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Rhythm Rules: 6 Essential Exercises to Improve Your Groove


In Fig. 4 we have a power chord-filled rock riff that moves from a basic quarter-note pulse to a dotted-quarter feel.

Moving over to funk music, we have Fig. 5with a guitar arrangement loosely emulating bass and horn lines. The first audio example has the click on beats 2 and 4 and then a dotted eighth-note pulse.

Finally, for some mathematic fun, here’s a polyrhythmic idea (Fig. 6) where double-stops are played a dotted eighth-note apart, until the phrase turns around and the pattern breaks to land back on the “1.” For this exercise, we have three audio examples. The first one is with a quarter-note pulse, the second one is with a dotted eighth-note pulse, and the final one is with me counting the quarter-notes out loud so you can hear where everything lines up.

During the first phrase, those hits will line up exactly with the metronome, until the phrase turns around. At that point, the pattern breaks to land the new phrase back on "1." The dotted eighth-note of the metronome keeps going, so the guitar and the metronome won’t line up during that phrase or the next one. They finally land back together on the fourth phrase. Have fun with this one!

The different pulses serve different purposes, but all work toward the general goal of improving your perception of time. The quarter-note pulse is a good way to work on accuracy, while the “two and four” pulse helps your sense of space and groove, and offers a bit of a swing. The dotted pulses help you internalize time on a deeper level, as they both have you focus on getting locked in against an underlying quarter-note pulse that should almost be second nature. Try practicing lines and solo licks with this method to get your lead playing more grooving.

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