When you are playing rhythm on the guitar, you are strumming down & up over the strings. When you strum down start from the thick string and finish on your thin. Start your strum about 5-7 cm (2-3 inches) above the thick string, then finish about the same distance on the other side of the strings.
Rhythm is one of the most important factors of playing the guitar, or any instrument. It is also one of the harder thing to teach if the student has bad timing. For the next few exercises I'll take it for granted that you have poor timing and I'll break rhythm down to it's simplest form.
Up & Down Strumming
All songs are governed by a beat or tempo, then broken into bars. For the following examples we'll be looking a rhythm patterns using 4 beats per bar.
|This means to strum down|
|This means to strum up|
It is a simple idea, you strum down on the beat, then up on the half beat, this is shown by the "&" symbol. For now, don't worry about playing a chord, just place your fretting hand (the hand that plays the chords) on the strings as shown in the photo below.
Mute The Strings With Your Left (Fretting Hand)
Don't press down, just touch the strings.
This will make a muted sound when you strum the guitar. If you do this in place of playing chords you can focus on strumming instead trying to get chords sounding right.
8th & 16th Note Rhythms
There are two types of rhythm speeds, eighth note and sixteenth note. For this section we will focus on eighth note rhythm. Remember, an eighth note has the value of half a beat, so there is 2 eighth notes every beat. If you are strumming in eighth notes you will strum twice every beat. For example in the 1st beat you will strum down then up, then in the 2nd, 3rd & 4th beat you will do the same.
The next example is playing at 100bpm, see if you can keep up with strum pattern. You will find that it's easy to keep in time when you strum down, but difficult to strum up on the half beat (in between each beat). Remember, try to keep the strums evenly spaced.
Tip: Say this when you're playing it,
"Down & Down & Down & Down & 1 Up 2 Up 3 Up 4 Up".
Click to listen to MP3 audio on this example, audio will not be in time with the graphic