Rutbuster: Rhythmic Limitation

Jul 21, 2021Guitar Lessons

This is the first in a series of blog posts intended to get you out of a rut with your guitar playing. It’s all too easy (and common) to lose momentum with learning the guitar. Your playing becomes predictable, repetitive, boring.

Enter the rutbuster.

The first rutbuster I’d like to share is Rhythmic Limitation. The idea is to pick a rhythm (ex. 8th notes) or rhythmic phrase (ex. quarter note, 8th note, 2 16th notes) and see how much mileage you can get out of it. Let’s look at some specific exercises that use rhythmic limitation.

The Exercises

  1. Scale Practice – Many guitarists have only one method for practicing scales…they play the scale up and down using a straight rhythm such as 8th notes (Ex. 1). Try applying a rhythmic phrase to your scale practice, like a quarter note followed by 3 8th note triplets (Ex. 2). Much more musical!
Example 1
Example 2
  1. Single Note Improvisation – This is a bit tougher than the first exercise. In this exercise, you’ll be improvising a solo but limiting yourself to a certain rhythmic phrase. In Example 3 below I improvised a solo using a rhythmic phrase of 2 8th notes and a quarter note. In Example 4 I did the same thing but with 4 8th notes, 4 16th notes and a quarter note as my rhythmic phrase. Spend 10 minutes or so with a backing track and this exercise. You’ll be surprised how challenging this can be.
Example 3
Example 4
  1. Song/Riff/Lick Writing – The third exercise is payoff for the first two. After you’ve practiced rhythmic limitation with scales and improvisation you should have plenty of new ideas for songs, riff, and licks that use the rhythmic ideas you’ve been practicing. You can even take 2 or more rhythmic phrases and combine them for even more ideas. The possibilities are endless!

Hopefully this rutbuster will be an effective tool to add to your guitar practice routine. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, so leave a comment below.

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