The Right Hand, The Important Hand – Tricks To Improve Rhythm

The rhythm hand deserves some extra love! Stop telling yourself that someone will take care of the heavy lifting with guitar. Stop being the weak link in the band. Learn to play the damn guitar! It's nothing complicated, so don't feel overwhelmed. You just need to dedicate a little additional focus on specific techniques.

Pop quiz… which hand is more important for the guitarist? 

A​. The Left Hand

B​. The Right Hand

The answer…

How long will this joke go on?

Did I ever tell you about the time that Lance and I went to Tijuana? It really was a nice trip! We just up and left one day, as if we were in some kind of Jack Kerouac book… I was doing something…? OH YEAH!

JUST GIVE ME THE ANSWER!

Wouldn’t it be funny if I said it was the left hand, even with that title?

Haha, no, it’s the right hand! 

WHAT?!? – I​ know! But it is true! You can teach a monkey how to play with the left hand. The rhythm hand is the important one! 

Let’s focus on some of the mistakes we see more often and how to combat these problems with a drill. It’s not always exciting, but this stuff works kids.

Here’s are some two-minute drills you can run to help improve. You don’t have to dedicate a full day to it. Just do this twice a day, and I guarantee that two weeks from then, you will be a completely different guitarist!

You’re gonna love this. Most of these involve a metronome. I wrote a post on the importance of a metronome. If you haven’t already read this post, check it out

Strumming WAY TOO HARD (or soft)

Ultimately it comes down to being about to control your hand. T​his one is usually a beginner’s problem. Most of us grow out of it, we learn a little control. But I will still see it with a few different guitarists. It’s vital to learn how to be dynamic with your guitar. Here’s is a two-minute drill you can run to help improve. Do this twice a day, and I guarantee that two weeks from then, you will be a completely different guitarist!

The Drill

F​or two minutes turn on a metronome – strum along with the metronome and intentionally play loud for 30 seconds. For 30 seconds strum as soft (and as in time) as you can. For 30 seconds, only upstrokes and play intentionally hard and in time. For 30 seconds upstrokes as soft as you can play while keeping time. 

T​hat works well for beginners, but let’s say you’re a little more advanced, and you’re looking to improve on a specific strum pattern where you’re struggling with dynamics. Then change the Drill to look like this. 

Play the guitar with a metronome set at 5-10 bpm slower than you’re usual bpm for the song. Play that song through. Don’t sing while playing.

Speed is subjective

Easy! Do that once in the morning and once at night. Two weeks from now, you’ll be able to do that and dance on stage.

Terrible Timing

I​ don’t care how long you’ve been playing guitar, this is one that will affect everyone at some point in their career. If you notice that you’re consistently having problems playing along with others, or have a hard time switching between chords, try this drill out.

Drill #1

Grab that ole metronome and practice 8th notes for one full minute. Practice with alternate strumming (up and down strokes). After the full minute switch back to quarter notes.

D​rill #2 – Four On A String

Hit every single note on the guitar starting from the lowest note you can play, move across the fretboard chromatically (not skipping any frets), and hit your note on every downbeat.

I​ know it’s laborious. But this is the BEST way to improve. It’s crazy how boring and how pivotal these drills are.

Having a tough time breaking away from the same strumming pattern

You’re not fooling Neil deGrasse Tyson, its the same damn strum pattern

I​t’s sadly easy to fall into the same patterns. We must be vigilant and strive to try new things. It’s honestly tough to sing and not fall back into the same 3 strumming patterns. Here is a drill to change it up a little.

Drill #1

Strum up and down, you can try 16th notes and 8th notes. Move your rhythm hand back and forth from the guitar. You will start to notice that you’re hitting the beat a little differently! It’s a cheap trick, but it is one that is really effective! Once you have this down, switch on the metronome and lockdown that you can play it in time! 

D​rill #2 – Fingerpicking 

Set the alarm for two minutes, decide on one finger that you are NOT allowed to use during the Drill. You are forced to create a new pattern! It is annoying? Sure, but it’s also useful!

Loosing where you are on the guitar your rhythm hand

Close but not quite close enough

If you have you tried to pick out a pattern and feel like you’re consistently hitting the wrong string (I have a hard time with this one), this is the Drill for you! 

The Drill 

REALLY SLOW DOWN. Set a metronome 10-15 bpm slower than you are supposed to play the pattern. Use a pick if you usually play with a pick. Be EXTRODINARLY intentional with every note. Do this for 3 minutes straight. Set the alarm on your phone. Rest for 15 minutes, then do it again 5 bpm faster for 3 straight minutes. Repeat until you can do it 10 bpm higher than you are supposed to be able to play the pattern. It is crucial that you move past the bpm. If you do this drill this way. By the end of the day, you will have the picking pattern down! 

The rhythm hand deserves some extra love! Stop telling yourself that someone will take care of the heavy lifting with guitar. Stop being the weak link in the band. Learn to play the damn guitar! It’s nothing complicated, so don’t feel overwhelmed. You just need to dedicate a little additional focus on specific techniques. 

Love that laser focus Mr. Mittens

Sorry to all those lefties out there! You need to flip that advice around!

I will shamelessly plug myself here – I teach private guitar lessons! I’m reasonably priced (I know, I checked). If you’re interested, email me! Through the magic of technology, we can even do it across state lines! Crazy how that world works its magic.

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