Insert your custom message here. close ×

Paradiddles on the guitar

Let’s transfer this paradiddle idea to the guitar.


Choose two notes from any scale. One note will represent the left hand from the paradiddle in the last post. The other will represent the right hand.

Here’s the “para” using an E and a G.

para - two notes alternating



And here’s the diddle.



The entire paradiddle looks like this.

entire paradiddle 


Making it random

Try taking each two-note unit of the paradiddle and mix them randomly.

 longer paradiddle



Of course, you can stretch it out and use more than two notes. If you do, then you’ll need to maintain one of the two pitches that you start with. If you don’t, you’ll lose the paradiddle idea.

random paradiddle


Share : facebooktwittergoogle plus


I love paradiddles.


A paradiddle is a drum rudiment that drummers use to work on coordination, among other things. I’m introducing these as a way for you to experience rhythm in your entire body, instead of just your arms. This will seriously improve your sense of rhythm.


We’ll play these by tapping our hands on our thighs. Unless you’ve got a drum kit…


Bear with me. We’ll transfer this to the guitar in the next post, but this is one of those ideas that benefits from a bit of work away from the guitar. Most rhythm work is that way.


The upper body

The “para” part of paradiddle means alternate hand-tapping starting with either the right hand or the left hand. If all you did was the “para” part you would just tap your thighs starting with either left hand or right hand, and alternate them. Here it is starting with the right hand (R = right hand; L = left hand).

repeated para



The “diddle” part means playing twice in a row with either just the left hand or just the right hand.

repeated diddle



A paradiddle starting with a right hand/left hand alternation is followed by right hand/right hand. We’ll abbreviate this to RLRR.



Follow that with LRLL You get this pattern: RLRR LRLL. Practice this until you’re comfortable with it. Be patient. It might be frustrating at first. But once you get it, you’ll love it.

RL paradiddle

The whole body

Once you’re comfortable with this, alternate foot taps while you do it. In other words, tap left foot, right foot. Continue alternating feet while you tap RLRRLRLL on your thighs.


Do this really slowly at first. Do it to the point of frustration and stop. This is not giving up. This is slowly introducing a really complex movement into the body.


Do it again the next day and it will be a bit better. Ignore the voices in your head telling you that you can’t do this. Continue this for a week, and your body will see it as familiar instead of strange. Then it starts to be fun.


The point of this is to use the whole body to experience rhythm. This translates to better rhythmic control on the guitar. The work is worth it. Really.

Share : facebooktwittergoogle plus

16th notes in Lebanon

This is the Masmoudi rhythm from Lebanon. It’s particularly interesting because of the simple rhythmic activity in the first bar followed by more complex activity in the second bar.


lebanon rhythm



Make sure that you start this one slow. Base the tempo on the second bar. If you play the first bar fast, the second bar will sound rushed.

Using any of the scales that you know, invent a riff with this rhythm. Try using only one note in the first bar, and 5 notes in the second bar. This reflects the simple/complex thing that’s happening rhythmically. Use only one note whenever there’s a string of 16th notes. This will keep it focussed.

Then do whatever you want. This is a good way to work: restrict yourself first, and then stretch out.


 Common 16th-note rhythms

At this point, you’ve seen four different 16th note rhythms. Here they are

4 16ths

8th, 2 16ths

2 16ths, 8th

16th rest, 16th, 8th

These are all really common, especially the first three.


Here’s one more. It’s also really common, so you should know it, too.



Using these rhythms, create a one bar rhythmic idea. Follow it with the first bar of the Masmoudi rhythm.

Share : facebooktwittergoogle plus

More West African rhythm: Nigeria

This rhythm is from Nigeria. It’s called Frekoba.

nigerian rhythm2

It’s trickier than the last one. The reason for this is the syncopation on beat 4.



Let’s isolate the last two beats and repeat them.

nigerian rhythm


The rhythm on beats 1 and 3 are the same rhythm that you saw in the last post. It’s the rhythm on beats 2 and 4 that are a challenge.

You’ll notice that two notes from each of the second and fourth beats are bracketed. Count the “2 ee and uh” and “4 ee and uh” but don’t play a note on the number (the 2 or the 4) or the “uh”.

