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When I first started learning blues guitar.

I quickly realized that I was going to have to improve my rhythm techniques.

In doing this, it allowed me to make the guitar sound at ease like the professional’s blues players we all know and love.

If you want to master the blues you can do that here.

I’ve put together a list of the 9 secrets I used to improve my rhythm playing for blues guitar.

In this post, you’re going to learn the following.

Secret 1: Why we must make use of the metronome or a backing track during practice.
Secret 2: Understanding quarter note strumming with all downstrokes
Secret 3: Strumming the backbeats
Secret 4: 8th note upbeat strumming
Secret 5: Accenting the backbeats 2 and 4
Secret 6: Combining patterns of Rhythms
Secret 7: Straight vs. Swing
Secret 8: The famous shuffle
Secret 9: Lock in with drummer and bass player

Secret 1: Why We Must Make Use of the Metronome

To me, this secret should just be so obvious. Unfortunately, I fell into the category of common sense not being so common.

When I first began learning blues rhythms, I was practicing without a metronome or any type of backing track.

This leads to uneven rhythm and sounding very amateurish.

In order for you to not go through the same growing pains as I did. You must start using a metronome in your daily practice starting today!

They aren’t that expensive and you can probably find an app for your phone so you have one everywhere you go.

Or if you prefer here is the metronome that I tend to use during practice. ( Link to Amazon metronome)

Secret 2: Quarter note strumming with all downstrokes

This is a very basic strumming pattern, and in my opinion, a must know.
It is quite busy so usually, this type of pattern is best used with a clean tone, not to overpower the rest of the band. ( We don’t need the drummer throwing sticks at us:)

In a simple 4/4 time signature, we would simply use all downstrokes and count out loud 1234, 1234, 1234, etc.

We would then accent the backbeat. The backbeat is always 2 and 4. So on 2 and 4, you want to give it a little extra pressure to the strings with your pick so that you are “accenting”, beats 2 and 4.

This rhythm is simple, but don’t be mistaken it’s easy to get ahead or behind the beat, so remember to use your metronome:)

Secret 3: Strumming the backbeats

This is one of my favorite rhythms for blues guitar playing. It allows you to be heard and accent the backbeats, but not quite so overpowering and in your face as Secret 2 was.

I believe this is the perfect combination for most situations when you have a full band playing with you.

So how does this one work? It’s all in the name really.

When you count out 1 2 3 4 in a 4/4 time signature you will only play downstrokes on beat 2 and 4. Keep a steady hand in quarter notes but only strike on beats 2 and 4, with the snare drum.

Like I mentioned this is great for when you are playing with either a second rhythm guitarist or a piano or organ player.

If you are the only rhythm guitarist playing than this strumming rhythm might be a little on the light side and you might want to consider either adding in some simple fills or using Secret 2.

Secret 4: 8th Note Upbeat Strumming

This rhythm technique is quite unique. This is one of the strumming styles that can drastically change the sound of the band.

For this strumming, you need to keep the feel of the downbeats in your head. But you will only be playing the upstrokes ( 1 AND 2 AND 3 AND 4 AND). You would be up stroking on all of the AND’s.

Remember here we are also using 8th notes now and not quarter notes. So aside lesson in case you don’t know what that means is this.

Quarter notes are the downbeats in a 4/4 time signature. 1 2 3 4. This is just like the click of that metronome I keep stressing to get and use!

8th notes are the upbeats of the quarter notes so now we have 1 AND 2 AND 3 AND 4 AND. So you will miss the downstrokes 1 2 3 4. But you will upstroke on the AND’s.

Secret 5: Accenting the backbeats 2 and 4
We have already discussed in Secret 3 strumming the backbeats.

This is a little different and works especially well for a very slow blues. A slow blues can somewhat turn into a 6/8 feel. Which is probably why this one works so well.

The changes in this secret are the subdivisions in counting.

So rather than counting 1 AND 2 AND 3 AND 4 AND.

Think 1 AND UH 2 AND UH 3 AND UH 4 AND UH. So this rhythm has 3 subdivisions per quarter note.

Watch this quick drummer, and you’ll hear exactly what I’m talking about:)

Secret 6: Combining Patterns of Rhythms
Now that we have learned a few of the basic blues rhythm patterns. It’s time to start mixing and matching and combining them.

My advice would be to set that metronome at an about 100 beats per minute. Nice and slow.

Start with connecting on the downbeats 1234… Lock in.

Once that is locked in start focusing on 2 and 4, switch to playing only the backbeats

The X means not to play on that beat. X2X4, X2X4, once you have done this start switching back and forth every other bar.

So for bar 1, you would play 1234, and bar 2 you would only play 2 and 4, then back to playing 1234 again… get the idea?

Once you have accomplished this with ease you can move on to even more complex mixes. Get creative, you can mix and match however you like. Just don’t forget to keep 2 and 4 consistent with that snare drum!

Secret 7: Straight vs. Swing

To understand the difference between straight and swung is hard to explain in text. Due to that nature, I’m simply going to show a video so you can see and hear the difference between a straight and swung rhythm.

Secret 8: The Famous Shuffle
A typical shuffle groove is just a fancy way of saying swung 8th notes rather than straight 8ths.

A typical blues boogie would use a shuffle style groove.

Or in Texas Blues, you can hear a shuffle groove often played by one of my favorites Mr. Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Here is a good demonstration of a traditional blues shuffle rhythm-

Secret 9: Locking in with drummer and bass player
I’ve stressed this already, but locking in with a drummer on 2 and 4 will keep your rhythm consistent.

It’s quite common for beginners to lose their consistent rhythm patterns which is why it’s essential to lock into 2 and 4 with a metronome if you aren’t playing with a band.

Or, if you are playing with a band to really focus in on listening to the drummer and bassist

In blues guitar, it’s easy to lose track of the rhythm, and focus in on lead guitar.

Remember though, there can’t be any lead guitar without a solid foundation in blues music.

So if your job is to hold down the rhythm while someone else is taking a turn at the lead, you better be as solid as a freight train or else it will show.

If you follow these steps and practice them consistently, you’ll be playing awesome blues rhythms in no time at all.

Which secret do you think you’ll implement into your own playing first?