turn allows for access to the opportunities for learning given by the many volumes of rhythm guitar music that follow. Another important secondary purpose of Rhythm Guitar is to provide a well-balanced approach to learning to play rhythmic guitar music that includes discussions of numerous topics in music theory, chord theory, music analysis, and musical practice and performance. This integrated approach to learning is designed to allow for the development of general competence and self-sufficiency as a rhythm guitarist.

Since no prior knowledge or playing experience is assumed, Rhythm Guitar is suitable for complete beginners in the study of music and/or in the study of the guitar. The course of study in this book consists mainly of four related subject areas : music theory, chord theory, flatpick technique, and fingerstyle technique. These subject areas are introduced in turn in the first four chapters of Rhythm Guitar, and then developed more or less simultaneously in the fifth through ninth chapters. The tenth chapter is mainly devoted to a consideration of alternate tunings for the guitar.

The music theory and chord theory content in Rhythm Guitar is reinforced by means of a number of written exercises. Most of the playing techniques discussed in this book are demonstrated in the playing Exercises, an eclectic collection of rhythmic guitar music in a variety of styles. The mastery of these playing Exercises will allow readers to attain a solid intermediate level of skill as a rhythm guitarist. Rhythm Guitar also includes  a parallel learning track that is based on applying basic patterns of play to simple chord progressions. This parallel track, quite apart from the playing Exercises, allows readers to advance at their own pace in the development of playing skills.

Although it includes a significant amount of music theory content, Rhythm Guitar is first and foremost a practical guide to learning to play rhythm guitar music effectively and musically. The assumption has been made that musicianship (musical ability and awareness) is not an innate talent possessed by a relatively few people, but rather consists of skills and knowledge that can be learned by practically anyone. Rhythm Guitar contains numerous detailed descriptions of useful techniques for learning to play the guitar in chord-based styles with rhythmic correctness and in a musical fashion. Since nothing is assumed and since everything is clearly explained, this book is well-suited for self-instruction.

It is true that only a relatively few people become or ever have aspirations of becoming a professional musician. But practically everyone enjoys listening to music, and people generally enjoy and benefit from learning to play music as well. The goal of becoming a competent rhythm guitarist is a very worthwhile goal that is shared by a great many people. The easy-to-follow course of study developed in Rhythm Guitar, and the simplicity of visualinear tablature, make the attainment of this goal possible for anyone willing to devote the required time and effort.

The two following headings on this page (Rhythm Guitar : Table of Contents, and Rhythm Guitar : the playing Exercises) include more than enough detail and free content to allow for an informed choice regarding the Ordering Options with which this page concludes. Be sure to take note of the fact that the three links at the top of the Table of Contents will allow you to read the Foreword, the Introduction, and the Index. The Index in particular should prove useful to those who already have some playing skills, and who want to quickly determine if there is sufficient content in Rhythm Guitar to warrant their interest. This is so because it lists in a condensed fashion the broad range of topics and terms that are explained and defined in Rhythm Guitar.

Rhythm Guitar : Table of Contents

View Foreword
View Introduction
View Index

Foreword   i

Introduction   iii


Eastern music and Western music  1  equal temperament  2  the 88 key piano keyboard  2  the octave  3  the division of the octave  3  the natural notes  5  accidentals and enharmonic notes  5  Exercise 1  7  families of instruments  8  range and register  9  bass and treble  9  the open notes of the guitar  10  fretted notes on the guitar  10  the fretboard diagram  11  Exercise 2  11  the formal name for an interval  11  the minor 3rd and the Major 3rd  12  tertian harmony and triads  13  spelling triads  14  Exercise 3  14


tuning the guitar  15  relative tuning  16  guitar chords  17  chord diagrams  17  constructing chord diagrams  18  chord fingerings  19  chord symbols  20  Exercise 4  21  fretting considerations  22  the partial barre  23  chord progressions  25  Major and minor keys  25  the tonic chord  26  the Perfect 4th and the Perfect 5th  26  the three chord group  27  chord progression in d  28  meter  29  the 12-bar blues progression  29  Exercise 5  31


the use of chord progressions in this study  32  the use of Exercises in this study  33  rasgueado and punteado  34  strumming the guitar  35  the flatpick  36  the basic downstrum  37  the arc-in  37  meter and rhythm in visualinear tablature  38  metric rhythm  39  developing patterns of strumming  40  the playing Exercises  42  Exercise 6  43  the basic upstrum  44  the arc-out  44  touch with a flatpick  45  strumming patterns  45  playing strummed music musically  47  Exercise 7  48


