Do You Have No Rhythm on Guitar?

You have rhythm. Just don't confuse rhythm with strumming

Rhythm is the strongest connection we have to music. It's part of what we feel when we listen to the songs we love.

We all start off hearing rhythm in the womb, connecting to our mother's heartbeat. After being born, it was natural for our mothers to rock us rhythmically when we were upset. There are so many cultures that have drums and rhythms built into their coming-of-age ceremonies, death ceremonies, and all other sorts of ceremonies in between. And, there is rhythm whenever we listen to music (even atonal, ambient, rhythm-less music, too). If we didn't feel the rhythm when we listened to music, we'd turn it off.

Consider that you already have a connection to rhythm inside of you. If you didn't you wouldn't be reading this blog post!

You have your ways of expressing rhythm that are totally and completely unique to you, even without having a guitar in your lap. You probably tap your foot on the way to work, listening to the radio. You might like to dance to music as you get home each day. You may even like jumping around in a mosh pit at a concert.

If you're saying that you have no rhythm and you can't play guitar, please consider a redefinition of your problem: That your connection to rhythm in the most primal way is just dandy, but the way you strum a guitar isn't working for you.

In other words, there's a difference between rhythm and strumming. What's the difference?

What is strumming? What is rhythm?

Strumming is playing a rhythm on the guitar. Strumming the guitar requires a different set of mechanics altogether than what you're already using to connect to rhythm. In other words, you probably can feel the rhythm just fine, but perhaps you need a little extra help on how to play rhythms on the guitar. 

The definitions of rhythm and strumming must be separate in your mind for you to learn how to strum and play music. Strumming is simply how to express rhythm on the guitar. Since I am already of the belief that you have rhythm, you simply need a way to play rhythm on a guitar. The issue is ultimately a mechanical one.

Strumming mechanics take time to learn. You'll need to learn the basic strums (the down, up, and air-strums), practice the basic combinations (unrhythmic combos as well as loops), and play music with other people (this solidifies the learning and builds on it). Get it? Learn the mechanics of strumming, and you'll strum rhythms on the guitar.

Finding ways to learn strumming

If you're still stuck and want a few more pointers, I have a couple for you:

  1. Practice just doing the down strum, over and over, and tap your foot. This is a great place to start strumming.
  2. There are online courses and modules that you can buy to learn how to strum. Check them out.
  3. Working with a guitar teacher who has years of experience teaching strumming will be powerful for you. Audition guitar teachers by asking them how they teach strumming. The one who gives you the clearest answer is the one you ought to visit.
  4. Join an online guitar community or take a guitar class. Chances are that there are tons of people who know how to strum and want to play music with you. Besides, comraderie is a beautiful thing and it will help you learn guitar faster.