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Recognizing Different Rock Guitar Rhythm Styles

Rock music doesn't just follow a single pattern. There are a number of grooves, or feels, that are standard in rock music. Expand your rock guitar sound by adding a variety of different rock guitar rhythm styles. Most of the following styles are right hand patterns, although there are a couple of left-hand movements thrown in as well.

Rhythm section players often talk to each other in terms of feel, and standard terms have been developed to describe some of the more common rhythmic accompaniment styles. The following table provides a list of different feels by their popular name, what time signature they’re in, what their characteristics are, and some classic tunes that illustrate that feel.

Name Time Signature Characteristic Tunes
Straight-four 4/4 Easy, laid-back feel Tom Petty: “Won’t Back Down,” Eagles: “New Kid in Town,” and The Beatles: “Hard Day’s Night”
Heavy back-beat 4/4 Like straight-four, but with a heavier back-beat (accent on beats 2 and 4) Bachman Turner Overdrive: “Taking Care of Business,” Bob Seger: “Old Time Rock and Roll,” and Spencer Davis/Blues Brothers: “Gimme Some Lovin’”
Two-beat 2/2 (cut time) or 2/4 Jumping boom-chick Creedence Clearwater Revival: “Bad Moon Rising,” The Beatles: “I Feel Fine,” and Pure Prairie League: “Amie”
16-feel 4/4 Funky or busy accompaniment James Brown: “I Feel Good,” Sam and Dave/Blues Brothers: “Soul Man,” and Aerosmith: “Walk This Way”
Metal gallop 4/4 Driving 16th-note sound like a horse’s gallop Metallica: “Blackened” and Led Zeppelin: “The Immigrant Song”
Shuffle 4/4 Limping lilting eighth notes; swing feel Fleetwod Mac: “Don’t Stop,” ZZ Top: “La Grange” and “Tush,” and The Beatles: “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “Revolution”
Three-feel 3/4, 6/8, 12/8 Meter felt in groups of three The Eagles: “Take It to the Limit,” The Beatles: “Norwegian Wood” (6/8) and “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” (6/8)
Reggae/ska 4/4 Laid-back with syncopation Eric Clapton: “I Shot the Sheriff,” Bob Marley: “No Woman, No Cry,” and Johnny Nash: “Stir It Up”
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