Rhythm Slashes

Rhythm slashes are a shorthand way of conveying how a chord is to be strummed.

The chord name is placed above the Staff and the slash marks indicate the strumming pattern.


Rhythm Slashes Decoded




The term Syncopation refers to the technique of accenting the weak beats in the rhythm.

This can add rhythmic tension or create a groove.

There are a many different types of syncopation. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Try clapping along as you count the examples and accent the blue numbers with harder claps.

Backbeat Syncopation

Typically in meters that have an even amount of beats (2/4, 4/4) the accent falls on the odd numbered beats. If you accent the even numbered beats the rhythm becomes syncopated.

Latin Syncopation

You can use accents to alter the feel of a common beat and make it more interesting. Here the accents give the beat a Latin feel.

Before the Beat Syncopation

By moving a melody note from a downbeat to an upbeat you can breath new life into an old melody and create a groove. Check out the first line to Mary Had a Little Lamb. This is also called anticipating the note.Rhythm_Syncopation3


The Swing Feel

Are you a swinger baby? Do you swing?

The term Swing refers to the musical technique of playing eighth notes unevenly, creating a skipping effect in the rhythm.

The down beats are extended and the upbeats shortened.

A good way to get the swing feel into your head is by counting triplets without the middle note.

Straight vs. Swung



Rhythmic Ties

A rhythmic tie or just “tie” is a curved line connecting two notes.

This indicates that the duration of the two notes should be added together to create one longer note.

This is used when a note extends from one bar into the next or when connecting the end of a note grouping with the beginning of another grouping.


The Tie



Measures & Time Signatures

A measure or Bar is a segment of time broken into a certain number of beats.

The value of beats in each measure is defined by the Time Signature. In the example below we have a 4/4 time signature.

The number four on top indicates how many notes are in the bar, while the bottom four lets you know which type of note is used, in this case the 4 equals a quarter note. So each bar will contain four quarter notes.

If the number 2 were on the bottom it would equal half notes and an 8 would equal eighth notes.

The Measure


Time Signatures

A measure can be broken up in many different ways depending on the musical effect you want to achieve.

In most cases a song will stick to one time signature all the way through. However it is not uncommon for classical music, world music and progressive rock to change time signatures many times throughout a piece, even from measure to measure.

Below are the two most common time signatures you will encounter.



Musical Beat & Tempo

All music has a pulse.We usually call it the beat, and it is what keeps a piece of music moving along and allows musicians to play together.

When you tap your foot or dance while listening to a song, you are reacting to the beat.

Sometimes it is easy to hear (dance music) but sometimes it isn’t as obvious (some classical music).

Feeling the beat is easy however. Consider this popular children’s song. Just follow the bouncing ball.

The Beat


The Tempo

The tempo refers to the speed at which a piece of music is played.

It is measured in Beats Per Minute (BPM). The higher the BPM, the more notes need to be fit into a minute, the faster the music.

Typically, pop and rock music maintain a steady tempo throughout a song, while classical music tempos shift for dramatic effect.

Rubato is a rhythmic technique of speeding up and slowing down the tempo of a song to add expressiveness used by solo instrumentalists.

There are old Italian terms that can be used to indicate tempo. They are typically used in classical music.

While each covers an approximate tempo range, they are mainly used to convey a general ‘feel’, and are less precise than a strict BPM tempo measurement.

There are so many of them, that they can be hard to remember. Here are a few of the more common tempo names:


A study conducted on top 40 pop songs from the last thirty years determined that the optimum tempo for a “hit” is around 120 bpm.


Diatonic Chords on the Bottom Strings

Diatonic chords are a family of chords all created from the same scale.

The scale is organized into groups of three (triads) or four (seventh chords) using the technique of skipping every other note.

A great way to play these chords on the guitar is to use chord voicings that only use the bottom three strings.

These voicings are higher in the register and are easily heard above the booming of the bass and drums. They are also a great way to add another level to a chord progression when playing with a guitarist who is using voicings lower in the register (open chords).

Let’s check out the diatonic chords from the key of E major as they are played on the bottom three strings.

Diatonic Chords on the Bottom Strings

Diatonic Chords on the Bottom Strings Live Tab

Download the PDF or GuitarPro files



What are Chord Inversions?

Not all chords are played with the root note as the Bass or lowest sounding note. Using other chord tones in the bass creates Chord Inversions which have a similar sound to the original chord but with a twist.

If a chord has four notes in it you can create 3 inversions from it. The root position chord does not count as an inversion.

Below are the notes of the C major7 chord and their inversion.


This type of thing is much easier to see on the piano then on the guitar due to the way the notes are laid out. In the examples below notice how the inversions simply move up the keyboard one note at a time.

On the guitar it is difficult to play a proper inversion with the notes in ascending order so we mainly focus on having the correct chord tone in the bass.

Major 7 Chord Inversions on Guitar and Piano



How to Play A String Based Guitar Chords

All of these chords use the notes on the “A” string as their root. For example, if you wanted to play a C major chord simply line up the top finger of the major chord shape to the C on the third fret.

Use the first diagram to find your way around the A string when playing these chords.


15 Guitar Chords With Roots on the A String



How to Play E String Based Guitar Chords

All of these chords use the notes of the top “E” string as their root. For example, if you wanted to play a C major chord simply line up the top finger of the major chord shape to the C on the eight fret.

Use this first graphic to find your way around the Low E string on your guitar.


15 Guitar Chords With Root Notes On the E String