Rhythm and Groove Guitar

Author: Bruce Bartlett   •   Course Code: OGUIT-226

The importance of the rhythm guitar cannot be underestimated. In the 'groove' genre, the greatest recordings of James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, Herbie Hancock, Government Mule, John Scofield, Medeski, Martin and Wood, and Soulive demonstrate that a tight, grooving rhythm section is absolutely essential. Rhythm and Groove Guitar provides guitarists with a strong set of rhythmic and chordal tools that are the foundation of groove-based music, but can be used to further any style of music. You'll start by expanding your chord knowledge and constructing original rhythm guitar grooves using Root 5, Root 6, Major7, Minor7, and Dominant 7th chords. By playing along with artist recordings, groove loops, and instructor-generated exercises, you'll learn how to effectively use tension, muted rhythms, repetition, and chordal licks (hammer-on / pull off) to your advantage. The course then moves on to address more advanced rhythm techniques, including syncopation, triplets, right hand techniques, and diatonic harmony. The rhythmic foundation you build in this course will help further your improvisational abilities in a duet setting, as well as strengthen your solo playing.

By the end of the course, you will learn to:

  • Create your own rhythms and grooves
  • Play in 4/4, 3/4, 6/8, 12/8, 5/4, and 7/4 time signatures
  • Use chords such as altered dominant and dominant chords with tensions in your rhythm playing
  • Use picking lines, single-note rhythmic patterns, and double stops
  • Progress from simple to complex rhythmic grooves
  • Learn rhythmic exercises to strengthen both your right- and left-hand playing
  • Use effects such as wah-wah to enhance your rhythm playing

Lesson 1: Getting Started with Groove

  • Note and Rest Values
  • Playing Exercise: James Brown "The Payback"
  • Playing Exercise: Phish – Tweezer
  • Constructing and Tailoring Original Guitar Grooves
  • Playing Exercise: Constructing Grooves
  • Chord Types and Forms: Root 5 and Root 6 of Major7, Minor7, Dominant7, Dominant 7#9 and Dominant7sus4.
  • Playing Exercise: Chord Types
  • Assignment: Create a Rhythm Guitar Part in C7

Lesson 2: Constructing Grooves with Movable Chord Forms

  • Chord Types: Dominant 7th and Dominant 79
  • Playing Exercise: Cycle 4
  • Playing Exercise: Chord Inversions
  • Dominant 79 Chord Tones
  • Practicing Movable Forms
  • Practice Exercise: Guitar Grooves and Jam Licks in Two Different Styles
  • Cream – Toad
  • Herbie Hancock
  • Playing Exercise: Constructing Grooves
  • Jamming for Fun
  • Electronic Jam in C
  • Funky Groove in E
  • Assignment: Analysis of Prince Rhythm Playing

Lesson 3: Creating Grooves with Dominant 7 Chords

  • Unique Ways to Get Inspiration
  • Playing Exercise: Repetitive Guitar Grooves
  • Gov't Mule: Mr. Big
  • James Brown: Papa Don't Take No Mess
  • Playing Exercise: Chord Types
  • John Scofield: Hottentot
  • Playing Exercise: Dominant 7#9
  • Herbie Hancock: Hang Up Your Hang Ups
  • Warm-Up Exercises
  • Playing Exercise: All Six Chord Forms
  • Playing Exercise: Dominant 7 13
  • Assignment: Gold Digger

Lesson 4: Muted Rhythms and Scratch Guitar

  • Muted Rhythms and Scratch Guitar
  • Muted Rhythm Exercise
  • How to Develop an Original Style
  • Minor 7 and Minor 79 Chords
  • Playing Exercise: Constructing Grooves with Dminor 79
  • Playing Exercise: Stylistic Chordal Lick (Hammer-on / Pull–Off) for Minor7th chord
  • Jazz Funk Loop
  • Soulive – Flurries
  • Assignment: Twelve-Bar Minor Blues

Lesson 5: Combining Chord Forms and Rhythm

  • Minor 7 Chord with Tension 11
  • Dominant 7 (sus4) with Tensions 4 and 11
  • Playing Exercise: Chord Forms
  • Popular Muted Rhythms
  • Flood in Franklin Park by Grant Green
  • Assignment: Record a Rhythm Track With Grant Green Chord Progression
  • Assignment: Record a Rhythm Track with C7sus4 Loop

