What Is NEGATIVE RHYTHM And How Can It Make You A Better Musician?

What Is NEGATIVE RHYTHM And How Can It Make You A Better Musician?

Tommaso Zillio

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negative rhythm guitar

Have you heard of negative harmony? Well, you should have since I posted a series of (very successful) videos specifically on that (*)

But what about negative rhythm?

You probably haven’t heard of it… as I recently came up with it as a way to practice playing ‘in the pocket’ (**), but also as a way of coming up with really cool rhythm ideas that you may not come up with any other way.

Negative rhythm uses a pretty similar concept to negative harmony (but applied to rhythm, of course).

It takes just a few minutes to understand, and it creates so many ideas that sound musical and appropriate to the song you are playing that I should have called it “magic rhythm generator” instead…

… come to think of it, that would have been a better name. Too bad, I already went with “negative rhythm,” and I’m sticking to my guns…

… anyway if you want to learn all about negative rhythm (but also about what playing ‘in the pocket’ actually means), watch the video below, and I’ll tell you all about it!

An equally important part of being a good rhythm guitar player is understanding chords inside and out. If you want to know more about chords, check out my Complete Chord Mastery guitar course.

(*) If you’ve missed the series on Negative Harmony, take the afternoon off and watch the whole playlist here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1b4tImOwBI4&list=PLxg569q1AjpOhYd8imqjesV3NOuKE5oRH

(**) Oh, BTW, if you haven’t heard the term ‘playing in the pocket’ before, I am not referring to playing guitar inside of an actual pocket, as that would be both extremely uncomfortable and completely impractical. Just making sure nobody gets hurt here…

Video Transcription

Hello internet so nice to see you! Today I’m going to talk to you about the negative rhythm and how to play in the pocket. And believe it or not, those two things are related. Now negative rhythm sounds a lot like negative harmony, doesn’t it, and it’s probably part of the same kind of mental tools that you can use to make music and to make your music more interesting.

So let’s see what negative rhythm is. It’s such a simple idea when you explain it correctly, that it’s not even if you’re gonna say it, and they’re gonna be like, it’s obvious, and it works. And by the way, notice that there are no videos on negative rhythm on YouTube. You’ve heard it here. First. Let’s see how you have a reader. Could be any reader.

Okay? I’m gonna stay in four four. Okay, right now and I’m gonna play the super easy rhythm. I’m gonna write it first in standard notation, then I’m gonna write in a different easier notation. Okay, but for the final notation, fanatics here it is.

They have a hit and a rest. Two hits, a rest, another hit. And do you guys know this? Okay. You guys know this reason because everybody learns this rhythm when they start learning to play guitar because it’s this

okay, Pom Pom, okay. Raised. These can be written in a slightly different notation. Now. Some imitation is not a bad thing. It’s a bit unfamiliar. If you don’t know it, of course, it’s not that hard to learn. No, honestly, it’s actually pretty easy to learn.

But for what I’m going to do right now, it’s an inconvenience notation. Okay, so I’m gonna use a slightly different notation. Again, without taking anything away from standard notation, I’m gonna simply think of these as one and two, and three, and four, okay, so I have the beats 123 and four, and the up beats and, and and end, and I’m going to think of it essentially as a series of moments in time. In which I can put a hit or nothing.

Okay, so essentially, I have those eight slots in time one and two and three, and four. And because eight slots in time, and I can either put a hit in the slot, or put nothing, in which case, I don’t play in that. Simple now easy as that.

Now, of course, right now I’m doing it with eight notes. In here for four, you can do this in three, four and five, four, you can use 16th notes, you can use three principles, quintuplets, I don’t care. Okay? I’m just keeping it simple right now. The negative rhythm of these rhythm is when you flip through x, nothing and nothing to exit the negative rhythm.

This is when there’s an x, I can put anything there’s nothing so put an X nothing, nothing an x here, nothing nothing. This is the negative reading of this. Okay. How does this sound

123412412 and four, and that’s how it sounds. Doesn’t sound like much right? So here’s the thing. There are so many ways to use this, you have no idea. The first thing is that I can play these followed by this.

Now that’s a pretty busy rhythm with busy I mean most of the slots are full, because that’s a pretty sparse rhythm. So most of this slots are empty. So there’s going to be a bit of contrast but it works

pom pom pom, pom, okay. Notice how these following this keeps you in style. This whole rhythm flows very naturally. It doesn’t sound that deficient. It doesn’t sound bad. It doesn’t sound like I’m just stacking something new on to something old.

It stays in style we need to the negative rhythm you stay in style to death. A great variation for death. Okay, and That’s one way of using this. Another way is to have some instrument play this, and some other instruments play this. And that’s a fix me to playing in the pocket. Now, in the pocket, you may have heard this expression, you need to play in the pocket. Okay? I’ve heard this expression used with two different meanings.

Okay. And incidentally, every time I talk about these two other musicians, every musician is very adamant that only one of those meaning is the correct one, and not the other one. But they don’t agree on which one is the right one. So, as I’m telling you is this it’s, I don’t know which one is the real meaning.