practicing effectively  49  developing rhythmic correctness  50  the metronome  52  introduction to fingerstyle technique  53  the playing hand anchor  54  the fingernails of the playing hand  54  four finger picking  55  arpeggiated fingerstyle  56  fingerstyle in visualinear tablature  56  Exercise 8  58  cut time and double time  60  three finger picking  61  Exercise 9  62  playing the progressions in fingerstyle  64  fingerpicks  64  hybrid picking  66


the metric beat and patterns of rhythm  67  syncopation and accents  67  the C and G progressions  69  relative Major and minor  70  parallel Major and minor  70  the Medieval cadence  71  common chords and common keys  72  creating and expanding chord progressions  73  legato strumming  75  damping strings  75  damped strums  76  arpeggiated strums  79  bass note – strum style  79  Exercise 10  81  patterned fingerstyle  83  Exercise 11  84  the duration of notes in fingerstyle  86  vibrato  87  touch in fingerstyle  88


repeat signs  90  quartering the beat  90  compound meter  91  the theory of 7th chords  92  Exercise 12  94  added note chords  95           the C-1(3), G-2(3), and G7-2(3) chords  97  the F(5) chord  97  the g(6) chord and internal damping  98  the B7 and B chords  99  the E and e chord groups  101  quartering the beat while strumming  102  pick and strum style  104  string and fret notation  105  the hammer-on and the pull-off  105  Exercise 13  107  the talking blues progression  109  the open chord  110  the bend  110  Exercise 14  111  the pinch  114  other multiple note techniques in fingerstyle  115  Exercise 15  116  practicing fingerstyle patterns and strumming patterns  118


the pick-up  120  suspended chords  121  Exercise 16  122  the F(6) chord and thumbing  122  chords above a bass note  123  making chord transitions efficiently  123  strumming in compound meter  124 Exercise 17  128  alternate pick and strum style  130  backpicked notes  132  flatpicked damped and staccato notes  132  multiple flatpicked notes  133  the slide  133  Exercise 18  134  incomplete and inverted chords in fingerstyle  136  syncopated fingerstyle  137  damped notes and muted notes in fingerstyle  137  Exercise 19  138  rolls in fingerstyle  140  florid fingerstyle  141  Exercise 20  142


song form  145  reading song scores  146  9th chords  148  Exercise 21  149  the theory of barre chords  149  important barre chords  151  common chords and common keys  152  muted strums  153  non-chord notes in strums  155  implied melody in strumming  156  Exercise 22  156  alternating bass  159  Exercise 23  164  Travis picking  166

Exercise 24  167


a review of rhythmic considerations  170  triplets  171  duplets  173  Augmented chords  174  chord charts  177  another blues progression  179  diminished chords  181   the capo  185  transposition with a capo  186  transposing chord progressions  187  fashioning rhythm guitar duets  189  5th chords  190  modal chords  192  hammering-on and pulling-off while strumming  193  hammered chords  196  advanced strumming technique and notation  197  Exercise 25  198  fingerpicking  202  Exercise 26  203  


scordatura  207  D standard tuning  207  low D tuning  209  Exercise 27  210  D pedal tuning  212  Exercise 28  213  D modal tuning  215  D5 tuning  216  Exercise 29  216  open tunings  218  Exercise 30  220  chording in open tunings  222  harmonics  223  half-open tunings  225  experimenting with tunings  225  naming chords devised by means of experimentation  226  figuring out song accompaniments from recordings  227

Appendix  229

Index and Pronunciation Guide  246

Rhythm Guitar : the playing Exercises

The playing Exercises demonstrate most of the playing techniques discussed in Rhythm Guitar, and comprise a small catalog of reasonably simple but musically satisfying rhythm guitar pieces. The CD for these Exercises serves an important purpose by ensuring the reader’s correct understanding of the description of those techniques. The CD track excerpts provided below serve another important purpose by allowing for a quick review of this music by prospective readers of Rhythm Guitar.

But the most important purpose served by the CD for the playing Exercises is given by its usefulness as an aid in learning to play the music. The rhythm guitar arrangement is given on the left channel, and a complementary musical arrangement is given on the right channel. Since the balance of the two channels can be adjusted rather easily on most stereos, the CD can be used in a number of ways to make practice more interesting, more enjoyable, and more productive. The most obvious use of the CD would be to favor the rhythm guitar channel while you are learning a piece, and then to eliminate it altogether after you have perfected playing the piece. Achieving the goal of substituting your own playing for the music on the rhythm guitar channel, and playing along with the complementary arrangement, can produce considerable enjoyment, encouragement, and satisfaction.

The playing Exercises are given below, and in Rhythm Guitar, in approximate order of increasing difficulty. Exercises 27, 28, and 29, however, are somewhat easier to play than many of the Exercises by which they are preceded. Beginners should not be discouraged by the fact that a number of these Exercises obviously require a solid intermediate level of skill. Although much of the content of Rhythm Guitar may be of use and of interest to more experienced players, the course of study is nevertheless appropriate for complete beginners, since no prior musical knowledge or playing skill is assumed.

