…Like Jimi Hendrix.
It still surprises me how many guitarists concentrate on playing lead guitar to the detriment of their rhythm playing. The fact is that a good foundation in rhythm guitar will stand you in great stead for playing lead as well.
Learning From the Master
Just consider Jimi Hendrix as an example for a moment. He is widely renowned as one of the greatest guitarists that ever lived. He was a great innovator and pioneer of the many electronic effects that modern guitarists take for granted as a part of their pallette of musical textures and tones. He caught the attention of the masses with his flamboyant style and outrageous gimmicks like playing his guitar with his teeth and setting it alight (literally) on stage mid-performance. He also had a superb repertoire of licks and riffs that he was able to improvise around effortlessly.
And people are often distracted by all the hype and flashy showmanship that went hand in hand with the Jimi Hendrix way of doing things. But underneath it all, Hendrix was a highly accomplished rhythm guitarist who served his time on the back row of several bands laying down a solid musical bed for the lead members of the band to work over. His rhythm work was superb and the discipline of keeping precisely in time shone through in his lead guitar work later in his career as he worked the complex webs of licks and riffs in between the chords in his songs.
Learning to play Rhythm Guitar Helps You Play Lead Guitar, Too
So it’s worth bearing in mind that mastering rhythm guitar principles, such as how to strum a guitar is important for both rhythm and lead guitarists and the two shouldn’t really be thought of as separate disciplines but aspects of playing that any rounded guitarist should feel comfortable with.
What’s the most important technique in rhythm guitar? Well, I’d say that strumming is the most important, because without a solid strumming technique your playing will sound less fluid and more awkward.
The key thing to correct strumming is to keep a smooth and relaxed strumming action. You need to strum from the wrist, which makes it easier to maintain a smooth motion by keeping the wrist relaxed, loose and moving freely.
If the wrist is not completely relaxed, you’ll find that you have to move from the elbow, which will never move as freely as the wrist is able to. Moving from the elbow will cause a loss of smoothness and will prevent you from being able to play more complex rhythms.
Try working on your strumming as part of your regular guitar practice routine, you’ll be amazed at the improvements focusing on this aspect of your playing can bring, not just to the rhythm guitar side of your playing, but to every aspect of what you do on your instrument.