Lesson 6: Sixteenth-Note Rhythms

  • Constructing Grooves
  • Hottentot with added bridge
  • Practice Exercise: E7sus4
  • Rhythm Practice Tips
  • Playing Exercise: Muted Rhythms with Sixteenth Notes
  • Uberjam
  • Scofield: I Break for Monster Booty
  • Assignment: Create Your Own Groove

Lesson 7: String Combinations, Picking Lines, and Double-Stops

  • Learning New Licks
  • More on Major7th
  • Diatonic Harmony
  • Major 7 Loops
  • Muted Rhythm Exercises
  • Rhythm Guitar Techniques
  • Assignment: Record Golden Lady Changes
  • Assignment: Record with Cmaj7 Loop

Lesson 8: Converging Concepts in Rhythm

  • Converging Concepts in Rhythm Technique
  • Playing Exercise: Miles Davis
  • Playing Exercise: Medeski Martin and Wood
  • Eighth- and Sixteenth-Note Rhythm Combinations
  • Assignment: Black Satin
  • Assignment: Syncopation

Lesson 9: Triplets and Diatonic Harmony

  • Diatonic Harmony with Tensions
  • Triplet Introduction
  • Triplet Exercise
  • Picking Lines
  • Picking Line Degree Chart
  • Assignment: Compose Picking Lines

Lesson 10: Bass Lines and Effects

  • Fourths
  • Bass Ideas
  • Playing Exercise: Jam with Sax
  • Eighth-Note Triplets
  • Rhythm Exercises
  • Adding Note Patterns
  • Eighth Note Triplets in 3/4 Time
  • Assignment: Jamming with Saxophone

Lesson 11: Right-Hand Snap and Rhythm Duets

  • Suggestions for practicing rhythmic duets
  • More picking lines
  • Playing Exercise: Minor 69 loop
  • Right-Hand Pluck and Snap
  • Assignment: Jam with Instructor

Lesson 12: Putting it All Together

  • Playing Exercise: Constructing Grooves with Plucks
  • More Rhythm Patterns
  • 4-Bar Patterns
  • Open Strings within Chord Forms
  • Assignment: Compose an Original Groove

Bruce Bartlett

Author & Instructor

Bruce Bartlett has been an associate professor and clinician in the Berklee College of Music Guitar Department for 15 years. He has taught groove ensembles in Italy, Argentina, Los Angeles, and on campus.

His band, the Bruce Bartlett Trio, has played nationally and internationally and released three CDs: Nasty Habits , Free for a Price (featuring Abe Laboriel, Jr., on drums), and Instant Gratification .

Bruce began his career as a recording session guitarist at the age of 19, working for producer Arthur Baker in New York City. He played rhythm guitar for several underground recordings for R'n'B artists in the early 80s. More recently, he recorded a live performance DVD with John Blackwell (drummer for pop legend Prince) for Hudson Music. He also composed most of the material, along with being a featured soloist, for Modern Drummer Festival 2000 at Montclair University in New Jersey.

His sideman and leader work includes performances at the Boston Globe Jazz Festival, Montreal Jazz Festival, Quebec Jazz Festival, and Indonesia Jazz Festival. Bruce has opened for Weather Report and Hirman Bullock, and performed with Chick Corea on Chick Corea Day, in Chelsea, MA, in 2001. Currently, he is performing with Sam Kininger, the featured saxophonist on Soulive recordings.

For more information on Bruce Bartlett, visit his Web site at www.brucebartlett.com.


Completion of Guitar Chords 101 and Guitar Scales 101 or equivalent knowledge and experience is required. This course requires that you have one year of playing experience, a working knowledge of guitar playing, and a basic knowledge of guitar chords.

Required Textbook

None required

Software Requirements

A recording tool is provided within the course that will allow students to record videos of themselves playing for assignment submission. Alternatively, students can use a digital camera, smartphone, or tablet to record assignments.

Mac Users

  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Windows Users

  • Windows 7 or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Hardware Requirements

  • For electric and acoustic electric guitars a basic amp chord with w/ a 1/4 to 1/8 adapter for recording directly into the computer
  • For acoustic guitars with no pickups a microphone w/ a 1/4 to 1/8 adapter for recording directly into the computer
  • Wah-wah pedal
  • A built-in microphone or an external microphone plugged directly into your computer (via built in ports or an external audio interface)
  • 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
  • 500 MB hard drive space
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Webcam
  • Internet connection with at least 4 Mbps download speed (http://www.speedtest.net to verify or download the Speedtest by Ookla app from your mobile app store)


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