People tend to focus on what notes to play rather than the feel, but my unconventional wisdom suggest to focus on feel first. You sound better when you play with the right feel but wrong notes than when you play with the wrong feel but the right notes.
One way to successfully do that is to see the guitar as a percussive instrument. The other way is to view “silence” as the most musical note.
Let me elaborate.
Seeing the guitar as a percussive instrument.
Seeing the guitar as a percussive instrument focuses on it making a sound that provides the beat to the song. You can treat it like it is a hand drum focussing on your right hand rhythm movement or a bass guitar focussing on the feel with as few notes as possible. Bringing out the beat with a less complicated instrument helps you focus on the rhythm and feel. That beat has to come from your inner groove, it’s a beat you want to express within.
Try this Octave 12 Bar Blues Exercise:
Get into 4/4 beat and play a 2 note chord eg. an “A” note with another lower or higher “A” and get the beat right for the song. Play the 12 bar blues with only the 2 “A”s for the I Chord, 2 “D”s for the IV chord and 2 “E”s for the V Chord or whatever key you prefer. Focus on your beat whether it is plucking or strumming with the selection of notes out of the way. Get the 12 bars blues feel right. I believe if you relax, enjoy yourself and you’ll get it right.
View “silence” as the most musical note.
The other very amazing way I learned is to see the stop or the silence in between your playing as the most musical note. Do it because its true. The most spiritual and musical experience for someone is silence, total silence. If total silence can provide the calm and serenity, great but most of the time because of our state having fought the “war” in the world, we can’t come into total peace with total silence. That’s where our playing facilitate that. The notes we play present to us silence in a way more perceivable. Our playing will segment the silence into more accessible and perceivable parts bringing us to value the silence better. In appreciating the space in between notes as the most musical note, we experience the calmness we seek in playing music and we become better rhythm players.
Try this exercise
Play your rhythm guitar as you know it. Instead on focussing on how well you play your notes, focus on the gaps, the silence and the space in between. Let it speak to you and touch your heart. Relax, enjoy yourself and you’ll get the rhythm even better.
I was never one to focus on the beat. Instead I study, study and study theories, chords, scales and what notes to play more than on my rhythm. But one day when I discover that feel is more important, it brought my playing into a whole new level. I hope it will for you too.