keeping a beat

Here are two more interesting emails I have got lately. I hope you find the emails and my thoughts useful…


Email #1…

 “Hi Dan,

I am going to apologize in advance for this question… but I need to ask it, however dumb it may be…When you are playing a song like: Spanish Romance, Tom Dooley, House of the Rising Sun… etc.Do you… and should we… be trying to keep it in a certain rhythm, or should we play it however we feel the rhythm feels right to us?

I really appreciate your feedback on this…




You know what, this is one of those questions I think many of us have wondered but felt silly for asking.

I know I did back in the day.

My simple answer is this.


If the music is beat oriented, be as tight as you can and play to a rock-solid beat.

If the music is melody oriented, focus on phrasing more so than strict tempo.

What I mean by “beat oriented” is when you are playing a strumming pattern, playing with a drummer, playing a specific fingerpicking pattern, jamming to a backing track, etc.

Basically, this is when there is a super strong pulse in the music.


When that’s the case, keep the beat super tight.

In these instances, the beat comes first as the melody is going to be sung or played on another instrument.


On the other hand, when the music is all about the melody being played on guitar, focus more on the phrasing.


The songs Logan mentioned above are ones which I teach in this style, where we play the melody on guitar and dramatically fill the sound out with bass notes and other notes (a la the 3D Method).

In these songs, the melody comes first.

Keeping a solid beat is still important, but the drama and emotion that come from phrasing are more important.

For example, you might play a phrase and speed up a touch towards the end of it to give it some more volume. Then, you may leave a slight gap before the next phrase before doing the same.

This is what you hear classical musicians do a fair bit, and it really adds a lot of drama.


Never lose the feel, always keep a beat but remember, in these instances the phrasing of the melody and the way you shape it is super important. 

If you have more questions on this, let me know, it’s something I’m happy to go into more detail on at some point…


Email #2

“Hi Dan,

I’m 80 and used to play about 60 years ago. Started up again during the pandemic. I found my idol Etta Baker and can now play a few of her songs, but my weakness is I am an “oops” player (mostly self-taught). Oops player means that when I make a mistake, I tend to stop. Help-how can I get over that?”



Great question.

I used to be an “oops” player.

For me, a practise routine was like the Britney Spears hit “Oops, I Did It Again, and Again, and Again”…

What helped was when I started doing a primitive version of the “Five times rule”.

It’s not easy, but it’s powerful.

Here’s a brief summary of it in action.


Basically, try to play the thing you are practising five times in a row without an error.


If you do make an error, start again. This forces you to really concentrate, slow down, and focus. Do try it, it can be super effective.

…And if you combine that with precision while avoiding the hidden progress destroyers, then you will be in business.

In fact, for many “oops” players who stop and start again, there is usually one big mistake they do.

It’s a mistake that ruins flow, musicality, and accuracy, yet many don’t even know it exists.


This is why I dedicate a complete lesson to this subject inside my “In Focus” course (which Dan Thorpe Acoustic Academy members get for free).

It’s lesson #4, and it’s one of the most important I teach.

If you combine lesson #4 with the Five Times Rule mentioned above, you can blow up and destroy this frustrating part of your playing like a stick of dynamite taking out a bank in an old western movie.


It’s all inside the Dan Thorpe Acoustic Academy which you can find out more about below… 

Check out the Dan Thorpe Acoustic Academy


Have a great Friday!

Dan Thorpe

Guitar Domination


P.S. This post was originally taken from Dan Thorpe’s private email list. To get blog posts like this sent to you which are full of great tips to make fingerpicking, strumming, and learning guitar more enjoyable (especially if you are over 40) join Dan’s list. It’s 100% free, HERE.

Add Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.