One of the most fun things a guitarist can do is to stick on a drum beat, turn it up loud and jam the hell out of it.
This goes for acoustic or electric players and rockers or fingerpicking folk guitarists. It doesn’t matter what your style is, you need to be doing this on a regular basis.
You’ll have more fun and improve at the same time. Your rhythm skills will become stronger and your sense of groove will reach a new level. You’ll also play with more passion.
Many guitarists practice in isolation. That means they play purely on their own.
They don’t use the tools we have available to us such as:
- Jamming with others (particularly a drummer)
- Playing to a click
- Playing along to recordings
- Tapping the beat with your foot
- Jamming to drum tracks
They then wonder why they aren’t making the improvements they have always hoped for.
So much of playing an instrument is about rhythm and not having a pulse or beat to work with gives you and your playing no base on which to groove to.
This is bad.
You can use any of the above listed ways to play to a beat but some are harder than others.
For example tapping the beat with your foot in time when your hands are playing any sort of rhythm is hard at first, and early on playing along with recordings can be too difficult due to the speed of the original song.
Also, most guitarists find jamming with drum beats way more fun than just jamming or playing along with a metronome.
The sound of ‘click, click, click, click’ can be really boring for a newbie. Not only can it be boring but it can be downright difficult too.
Why a drum beat is way more fun and easier than a click
The reason newbies find playing to a click (or a metronome as they are often called) boring is because they struggle to get into the groove and they don’t really know how to use a click.
Once a strong sense of rhythm and groove has been developed, playing with a click is a lot of fun and extremely useful. However, getting to that point takes a lot of time.
That’s why newbies should jam with a drum beat. It’s way more fun and the beat will help guide you a little.
For example, a metronome is basically ‘click, click, click, click’, with no sound at all between these clicks (on the standard setting that is).
A drum beat though, has the hi hats (or sometimes another part of the kit) playing consistent eighth or sixteenth notes.
Simply put, the hi hats play at the same time as those clicks on the metronome but the drum beat also plays something in between these clicks.
These drum sounds in between the beat are really useful and really help guide a newbie on when and when not to play.
A drum beat may also come with drum fills. Simply by jamming along with these drum fills will also help your sense of groove and every guitarist should learn multiple rhythm fills just as a drummer would.
This will add lots of life and feeling to your rhythm playing which is always a great thing.
If you can jam with a real drummer of course that is awesome too and you should do so. You might not be able to do so every day but try to jam with a real drummer regularly.
Try to use a drum beat every day and a have a real jam once per week (or more if you have the time). However you plan to improve on the guitar, make sure you have a plan. Jamming with a recorded drum track is something you can do almost any time you have a guitar in your hand.
You can find lots of good drum beats all over the internet.
A great place to start is by using YouTube and simply typing, ‘drum beats backing track’ or something similar.
Check out these links for some of my favourite drum only backing tracks.
Spotify – 99+ Huge Rock Drum Beats
YouTube – Jim Dooley Drum Beats
These days I use Spotify a lot for my tuition as I rarely use YouTube (damm those ads) but if you prefer YouTube, check the drummer Jim Dooley’s page above. It’s full of great beats to jam with.
What I often do with students is load up the Spotify playlist linked to above and hit shuffle. We then jam out whatever drum beat comes on. It’s so much fun.
Start by jamming a few chords and your favourite strum patterns to these beats.
Then practice your sub-divisions to these beats and have fun, let go and see what rhythms and grooves you can come up with.
Jam your favourite songs with a drum beat
You can also get the drum only backing tracks for songs you already know how to play. However, many times they will come with the bass guitar plus the drums.
This is no bad thing. In fact having the bass AND the drums there makes you feel like you are part of the band when jamming along.
The classic Cream song ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ is one a few students love to play.
When learning the song, we will go through each part of the song until they are comfortable with all the parts.
Then when they are just about ready, we will play along with the original recording of the song.
Once they are comfortable with that, I’ll play the version that sounds just like the original minus the vocals and guitars and the student usually loves it and it’s wonderful practice for them.
Create YOUR OWN beats for a really in-depth sense of rhythm
You can also create your own drum beats in a programme such as Audacity or Reaper. This is something I have done many times myself, both for bands I have been in and students.
In fact, doing so really helped me understand rhythm more.
About five years ago my former band was looking for a drummer. We played some technical rock music that mixed up lots of different styles and time signatures. Therefore we needed a drummer who could really play. Finding one who was good enough was a struggle.
So together with the bass player, we would sit down with a programme called Cubase (I use Reaper these days) and programme the drum beats themselves.
We went through the whole song, copy and pasting various sections and then adding in the fills. We got the beats sounding very lifelike and very real.
These beats would be copied onto my phone and then in the studio we would hook up the phone to the P.A. system and play the beats through the studio speakers and turn it up loud.
Having these recordings was like having a real drummer in the room but one who wouldn’t turn up pissed and 20 minutes late! All kidding aside it was really useful for us as a band.
If you want to get good at programming some beats I highly recommend it.
Thinking like a drummer will help you become a much more rhythmic guitarist.
Just don’t forget to jam along with the drum tracks you create.
If creating and programming drum beats is too much for you at this stage, don’t worry, that’s not essential.
What is though, is you playing all your favourite things to play on guitar to a variety of drum only tracks on a daily or at least regular basis.
Check out the drum tracks above. Feel the groove and try playing along with your favourite rhythms.
If you are stuck, simply pick your favourite strum pattern, (don’t say you don’t know any!) and stick to one chord and get locked into the beat.
When you are locked into the beat, change chords and as you get more comfortable start trying a few things out. Change rhythms, add mutes, create riffs, use some hammer ons and pulls-offs, and generally experiment.
If you lose the groove, take a step back and simplify it, then move forward again.
Always remember to get in the groove
Playing with a real drummer or drum beat will constantly remind you of the fact that groove is so important and having the ability to groove with a beat will help you groove when there is no beat present.
Remember having a strong sense of groove is a priceless skill to have as a guitarist.