Rhythm and Guitar

by Taura Eruera



Guitar rhythm is at the centre of popular music as we know it

The essential rhythm method for rock n roll music was---and still is---vocals, guitar, bass and drums.

Rock, blues and pop styles could not be what they are without guitar. 

Especially electric guitar.

Similarly, classical music would not be what it is without the piano and orchestral instruments.

Classical music was transmitted over several centuries by sheet music.

Written music traditions

Rock and pop music spread over mere decades by recordings and radio.

Performed music.

Broadcast music.

By ear.

Oral music traditions

African, Indian and Scottish music cultures pass their music down by ear too.

Through rich music, oral traditions, that are generations old.

They have what western pop music does not have: a cohesive, rhythmic oral tradition.

So how are guitar players taught rhythm?

They are taught to count rhythm.

Counting rhythm has static value and is best used for analysing music.

Counting rhythm has no dynamic, real time value.

In all the rehearsal sessions and performances I have been in over the years, I have never heard musicians count rhythms between themselves.


I have only heard them scatting rhythms between themselves.

Singing them. Verbalising them. Oralising them.

That is a major insight in my view.

Me Learning To Read Music

As a learning guitar player I was desperate to learn to read music.

The biggest callenge was not reading the notes on the stave.

Or finding them on the guitar.

Learning to read e rhythm was the big challenge.

I struggled. And struggled. And struggled.

Until one day, I vocalised the rhythms.

Then bam! Breakthrough.

And I accelerated my sight reading chops like crazy.


It was like discovering how to talk after I could read.

Think about it?

Isn't it usually the other way round?

Students Learning To Read Music

As a guitar teacher I would have students wanting to learn to sightread.

With the same skills and wisdom I had been taught, I eagerly leapt in to help.

Six months later, they leave. 

Convinced that they are dumb, useless and hopeless.

Convinced they would never learn to read. 

No matter how hard they try.

This happened several times to me.

So after carefully reviewing my teaching assumptions and practises what insight hit me like a bolt of lightning?

This insight hit me between the eyeballs!

They were trying to read a language they cannot speak yet.

Say that again?

They are trying to read a language they cannot speak yet

They don't have a rhythm language that they can speak!

Why should they be able to read what they can't speak?

Right then talking rhythms were born

And for the last couple of decades my guitar students have been learning a powerful seven step system to read music like the back of your hand.

Step One:  learn to talk rhythm words.

Step Two: learn  to write rhythm words in english.

Step Three:  learn  to act the rhythm words in their body.

Step Four:  learn to play the rhythm words on their guitar.

Step Five:  learn to write rhythm notes.

Step Six:  learn to read rhythm notes at sight.

Step Seven: learn to read music notes at sight on guitar

Along the way they discover that ...

Suddenly they can play tabs.

Suddenly they can transcribe.

Suddenly they can write songs.

Suddenly they can read Hendrix and Metalllica.

Suddenly they can play crowd-pleasing rhythm guitar.

Suddenly they can play head-shaking lead guitar.

And the list goes on.

But for now ...

You must take step one

More than that, you must faithfully, patiently, contentedly take step one.

The first thing you must learn before all else is ...

How to talk rhythm.

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