Each month I receive hundreds of emails from guitar players who want to improve their rhythm guitar skills. For many guitarists, it is a struggle to come up with original rhythm guitar riffs that sound good. In most cases, people who are trying to make rhythm guitar ideas of their own simply try to copy the riffs of popular guitar players. The problem with this is that copying other guitar players does NOT actually teach you how to play rhythm guitar. In order to help you make killer guitar riffs of your own, I will be using the rest of this article to show you how to creatively practice rhythm guitar.

First, it is important to understand that being able to play interesting rhythm guitar ideas means focusing more on HOW you play what you play than WHAT specific notes you are using. The truth is that you can make any basic guitar chord sound great without adding in many new notes. In fact, you can probably already start writing good rhythm guitar ideas with just a fundamental understanding of power chords and open chords. However, in order to truly master the ability to play great rhythm guitar riffs, you will need to learn new guitar skills that you probably haven’t thought of before.

You probably already know that to truly master rhythm guitar playing, you must work on improving a variety of different skills and you may even know what some of those skills are. However, if you are still having a hard time writing rhythm guitar riffs that you are happy with, most likely your approach to practicing this area of guitar playing could use additional help (even if you aren’t aware specifically of “what” skills need to be improved). If you would like to understand exactly what needs to be done in order to improve all areas in your guitar playing, I recommend that you seek out a great guitar teacher who has already helped many other guitarists make significant progress toward their musical goals. In the meantime, there are 5 essential ideas that you can use to make great rhythm guitar riffs regardless of your current skill level. Once you have become comfortable with using these ideas in your rhythm guitar playing, you will be able to make creative guitar riffs any time you pick up the guitar:

1. Create multiple guitar riffs by using the rhythm of just one. Find an interesting rhythmic pattern that contains no actual pitches and apply it using any number of different sets of chords, notes, or chord progressions. By doing this, you will MASSIVELY improve your rhythm guitar creativity. Also you can do this the other way around: Take one chord, note, or chord progression and play guitar using a variety of different rhythmic patterns. These exercises will give you many new ideas for guitar riffs to use in your music.

2. Focus specifically on the rhythms of the notes you are playing. Just like with guitar soloing, many guitar players tend to use way too many unnecessary notes. That said, in order to make awesome rhythm guitar riffs, you only really need a few notes at most. Although it is fun to learn new ideas to use in your rhythm guitar playing, keep in mind that your number one focus is to play something with an interesting ‘rhythm’!

By building guitar riffs with only one or two notes (or chords) you will naturally focus more on the rhythm of the notes you are playing. Here is a good exercise for this: Start by writing down 32 eighth notes on a sheet of paper. Next randomly erase 8 of these notes. Once you have done this, replace the notes you have erased with rests. Now, play the resulting rhythm with the notes that are left on guitar using only single notes or power chords.

This exercise will give you many rhythms that you can use to create cool guitar riffs. Additionally, you can make things more interesting by using various time signatures or alternate note durations.

3. Work to improve your pinch harmonics and vibrato skills. These two guitar techniques can make your guitar riffs sound very intense (especially in rock or metal guitar playing). Vibrato is useful for giving your guitar a voice-like quality, and when you combine it with pinch harmonics, the end result is a powerful guitar riff that is sure to get the attention of your audience. If you have not fully mastered these techniques, start by using them separately. Once you are more comfortable with each one, combine them both together at the end of your guitar riffs for an extra strong finish!

4. Practice making your rhythm guitar playing as clean and TIGHT as you can. Being able to do this is necessary for playing great sounding guitar riffs. The majority of guitarists know that you must be able to play consistently in time in order to play good rhythm guitar, however few guitarists know what it sounds like when someone is playing TIGHT rhythm guitar that locks in with the metronome. If you can’t consistently play in time, your rhythm guitar ideas will not sound good even if they are really cool ideas.

An easy way to test your rhythm guitar timing is to record yourself playing quarter note rhythms using a single note. To keep the beat, use a metronome that is playing quarter notes. If you are playing the rhythm with perfect timing, you will start to notice how the click of the beat seems to blend together with the notes of your guitar, creating the illusion that the click has been turned off. However, if your timing is a little off, the click of the metronome will sound like it happens slightly before or slightly after the notes you are playing.

In addition to playing with great timing to a beat, it is important to play tight in various other areas of rhythm guitar such as palm muting and pick attack articulation. By mastering these additional parts of rhythm guitar playing, you will not only improve your ability to make guitar riffs, but you will save a great deal of time and money if you ever decide to record music in the studio. Learn how to master these areas of your rhythm guitar playing in this free studio guitar recording guide.

5. Think of new ways to combine chords together. This will help you to come up with interesting groups of chords to put into your guitar riffs. If you already understand ‘key signatures’ in music, this will be much easier. If you don’t understand this music theory concept yet, you can still come up with cool ideas by playing the notes of major and minor triads together with power chords. For example, if you are playing an E power chord, you can add in the notes from E major or E minor to drastically change the feel of the music. This can be done with any power chord guitar riff. After you have tried this with a single chord, try putting together your own chord progressions. This will give you tons of creative ideas to use in your guitar riffs.

Mastering the ability to play creative rhythm guitar riffs does not happen overnight. However, as you have read, there are many things you can work on right now to make good progress in this area of your guitar playing. As soon as you learn how to make great guitar riffs you will start to enjoy the creative musical process each time you play. Not only will better rhythm guitar playing help you personally as a musician, it will prove to be a very valuable skill when performing with a band on stage or recording music in the studio.

Author's Bio: 

About The Author:
Tom Hess is a professional recording artist, composer, and the guitarist in the band Rhapsody Of Fire. He teaches and trains guitarists how to become great musicians in his online rock guitar lessons. Visit tomhess.net to receive additional free guitar playing resources and to read more guitar articles. To learn more about becoming a really TIGHT rhythm guitar player, read this free studio recording guide for guitar. To get more help with your guitar playing, check out these free tips for guitar playing.