Guitar Rhythm Chops

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by Bob Brumbeloe with Tim Gillespie

Editors Note: Much of the time when we are playing, we are concerned about choosing the right note or not making mistakes. The idea of increasing your timing response is not something you hear about every day. Timing is one of the most important fundamentals a budding guitarist needs to manage, but the issues surrounding timing are often hidden or overlooked. As I said in last month's newsletter, timing implies being at the right spot at the correct moment. If you are just a little slow or slightly fast, it can diminish the work.

Exercises are one of the best ways of gaining a physical understanding of mechanics on a guitar. Exercises allow you to stop the dynamics of playing and focus on a specific area. Intimate understanding is the result of good exercises and deep practice. The great benefits of exercise are in repeating the exercise countless times. This way you come to understand the exact response your body puts out as well as how to manage it.

This month we have great exercises that ask you to put everything else aside and focus.

Bob Brumbeloe is a very good guitarist. His deep roots in Jazz are easily heard in his music. His ability to play complicated parts is far more developed than most guitarists. His debut CD, "Who Knew" is permanently epoxied to my CD spindle at home. The chord charts for even one song are quite intense. And there are many, many runs nested between intense deep jazzy progressions.

One day, during one of our conversations, I asked him what he practices when he has the time to focus on something specific. His answer was one word. Timing! Then he went through all these timing exercises that he likes to use. This month Bob is going to give you a small sample of them. Thank you Bob!

Just as one might develop their harmonic techniques with scales and arpeggios, One can also develop their rhythmic chops by learning and applying some common rhythm techniques. One common rhythm concept is playing phrases that naturally fit in one measure of 3/4 time and applying the same rhythms over a tune that is in 4/4 time.

For example in 3/4 time it is common to play dotted quarter notes like this.

If you did the same thing over two measures of 4/4 time, it might look something like this.

You could think of this as two measures of 3/4 time, which equals 6 beats with 2 beats left over where you just played two quarter notes.

This is a very common rhythm phrase. If you wanted to, you could stretch this concept into 4 measures phrased in 4/4 time like this.

Here is the way the math works for these four measures in this example.

Four measures of 3/4 time equals 3 measures of 4/4 time. So after playing 4 measures of 3 rhythm, you have one measure of 4 rhythm left to complete the four measure phrase in 4/4 time.

You don't always have to start the groupings of three in the first measure. For instance you could start your four measure phrase with the four guitar notes up front like this.

Or how about two beats then four measures of three and then two more beats like this.

3/4 Time Examples

So far I have just been using the dotted quarter notes as an example but you can use any 3/4 rhythm you like. Here are some good examples of 3/4 rhythm.

Here is an example of a common two measure phrase from the Bebop era.

This has one beat up front then two 3 measures with one beat felt at the end. This is the rhythm phrase Thelonious Monk used on Epistry, and Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie used on Salt Peanuts.


Here are some musical examples using a D dorian mode over a D minor chord similar to the kind of sound you might want to use on a tune like "So What" or "Impressions".

Listen to exercise 1

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Listen to exercise 2

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Listen to exercise 3

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Listen to exercise 4

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Listen to exercise 5

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Bob Brumbeloe is a master jazz guitarist. He has played for over 26 years. Bob has giged with James Moody, Ernie Watts, Ritchie Cole, John Handy, Charles McPhearson, Kenny Drews Jr., George Cables, Charnett Moffetty, Victor Lewis and many others. Bob has recorded CDs with Gerry Grosz and Phil Hawkins, Don Ponder and singer Dennis Finnegan. He plays out in hundreds of engagements every year in and around San Francisco.

He works and teaches at Guitar Solo in San Francisco, CA. Bob is available for lessons, gigs, consulting and personal relationships (okay). He can be reached at 415-386-0395 or at their web site at

His CD is also available there.