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rhythm guitar

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Active Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 2
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I've been practicing single note/lead stuff since I've started. How should I practice rhythm? What chords to play, etc.? I'm not very big on theory since I tried and still am trying to learn this instrument on my own. Thanks

What I do know are various major and minor chord shapes up and down the neck but I want to expand. When trying to play with a backing track do you just try all types of chords?

Shoo Head
Active Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 9

I hate to totally disregard your theory comment... But, coming from a classical piano background, I can't help it.

Theory, in just a minuscule amount can help loads with understanding any instrument. Knowing progressions, key signatures etc... will assist you more in on-the-spot stuff than just messing with it until you can pick something up- unless you have a very good ear. IMHO. Than you can go from there.

Basically- read the siggy.

Don't get caught up in the technical mumbo jumbo-learn it, respect it, but don't let it constrain you. Music is human expression at it's finest, and we definitely don't all feel the same.

Vic Lewis VL
Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 10264

There's a lot of songs in the Easy Songs forum arranged for rhythm guitar - you could do worse than start there.

:D :D :D


"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)

Reputable Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 452

A little theory goes a long way. The ability to know which chord should come next, and why, will make the whole process easier. David has written a great article on Theory Without Tears. You might want to check it out.


Eminent Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 16

If theres any one who can expand on what i'm about to say It would be much appreciated as i have no real idea on how to explain this.

Now as above this was mentioned "theory will help", and im about to explain why. Dont read all this in one go unless you understand the terminology, if you dont know a word or two just ask or find a definition of it.. make notes etc u'll grasp it withing a week.

I must stress you should probably learn how to work out a formula of a scale. I have provided simple list of formulas of basic chords you may be using which you can compare to your scales:

Major - 1 - 3 - 5
Minor - 1 - b3- 5
Augmented - 1 -3 -#5
Diminished - 1 -b3 - b5
Dominant - 1 - 3 - 5 - b7
Half-Diminished - 1 -b3 - b5 - b7
Diminished 7th - 1 - b3 - b5 - bb7

For me to create rythem is all about time signatures and progressions. Now i would stick with 4 measure for now. Now the way i do it, is by using what we call the Circle of Fifth diagram. Now i learn chord changes by using circle progressions, im unsure if this is the best method, but i self taught myself so i dont know any diffrent.

Now the circle of fifth demonstrates the relationship of the scale tone degrees to each other in fifths. On the circle of fifths you would see 12 positions similar to a clock.These 12 positions represent 12 building blocks of music, the 7 scale tone degrees and the 5 enharmonic degrees.
Unlike a clock whose number flow consecutively 1,2,3,4,5 etc the positions on the circle of fifths are I V II VI. In other words they move in fifths:

1 - 5

2 - 6

Now what i do with this is if we start simple, and we start at I which is 1, you then decide where you want to go to start things simple we will stay in C major key.

Now the C major scale is :

Now in the circle of fifths say i picked I V I IV
that is : 1 5 1 4

Now if we work out where they are in the scale we have:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

So now we have 1 5 1 and 4 to look for now we count through the scale and we find that:
1 = C
5 = G
1 = C again
4 = F

Now we know so far that chords on this mark will be in key but you have to work out weather its F minor/ major and same for G. C will be major because we are in the key of C major, we know this by learning time signatures because C major has no sharps and flats. Thats why i picked C major to keep things simpler.

Now to work out weather F and G are major minor or dominant we have to look at modes... this could be an ineffective way but this is how i do it, so it might be of some use to you.

G is the 5th position, now from learning over time off top of my head 5th position is dominant chord and is also the Mixolydian scale of the C major key.

Now to know this you need to know the formula of the Mixolydian scale and you need to know the formula for Dominant chord. Now the dominant chord formula is 1-3-5-b7. Now this may confuse you because ive told you the first time round, that C major has no sharps and flats and i have just said that there is a b7 in this dominant chord. So this is where it may get confusing so perhaps take a break come back all refreshed.

Now here are the formulas for church modes:

I - C - Major: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-1
II - D - Dorian: 1-2-3b-4-5-6-7b-1
III - E - Phrygian: 1-2b-3b-4-5-6b-7b-1
IV - F - Lydian: 1-2-3-4#-5-6-7-1
V - G - Mixolydian: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7b-1
VI - A - Aeolian: 1-2-3b-4-5-6b-7b-1
VII - B - Locrian: 1-2b-3b-4-5b-6b-7b-1

If we look at the chord dominant again we have 1 - 3 - 5 - b7, now if you check through all of them scales you will see that ONLY the mixolydian has that formula (aswell as other numbers in the formula but as long as it has the 1 - 3 - 5 - b7 then you know that G7 will 100% work) also know as G dominant7. The reason it's called dominant and not Major flat7th which is also correct to call it is because of reasons i have not looked into so some one may want to fill in the info on that one.

Now we know the C is major 1 - 3 - 5
G is G7 - 1- 3 -5 -b7
and now we must find out F.

Now we know F is 4, and 4 is IV. Now if you look at the list of scales provided the IV scale is Lydian. Now Lydian has 1-3-5 and from learning chords 1-3-5 is considered Major as given to you at the start of this thread. So a simple F major will do for this example.

So in C major by picking I V I IV we have:

C major to G7 to C major to F major. And repeat as many times as you like.. you could do:

C C C G7 G7 G7 F F F C C C


C C C C G7 G7 G7 G7 F F F F C C C C any strumming pattern will do.

Now if you recorded this you may wonder "Well what can i play over that" ... well you should already know and this is the answer:

C major chord - C Ionian Scale (Ionian is the mode name of Major Scale)
Reason why, is C = I which is in the progression and the I scale is Ionian (Major scale).

G7 dominant chord - G Mixolydian Scale
Reason why, is G = V which is in the progression and the V mode is Mixolydian.

F Major chord - F Lydian AND F Ionian scales. (However F major is a key change)
Reason why, is F = IV in the key of C major and I in the key of F Major, which is in the progression and the IV mode is Lydian in C major, and the chord F major will obviously work with F major scale.

So now you got 3 simple chords and also 4 scales you can play with, plus just to add, you could use ALL the modes in C major as they will give different themes to your playing. Great examples of themes with modes is Joe Satriani, but he's not the first nor the last and not the only one either but for me he is very melodic and gets great music out of the modes.
For me if i want a happy magic moment in a song i tend to pick Lydian, and if i want some sad moment in the song i pick Aeolian, this is simplistic approach but people may use them difrently.

Here Satriani demonstrates modes and how they sound, take a listen you will hear the difference in how they sound, he uses E as his root and uses slightly more difficult scales that i have not covered:

- PART 1

- PART 2

*Please note you may not see much point of using such over the top method on such simplistic level, but it is handy once you have read up on it.
Other people may learn differently, but i find this good for practice, because alot of people will go "what chord can i change to which will work, well the circle progression is a good starting point.
Though i may not be correct here I'm self taught so my findings could be once again a mis-interpretation so if some one could correct me would be handy! :)

Noble Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 1106

Here is another really good resource. It is taken from the courses at Musician's Instititute:

Famed Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 2811

When trying to play with a backing track do you just try all types of chords?
Most backing tracks are created with the rhythm section already recorded. They're intended for lead improvisation or lead playing. There are backing tracks of already recorded songs though, with the guitar rhythm taken out, but you'd have to learn the songs to be able to play over them.

Honorable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 554

One simple tip is that very many songs are in the I - IV - V chord progressins, so if I is G, then IV will be C, and V will be D :wink: