The Free Guitar Toolbox »

The Most Important Guitar Skill

Guitar Lessons For Beginners

View Category

In this guitar lesson, we're going to take a look at the most important skill on the guitar. Playing chords and scales, strumming, and picking might seem like the only skills you need to be a good guitarist. However, there is one skill that is even more important and often overlooked.

Develop Your Timing

Not developing your sense of timing is a surefire way to find yourself in an embarrassing situation the first time you play with other musicians. When you're first learning how to play the guitar, it can be easy to forget to work on your timing because you aren't playing along with anyone else. In this lesson, we'll take a look at some ways that you can start working on gaining a better sense of timing for the guitar.

Tip #1 - Record Yourself

The first thing you can do to work on your timing is record yourself playing something. You can do this with a smartphone, camera, or any other recording device. The goal is just to listen back to your playing to see if you have any issues with timing.

Tip #2 - Tap First

When you are practicing your timing, it can be a good habit to set your guitar down and simply focus on tapping. This helps you to eliminate any distractions and help you to focus on just one thing at a time.

It's good to get in the habit of moving something else along to the beat when you tap. This can be nodding your head or tapping your foot. Doing this will help you to internalize the beat and really lock into the groove.

Tip #3 - Subdivide The Beat

Subdividing the beat can be especially helpful with slower tempos. In this example, we'll start by tapping along with quarter notes to 60 BPMs.

Quarter Notes

Because of how slow the tempo is, there are long gaps between the each quarter note. This makes it a lot easier to rush or drag your timing. Oftentimes it's easier to use eighth notes so there is less space between the notes. You'll simply tap twice for each beat.

Eighth Notes

Once you've got the eighth notes down you can take this even further by using sixteenth notes. For sixteenth notes, you'll tap four times for each beat.

Sixteenth Notes

Tip #4 - Timing Exercise

Now that you've got the hang of tapping each rhythm along to a metronome, you can work on combining the rhythms. Start by tapping quarter notes, then move on to eighth notes, then sixteenth notes. Repeat this over a few times without hesitation. Getting this exercise down will help you to recognize and improve on any issues you have with your timing.

Counting Exercise

Add this timing exercise to your daily practice time. If you can, spend 3 - 5 minutes practicing your timing every day. If you can do this, you'll notice a significant improvement with your timing. Remember to record yourself along the way so you can gauge your progress.