Guitar players have a particular rhythm skill that keyboard players should learn and use to their advantage.
That skill has to do with subdivision. When a rhythm guitar player does rhythm, he/she doesn’t just play random ticks within a measure. The correct approach to rhythm guitar means playing all the subdivisions of the measure – usually 8th notes or 16th notes – and emphasizing select notes.
In the latest OurWorshipSound video, I demonstrated the following rhythm on guitar.
The first accented note occurs on a beat, when my strumming hand is moving down. The other two accents happen off the beat, when my strumming hand is moving up.
Now, I’m not suggesting that keyboard players should play every subdivision. Rather, we need to understand how the rhythms we play align within a measure. We need to be aware of which subdivisions our rhythms highlight.
This is important for two reasons: rhythm precision and rhythm creativity.
Show me a keyboard player who doesn’t grasp the feel of subdivision, and I’ll show you a keyboard player who struggles to play with rhythmic precision. Only aligning notes with subdivisions gives the clarity needed to play rhythms properly. When that relationship is ambiguous, the musician will struggle to align rhythms.
Whether you are playing piano chords or taking a melodic approach, you have to be clear about the rhythms you’re playing. It does no good to know all the notes to play and not know when to play them. To be really be creative with rhythm, you need to be able to emphasize any subdivision in different combinations and patterns.
Acquiring this rhythm skill
To aid in your understanding and execution of this skill, approach rhythm like a rhythm guitarist or a drummer. Learn to feel rhythms as representing all subdivisions and emphasizing only some of those notes. The best way to try this is to drum out rhythms with your hands. (It works a little better than shaking your hand up and down like a guitarist.)
Alternate patting your hands on any surface. Try an 8th note rhythm, playing the beats with your right hand and the upbeats with your left. Keep your hands low for all non-emphasized notes, and allow your hand to come up higher before playing an emphasized note. Emphasized notes that happen on the left hand (upbeat) are syncopated. Avoid the tendency to play all emphasized notes with your dominant hand.
Develop your rhythm vocabulary with Fluent Piano
If you are interested in taking your rhythm and keyboard playing to a new level, check out Fluent Piano video courses.