Guitar Rhythm Patterns | What You Need to Know


A guitar rhythm pattern is a series chords or notes arranged in a mostly repeated pattern built from various note duration such as 8th notes, quarter notes, whole notes, etc. Any combination of these note values used in a repeated manner constitutes a rhythm pattern. Below is an example of a guitar strum pattern that has been notated using standard note value.

In the example you see two quarter notes followed by four 8th notes. The markings above the staff indicate picking direction and the numbers below the staff help you count the rhythm. Beginning guitarists can greatly benefit from working on guitar rhythm patterns using this method making it a perfect intro for learning how to play basic guitar chords for beginners. You can always try more complex time signatures and rhythm patterns later, when you’ve become comfortable with playing rhythms correctly without the need to count.


This examples is a bit more complex. Not only does it use a more disjointed pattern, there are bass notes between the patterns that need to be played as well. Mastering a pattern like this might be a bit more difficult, but even this is a simple pattern compared to one that incorporates sixteenth notes and even smaller note values.

In most cases, when you’re playing a song you’re familiar with, chances are good you don’t give the rhythm pattern a lot of thought. You already know it. Playing it comes naturally. If you’re writing your own song, you might find yourself thinking more about the pattern you’re playing, since nothing is there to begin with.


Guitar tab, a popular form of guitar notation, differs from standard notation in that it rarely indicates the rhythm of the music, just the chords, the notes, and the frets the notes are played on. Most people who use tab already know the rhythm patterns of the songs they’re playing. Some tabs actually show indications using standard music notation note tales, as shown below.

As long as you already know how a song goes, you don’t need to see the rhythm written out, but without having heard a song, you would have to guess how the chords are played.

Guitar rhythm patterns are a fundamental part of every song, whether it’s a riff or a lead. Rhythm is, in fact, one of the three basic components of any song.

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