Simple way to improve your sense of rhythm

Many guitar players have asked me: What can I do to improve my sense of rhythm? That question is so vast, that a specific answer is seldom very helpful. But there is one thing many guitarist cannot do that many other instrumentalists can do is the effortless use of polyrhythms. Before we go into why that concept is very helpful to you let‘s play a little game:

Step 1: Put on a Metronome at a slow click of around 40 beats per minute.

Step 2: Clap in eights. That means clap twice in the time of one click. One clap happens right on the click and the second clap should happen at the halfway time between two clicks. If you can do that, that is good.

Step 3: Clap in eight triplets. That means clap three times during the time of one click. The first clap happens on the click, the second clap happens after one third of the time as progressed and the third clap happens after two thirds have passed. If you can do that that is quite good.

Step 4: Now clap with your right hand on your lap in eights and clap with your left hand on your lap in eight triplets. If you can do that on the drop of your hat, then sorry: the rest of the article will not be interesting for you. Most people cannot do that and this article will help you develop that skill.

Once you have mastered this skill you will see that it will be much easier for you to break down complex rhythms and play them on your guitar. In addition you will see your coordination of your two hands increase dramatically. Finally your ear will develop the ability to recognize these polyrhythms and will lead you to understand the music you are hearing better.

So let’s break this down to a step by step description:

Step 1: Decide on two numbers A and B.

Example: The numbers in the example above are 2 and 3. I will leave these as an exercise for the reader and take 3 and 4 for this example.

Step 2: Find the least common multiple of the two numbers.

Example: The least common multiple of 3 and 4 is 12.

Step 3: Make a small table with the numbers from 1 to the number you found in Step 2 in the first row and leave two rows below that free.

Example: The number we’ve found in Step 2 is 12. So I create a table with 12 columns and three rows.

123456789101112
























Step 3: On the second row on the table enter “Left” on the first column. Then enter another “Left” A columns to the right.

Example: Our A is 3. So we enter the word “Left” on the first, fourth, seventh and tenth column.

123456789101112
Left

Left

Left

Left













Step 4: On the third row on the table enter “Right” on the first column. Then enter another “Right” B columns to the right.

Example: Our B is 4. So we enter the word “Right” on the first, fifth and ninth column.

123456789101112
Left

Left

Left

Left

Right


Right


Right


Step 5: Now the preparation is done and we can go on to train the rhythm. Start reading the numbers slowly and constantly from left to right. Clap with the left hand whenever the second row has an entry below that number. Clap with the right hand whenever the third row has an entry below that number. On the “1” clap both hands simultaneously.

This step by step process will allow you to break down every polyrhythm and allow you to train this. Once you have trained that for some time you don’t have to count it anymore consciously but will do that rhythm intuitively. And once that happens your sense of rhythm has grown massively.

About the author:

René Kerkdyk is a guitar teacher in Hildesheim, Germany. With innovative methods and top-notch concepts learning to play guitar was never easier than it is now.