5 Bad Habits Ruining Your Rhythm on Guitar

Ayla Tesler-Mabe, Sami Ghawi  /  Lessons UPDATED Jan 20, 2023

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Just like anything else, when you’re first learning how to play rhythm guitar, it can be quite easy to form some bad habits. These bad habits can quickly build themselves up into pretty major roadblocks for your guitar progress. So in this lesson, Ayla is joined by her personal guitar teacher Sami Ghawi to identify the five big mistakes beginners make when learning how to play rhythm guitar. 

Take your rhythm guitar playing to the next level with Sami Ghawi’s full course Rhythm & Groove.

And if rhythm guitar isn’t really your thing, remember that even a great lead guitarist ends up playing rhythm for the majority of a song. With that out of the way, let’s get into the five bad habits ruining your rhythm on guitar.

#1 Not Feeling The Groove
Groove is what music is built upon. It’s how all the instruments lock in with each other and create something you want to tap your foot to. So rather than just counting along to the beat, you’ll want to begin internalizing the groove by moving your body along to the music while you play. This can be as simple as bobbing your head or tapping your foot, but feel free to really get into it if it feels right!

#2 Tensing Up
Too much tension will cause your strumming to sound clunky and robotic. Relaxing your entire body (including your grip on the pick) will help your strumming to sound smooth and natural. Even when you want to play louder or more aggressively, it’s important that your body remains tension free. 

Reducing tension also goes a long way to help you avoid pain and discomfort when playing for extended periods of time. Guitar can be quite hard on your body, so some good technique can go a long way.

#3 Losing Your Momentum
No matter what you’re doing with your fretting hand, your strumming hand shouldn’t lose its momentum. Many new guitarists will stop strumming when they mess up a chord, but the key is to strum through the mistakes. The other instruments aren’t going to stop and wait for you to get the chord right, so you’re better off just moving along with the rest of the band. 

Eventually, you’ll get to a point where your strumming hand kind of goes on autopilot and you can put your focus back into what your fretting hand is doing. Don’t forget to visualize each chord well before you have to make the change. This will help you to transition faster and more accurately.

#4 Chords Not Ringing Out
It goes without saying that your chords need to be present and clear – every note in each chord is there for a reason. If you’re struggling to get them to ring out, there are a number of ways you can clean up your guitar chords, but the best way is to start with Ayla’s 10-minute beginner guitar chord-changing workout:

> Easy 10-Minute Guitar Workout

#5 Using The Wrong Pick
While there aren’t any actual rules when it comes to choosing a guitar pick, it can make a significant impact on both your strumming technique and strumming tone. Typically, thinner picks are going to be much easier to use when playing rhythm guitar. If you do prefer to use thicker picks, you may have to hold the pick less firmly which could result in you dropping your pick while playing.

At the end of the day, pick choice is purely subjective and comes down to what feels best to you. We hope you’ve found these tips helpful and if you’d like some more lessons from Sami, we’ve linked those below. Happy strumming!

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