One of The Best Rhythm Exercises To Develop Amazing Timefeel

One of The Best Rhythm Exercises To Develop Amazing Timefeel

This is an exercise I give all my intermediate guitar students.
Even advanced students often still benefit a lot from doing this exercise.

This is an exercise to train and improve time-feel, which is the internal clock a musician develops.
This internal clock, allows the musician to be completely in control of his tempos and his placement.

This is, in addition to having a really good ear, the 2nd most important skill to have.
Ear training is probably the most important thing to practice, closely followed by time feel exercises.

You can literally sense that mastery of time in another musician.
Mastery of that skill is instantly obvious in how the musician picks up his instrument.
You can usually tell even before the musician has played one single note.

But I digress. 🙂
Rather than getting spiritually mumbo jumbo on you, let’s have a look at the exercises.

16th Note Displacement Exercises.

A quick word first about rhythmic notation and terminology.

These 4 exercises are called 16th note displacement exercises.

They are called that because the chord is moved up one 16th note in every exercise. The chord is in other words “displaced” with 1/16th note.
The exercises consist of 4 hits per beat: 3 of the hits being mutes and 1 hit being a chord sound.

A 16th note,

is called that because the duration of a 16th note = 1/16th of a measure.
If you’re hitting your strings evenly 16 times in a row in the course of one full measure, then you played sixteen 16th notes.
You are then, in other words: hitting your strings 4 times per beat.
4 notes per beat, times 4 beats in a measure, equals 16 notes in a measure.

Slashes represent chords.

You get a chord sound when you gently “squeeze” the strings against the frets.

X’s represent mutes.

Mutes sound percussive because you prevent the strings from vibrating after the string attack.
Mutes occur when you rest your hand on the strings without pressing them down against the frets.

Note groupings

In rhythmic notation, notes are always grouped together into durations of 1/4th (one quarter) of a measure. These are called “beats”.
That is why there are horizontal “beams” grouping a number of notes together.
4 notes of equal duration all taking the space of 1 beat, are always grouped with 2 horizontal beams. This is how you write 16th note groupings.


The little arrows (pointing to the right) on top of the first note in the 2nd and 4th note grouping, are accents.
These symbols show that the performer has to hit harder on these notes/chords.

How to do these exercises:

  1. With a metronome at about 52Bpm (beats per minute) up to 58Bpm.
  2. Strum down-up-down-up throughout.
  3. 4 Minutes a day, non-stop. Every day? The “non-stop” part is really important. The progress lies in the struggle trying to target the metronome’s beep. If you just stop because you got off a bit, you missed out on the chance to learn to adapt to the beat and to find your way back on the beat.
  4. Do a different exercise each day. Once you get the hang of this after a couple of weeks: do all 4 exercises every day, 4 minutes each. This adds up to a 16-minute daily drill.
  5. Hit harder on beats 2 and 4. Accent those beats: it will help you keep time and help you lock in better with the metronome. It makes sense to hit harder on those beats, as this is where drummers always hit the snare.

Exercise 1:

16th note displace ex 1

Exercise 2:


Exercise 3:


Exercise 4:


How Do You Know When You Master This?

How do you know if you have amazing timing?
You know this when you get to the point where your hits on your guitar are so perfectly on the beat, that the sound of the metronome disappears underneath the guitar hits.

This right away also answers the question many students have: how long should I be doing this exercise?
You should be doing these drills as long as you have not gotten to the point where

1) the metronome beep disappears within 10-15 seconds of you starting the exercise, and
2) stays away for a 3-4 minute time frame, where…
3) the beep occasionally creeps back in but can be blocked out again in about 2 bars the most.

Once you reach that level, you REALLY know how to play on the beat.
With that level of control over your time, then you can effectively start experimenting playing behind the beat or anywhere you want to in relation to the beat.

One more fun piece of trivia: once you reach that level, it is a bit like “bike-riding”. You never lose that skill again.

If it is any help, I added a video of how these exercises are to be played.
I put my metronome right next to my camera so it’s easier to hear.

Here’s a pdf with the exercises that you can download.

16th Note Displacement Exercises


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