This will take some practice. Start slow. Once it feels comfortable at a slow speed, gradually make it faster.


Guitar problem

Here’s a riff with this rhythm using A dorian. Don’t try this until you’re comfortable with the rhythm.


nigerian riff


There’s a difficulty in this riff aside from the last two beats. The good news is that there are two ways to play it. The bad news: they’re both problematic.

It’s that F# on the 9th fret of the A string. It’s a bit of a stretch. If it’s uncomfortable, you can play that note on the 4th fret of the D string. To do that smoothly, you’ll have to play the D on the 5th fret of the A string (the four 16th notes on the second beat) with your middle finger. This allows you to play the F# with your index finger on the 4th fret of the D string at beat 3.

nigerian riff2


Either way, that point in the riff presents a challenge. This is a common type of problem. It will come up again in other things you play. Learn how to do it both ways, and you’ll have a greater range of possibility in the things you can play.

Just be patient, work on it every day for about a week, and you’ll see it get better. Always start slow with new things.



Share : facebooktwittergoogle plus

Sixteenth notes and West African Rhythm

Time to talk about 16th notes. I’m surprised that I haven’t brought this up before.


Sixteenth notes are simply 4 notes played evenly in the time of one beat. They look like this:


16th notes



And you count them like this:


16th note - counting



Tap your foot while counting this pattern out loud. The foot tap is on the beat: one tap for a single “1 ee and uh” sequence. This helps develop independence in your limbs, which helps your entire body feel the rhythm. Try alternating your feet while counting the sequence. This creates more independence.


Instead of tapping your feet, try tapping your hands on a table. Alternate hands and feet for even more fun.


Remember to keep the “1 ee and uh” counting even.



West African rhythm

Knowing how to count 16th notes is important for learning how to play the 16th note rhythms that are used in different styles. We’ll look at particular West African rhythm from Ghana. This is call Cinte.


16th note - west african

The “ee” in brackets indicates that the note that’s normally there isn’t played. Play the rhythm while counting “1 ee and uh”, but don’t play when you say “ee”. Once you can feel the rhythm, stop counting.


What you get (if you repeat the rhythm) is a galloping rhythm that you hear in metal tunes a lot (depending on the type of metal you’ve heard).


We can use this as the rhythmic basis for a riff or it can be a strumming rhythm. I like it best as the basis for a riff. Here’s one.


west african riff1


Make up your own riffs using this rhythm with notes from the scales you’ve learned. Continue using no more than five notes for any riff you make. But stay open to using more. There are always exceptions to rules.

Share : facebooktwittergoogle plus

Making riffs

A riff is a short melodic idea that people remember. That last bit is important. And really hard to do, because how do you know what people are going to remember?


You don’t, of course. You can analyse riffs from songs that have sold millions. You can figure out the rhythms they used, the melodies. That’s a good thing to do (necessary, even) but it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll write a successful riff.


There are some rules that most successful riffs follow, though.


Keeping it simple

First rule: keep it short and simple. You have to be able to sing it.

Second rule: make it rhythmically simple (but not too simple).

Third rule: don’t use too many notes.


Keeping it short means you’ll remember it. How short? Typically around two bars. Some are four bars, but start by making two bar riffs.


Rhythmically simple means quarter notes and eighth notes for the most part. “For the most part” means 95-100%. “Not too simple” (second rule above) means you’ll probably want some syncopation.


The third rule (Not using too many notes) supports the second rule (use simple rhythms). The third rule extends to melody. A complex melody with lots of notes will be hard to remember and sing. Three to five notes are enough for riffs.


You can stretch out if you want to write solos. Riffs need to be simple.



Take a look at these potential riffs.


quarter note riff 


eighth note riff 



rhythmic riff 1



rhythmic riff 2



There’s nothing wrong with any of these, but which one is easier to remember?


  • The first one has a nice flow to it and has six notes.
  • The second one has less notes (four), but seems more like a bass line than a riff.
  • The third one has three notes – G, Bb, C – and a distinct rhythm with syncopation. Both of these things – small number of notes, distinct rhythm – will make it easier to remember.


The fourth one is just because I felt like changing the third one a bit.


Share : facebooktwittergoogle plus

1 2