For this unit, we will leave the world of lead guitar and pull our attention to the world of rock rhythm guitar! The great thing about rock rhythm is that we are always on the edge of breaking into lead guitar. It's a beautiful blend of powerchords, pentatonic scales and more edgy chords, deliberately creating clashes and dissonance! Claire will guide you through a hard-hitting rock track to teach you all the core rhythm principles you need to master.
Before we kick off, notice that we are using a few tab navigation features, like "Da Coda". The tab can be found in the Guitar Tabs section, so keep an eye out for these popping up in the tab which are explained below:
Let's start by working out the key of the riff, and the basic scale shapes we are using for the core of the riff. The core of the riff is this section:
The riff is very much in the key of E minor, and therefore we are using the E minor pentatonic shapes to put this together. We are working in the lower register as it's a riff, rather than a lead part. This is a great opportunity to make sure you know your pentatonic scales on the lower strings too! Check out the shapes in the Fretboard diagrams to see which ones we are using here!
The final thing to look out for as we work through this first section is the micro bending. Notice that there is a 1/4 tone bend on every 3rd fret E string note (G note). This is an absolute MUST in rock and blues music! You slightly take the note out of tune but never reach the next note along (G#). It adds to the character and feel of the track!
The next part of the challenge is to learn how to use aggressive downstrokes when riffing. This is a massive challenge for most players, which is why we'll be devoting most of this lesson to it. Here is the section highlighted:
So, let's break this rhythm down into a 16th note strumming pattern. Note that you are actually doubling the speed on your right-hand movement, as rather than doing "down-up", you're doing "down down" in the same space of time. To do "down down" you have to come up in between, making the speed feel much harder.
Normally you'd see down up arrows here, but not with this style of strumming. So, we are doing all downstrokes in 16th notes for the whole bar, as shown above. The other thing to consider is accenting.
The longer arrows are the accents. We hit these bits harder than the rest, and in this track, we literally play more strings on the accents. You will see from the tab, the accented notes are the two strings, and normal notes just one string.
The chords themselves are relatively simple and are drawn out in the Chord Boxes section. This is a classic rock move that you will see everywhere and is essentially going from a D to A! Your main focus, however, is that rhythm groove!
At this point of the track we return to the core section, except now we replace the octave of the E with the E7#9 chord. it's a classic, it's as rock as they get, and it's right here!
Why is this chord so cool? Well, it's because of the nature of the chord. It is, even by name, dissonant. It's altered and causes tension. We all know that tension is great in blues, but it's also a core part of the rock DNA. The #9 part of the chord is what gives it the edge:
We then have one final section of open powerchords, before launching into the B section of the track. These chords are show in the Chord Boxes section.
With all of these bits learnt, it's time to put section A together! Get it on a loop and work through it nice and slowly until the rhythm is solid, and the notes are all in the right place!
We'll now move over to the B section, which is a lot more chordal than the main riff. Our focus moves from pentatonic riffs to chunky powerchords! In terms of a chord chart, it looks like this:
One of the most important things to understand as you put all of this together is where to do the 16th note downstrokes, and when to do your normal 16th note strumming. In this section, the main place for the downstrokes is when you play the C5 and Cmaj7 chords. After that, it's generally all 16th note constant strumming!
Our final job is to put the A and the B section together, which Claire walks you through in the video using slower versions of the drum loops! The final piece of the puzzle is the C section which is a very cool little riff right at the end of the track. It's this bit:
These notes are all coming from the blues scale in E, and we're using the lowest string in boxes 2 and 3 to put this final part together. Make sure you can visualise these boxes as you work through it! They can be found in the Fretboard Diagrams section.
There we have it! The first unit is now complete! Just as with the first solo, this is absolutely jam-packed with goodness! We're not expecting it to be anywhere near complete by this point, as we want it to be a challenge. Keep working with this and Unit 1 even as you move into unit 3.
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