Rhythm Guitar Exercises #6

Exercise 6 (flatpick)

Rhythm Guitar Exercises #7

Exercise 7 (flatpick)

Rhythm Guitar Exercises #8

Exercise 8 (fingerstyle)

Rhythm Guitar Exercises #9

Exercise 9 (fingerstyle)

Rhythm Guitar Exercises #10

Exercise 10 (flatpick)

Rhythm Guitar Exercises #11

Exercise 11 (fingerstyle)

Rhythm Guitar Exercises #13

Exercise 13 (flatpick)

Rhythm Guitar Exercises #15

Exercise 15 (fingerstyle)

Rhythm Guitar Exercises #17

Exercise 17 (flatpick)

Rhythm Guitar Exercises #18

Exercise 18 (flatpick)

Rhythm Guitar Exercises #19

Exercise 19 (fingerstyle)

Rhythm Guitar Exercises #20

Exercise 20 (fingerstyle)

Rhythm Guitar Exercises #22

Exercise 22 (flatpick)

Rhythm Guitar Exercises #23

Exercise 23 (fingerstyle)

Rhythm Guitar Exercises #24

Exercise 24 (fingerstyle)

Rhythm Guitar Exercises #25

Exercise 25 (flatpick/fingerstyle duet)

Rhythm Guitar Exercises #26

Exercise 26 (flatpick/fingerstyle duet)

Rhythm Guitar Exercises #27

Exercise 27 (fingerstyle)

Rhythm Guitar Exercises #28

Exercise 28 (flatpick)

Rhythm Guitar Exercises #29

Exercise 29 (fingerstyle)

Rhythm Guitar Exercises #30

Exercise 30 (flatpick)

Ordering Options

The five ordering options for Rhythm Guitar are the e-book (PDF) of Chapters 1-4, the e-book of the remainder of the text (Chapters 5-10), the CD of the playing Exercises (in download format or disc format), and the printed and bound book. The e-book of the first four chapters, priced at only $5, offers a very affordable way to determine if the course of study in Rhythm Guitar is well suited to your learning needs. Ordering both e-books allows for the purchase of the entire text of Rhythm Guitar, in electronic format, at half the price of the printed and bound book. The three components of Rhythm Guitar that are not included in the electronic version (the Foreword, the Introduction, and the Index) can be reviewed in the Table of Contents section of this page. If you elect to purchase the text in electronic format, you will likely need to print the pages containing the visualinear tablature scores for the Exercises, since they are very difficult to read in Fit Page View on a computer monitor, and cannot be read and played simultaneously otherwise.

Like the two e-books, the CD can be downloaded from this website immediately after your purchase transaction is completed. The downloadable CD tracks are in MP3 format, and are delivered in a single .zip file. The CD can also be ordered in disc format for delivery by mail. This ordering option is offered for the benefit of those who are not comfortable in a computer environment, and those who prefer the disc format and dont mind waiting a few days for delivery. The disc can be played either in the Media Player of your computer, or in your stereo or CD player. If you elect to order the CD, make sure you select the Add to Cart button for your preferred format.

As detailed above in the playing Exercises section of this page, the CD can be a valuable tool for learning to play the guitar music contained in Rhythm Guitar. But the CD is not required for a correct understanding of the text and the visualinear tablature scores for the Exercises, since the CD excerpts posted to this page can serve the same purpose. The CD can serve another important purpose, however, particularly for players who have already progressed beyond a beginning level of skill. Most of the Exercises can be figured out relatively easily from the recording, and the CD offers a very friendly environment for working on this valuable skill. If you elect to use the CD for this purpose, you will likely benefit from a review of the expanded listings for the Exercises that are included with the CD Playlist.

If you have reviewed the contents of this page, you have possibly decided that the course of study in Rhythm Guitar will allow for your development as a musician and as a guitarist. If so, you should consider the printed and bound book format, despite the additional cost as compared to the electronic format. The more tangible character of a book, as compared to reading the text on a computer monitor, will likely increase and better sustain your resolve to keep moving forward toward your musical goals. In addition, the book format eliminates the need for printing scores, and facilitates the use of the Index (the Index can also be used with the electronic version, but far less conveniently). If you elect to order Rhythm Guitar in printed and bound format, you should consider ordering the CD as well, since this will allow you to enjoy a much greater range of learning opportunities at a modest additional cost.

  • Rhythm Guitar e-book 1 (73 pages)
This e-book is an electronic version (PDF) of Chapters 1-4 of Rhythm Guitar. It can be downloaded from this website immediately after your purchase transaction is completed.

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