1. Basic Timing and Rhythm (BC-103)

Topic Progress:

In our previous lesson, we learned chords in the open position of the guitar – these are chords which are played near the guitar nut and involve playing open strings as well as notes on the fretboard. We also learned how to perform a basic downward strum using a pick (or plectrum) and we started to apply these techniques whilst learning a song – ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’ by Bob Dylan.

When we were playing the song, we practiced tapping our foot and counting to four to allow us to time when when we should play each chord in the chord progression, as follows:

G:1[G Major]
D:1[D Major]
Am:1[A Minor]
C:1[C Major]

GD
1 ………. 2 ………. 3 ………. 4
AmAm
1 ………. 2 ………. 3 ………. 4
GD
1 ………. 2 ………. 3 ………. 4
CC
1 ………. 2 ………. 3 ………. 4
etc…

 

For the first chord progression, G | D | Am, we played the G major on the count of one, and the D major on the count of three. We then played the Am on the next count of one and three.

For the second chord progression, G | D | C, we played the G major on the count of one, the D major on the count of three, and the C major on the next count of one and three.

In music, keeping track of what we should be playing and when we should be playing it is called timing, and it is an essential skill to develop as you progress as a guitarist. We need to understand how timing in music works for several reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, we need it in order to sound good! If you are not playing things when they should be played in the song, then regardless of how well you are actually playing individual components of the song, everything will sound ‘off’ and you may find yourself losing your place.

Secondly, we need to understand timing in order to read and understand written music in the form of standard notation and guitar tablature, as shown in the example below:

options width=700 tabstave notation=true tablature=true time=4/4 notes 2/4 3/4 4/4 5/4 | 6/4 7/4 8/4 9/4

We will discuss this in a moment, but suffice it to say that whether you’re a bedroom guitarist or a professional musician, you will undoubtedly need to be able to read some kind of music notation or chart which depicts what you should be playing and when. Music notation and guitar tab provide us with a written representation of the song, breaking it down into the units of timing we need to know in order to play the notes at the correct time.

Finally, good timing is essential if we want to play along with recordings of music, or with other musicians. Typically, the drummer would be keeping time in a band setting (or on any songs you are listening to for that matter), however playing along with other instruments can become slightly distracting when you are trying to listen to your own timing – especially if anyone else is sounding off! When rehearsing in a band, the volume levels of your bandmates instruments can also creep up as everyone competes to be heard, which can make timing difficult if you are struggling to hear what you are playing. Having an intiutive grasp of timing therefore becomes more important when you are playing in this type of setting.

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