But I’ve heard the expression in the pocket used to indicate two different things. The first one is the band plays in the pocket, when everybody in the band is perfectly tight, okay, the hit of the kick drum and or an ordered snare drum and the bass player and the guitar player and the keyboard player, bam, they all come exactly at the same time, the band has groove, it’s tight, everybody sounds like a single rhythmic unit.

And so some people call these playing in the pocket. That’s a valid meaning. But other people use in the pocket in a different sense. And they find this other sensor, at least as interesting. And it’s this, it means when to play in the pocket for other people is to play when nobody else is playing.

Which means for instance, if you play in a pocket, you can be absolutely sure that every time the chord changes, so on the one the bar 12341, on the one on the bar, you’re going to have the kick drum of the drummer, you’re going to have the bass player playing the root note or the bass on the chord, you’re going to have maybe the singer singing.

He’s because singer somehow cannot resist singing something on the one of the bar, you as a guitar player, would be well advised to not play on the one of the bar, unless specifically required to do that. So if you’re creating a part for your song, you will a good idea will be to listen to what’s going on. See, what’s the rhythm play by the rest of the band.

And you play on the negative rhythm. So when nobody else is playing us sneaking a chord are not part of an arpeggio, something. These accomplishes several different goals all at the same time. First of all, the singer is not going to be angry with you because you’re soloing all over his vocal part. Okay, which is a big problem, believe me, okay.

So you’re never playing when the singer is singing the moment the singer takes his breath, put in a little bit about solo, okay, here’s something like that record, you’re never going to step all over the drum part of the bass part of the piano part. You listen to what they’re doing. And whenever they don’t play, you play. The second end for asking the player more important goal because after all, we don’t really care if the singer is angry, right.

But the more important it was for us is that if nobody else is playing in that little moment in time, then they can hear the guitar. We are always in a volume war now. Because maybe the piano player is super loud. And you want to be heard what everybody can hear on the demo player. But hey, here’s the thing.

If you learn to play in between these notes rhythmically, then people can hear the guitar perfectly. Right? So you learn to play in the pocket in the sense in the negative rhythm sounds. And then people are always hearing you even if you cannot read the volume with an uncertain amount. Even if your sound, your sound is not cut through the mix.

You cut through the mix because nobody’s playing in that specific moment. And the only thing playing is the guitar. It’s a super important skill to learn, especially when you’re playing live, especially when you’re played as a hired gun. If you learn that you never stomp on anybody else playing you are always heard, but without stomping on anybody else. It makes your life so much easier and learning to do these in real time.

Honestly, it’s not so hard. How do you do it? Well write a few rhythms. As the exercise you practice these you become a much better musician immediately. Write a few rhythms. You can copy from the rhythms from somewhere where you can just put random access in this grid and then play them on your guitar and then create the negative and now play these other rhythm here. And learn to hear how these entities are related.

Ladies and men play these are just after record yourself playing these and play these on top. You need to do this, just for a few of them. And then you’re gonna get the idea, you’re gonna feel it you’re gonna feel when there is space in the music, okay?

And you’re gonna learn to play in sneaky in your notes and your chord and your things exactly when there is space in the music. These is an exercise you can do yourself. Now, if you are playing with a band, as another great exercise you can do you want to watch the singer. And your goal here will be at every time the singer doesn’t sing that you’re sneaking.

Something like that. Something a little bit of phrase, the moment the singer is not singing, how do you know when the singer is not singing. But singers have a big problem respect to ask you to play, they have to catch their breath. So I want you to stand just behind the singer. And I want you to watch the singer shoulders.

And the moment the singer shoulder go down and then go up. That’s your cue. Okay, the moment he moves the shoulders, you know is taking a breath and putting a little phrase. And then watch until then he did it takes takes a breath and put in another phrase and then watch and he takes another breath and put in another phrase and so on and so forth. Okay, and get us to react this way to your singer.

First of all you’re going to notice is that by the end of the gig, your singer is going to compliment you I can guarantee that it’s gonna happen. gonna happen is that is it guys gonna tell you, dude, you never stomped on me, dude, this is something great and I’ve never had a problem with you. It’s gonna happen just right. And second, you’re gonna become a much, much, much better musician, just by sharpening your reading skills.

That’s one of the main things you can do. Now if you want to learn how to do all these little phrases that I was doing before. Okay, those are super, super simple phrases. There’s really nothing complex in here, but I know some people are going to ask about those.

Because that just little phrase on a pentatonic scale, I put together a free eBook that contains 18 tips to make your pentatonic sound professional and those are the different what I’m using right now really am if we go get that ebook, it’s free.

Download it, watch the videos, I’m gonna explain all those little tricks you use to create those little phrases. It’s small things but they’re easy to learn and they make you sound good immediately. So you want to go there gonna be the link in description and on the video go and click get the free ebook completely free. No Strings Attached haha. Today, okay, no problem and get the free book. It’s great. Learn this negative thing and until next time, enjoy.

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