Help! I have no Rhythm

Hi All,

Not sure where to post this question…
I’m learning Blues licks and I’m trying to play the licks to backing tracks and my timing/rhythm is S!%QT…
I have no idea when to start the lick, how fast of slow to play the lick…It’s like I have brain freeze when the backing track is playing LOL

I know how to play the below licks, but when using Justin’s backing track (from below page), I am battling to find when to start the licks etc…and I sound terrible (using a Clean tone on Katana MK11 50)
How do I learn to master rhythm? Just by practising against the backing track, learning when the beats are?

From Blues Solos - Justin Guitar book.


I’ve been playing guitar now for 6 months, just so you know :see_no_evil:


Hi Rachel,

First of all, 6 months is quite short and the fact that you have already arrived at these lessons shows that you did not complete the course even a little according to highly recommended schedule :flushed:, and then you should also have heard during the lessons that you first practice a lick and that it is good. can apply and practice in as many ways as possible until you are almost tired of it, so never several at the same time that do not work, after 6 months in Grade 4 is really too fast …

you are missing a very important basic knowledge and so this is doomed to failure … not nice news but the truth … :blush:

Greetings ,Rogier

Hello Rachel. I have to say that I’m surprised you are learning blues licks after only playing for six months, and not surprised when you say rhythm is a big challenge. I’ve been playing 20 months and am just getting through Justin’s level 4 blues courses. It seems most of us struggle to find and sustain rhythm for a long, long while. I’d suggest slow down a bit, practice easier exercises that build the “muscle memory” we all crave. Good luck!

Hi Rachel -

First off, if your looking to play Albert King licks over a blues backing track in 6 months then you’re steaming ahead … there’s a lot to think about in doing this.

Have you tried with other simpler licks? These are quite long and in classic Albert King style are full of bends. I’d be tempted to try some shorter, simpler licks to start with, or just the first phrase of these. Repeat the same short lick over the entire backing track, you want to get it so that you are on autopilot. Like everything else worth doing, it’ll take time, but start simple and grow into these more complex licks once you have the shorter ones nailed.

The other thing you should be doing is listening to a ton of blues, you will start to soak up the ‘feel’ for it and also the structure of the track, when the chord changes happen etc.

It can also help to write the 5 licks of the lesson into Guitar Pro and listen to the rhythm on loop at different speed.

A couple of thoughts, aside from those already mentioned: a big part of getting the rhythm right while playing over a backing track is simply to have the mechanics of playing the lick solidly in your fingers.

  1. Do you have the Am pentatonic scale pattern 1 nicely under your fingers? You should probably be able to play it confidently at 120 bpm (at least), playing eighth notes with alternate picking.

  2. You should learn the licks first, before you try to play them over a backing track. You should make sure you can count them and play them and they should sound like Justin’s demos on the lesson.

  3. When you are ready to try them over a backing track, you should choose one that is slow enough. I found the track supplied with the “5 Blues Licks from Pattern 1” lesson to be much too fast when I was learning my first licks.

  4. When the backing track is playing, make sure you hear where beat 1 of each measure is. If you don’t know where beat 1 is, you will not be able to start the lick in the right place.

Hi All,

Thank you for the comments.

Just a some side notes, to help understand where I’m at in my learning experience:

  1. I’m only only Grade 2 Module 13 so definitely not on Grade 4 or above, taking my time in that respect ironically.
  2. I do have weekly private lessons with a guitar teacher which does help and has increased my learning experience. Yes, he has recommended I slow down a bit and work on some of my technique and a few other things. Which we are doing.
  3. Since I started, I practice about 1-3hrs on average per day.
  4. I’m a big blues fan and listen to all the greats on vinyl and on Spotify. That is my goal to play the blues like the “Kings” in the future.
  5. Got the A minor pentatonic scales down - not all at 120bpm but all with alternate picking.
  6. Can do bends, vibrato, pull offs, hammer on’s etc.
  7. Also as mentioned by @jjw John, I did find the backing track a little fast. I do have some slower backing tracks (60, 80 bpm and show the beat counts to help). Got the most of the licks on the right count, maybe more practise is needed here.

I do know I need to slow down which I am, by concentrating more on following the Grade lessons, but I’m like a sponge, I just like to soak it all up and learn as much as possible.
I’ll take all your advise onboard and most definitely slow my progress down and make sure I concentrate on refining and getting all the basics nailed completely (muscle memory) before maybe tackling more complex things like blues songs/solos etc. Get the basics right and then try again when it’s all just second nature.

Excuse the waffling and long reply.


Ha ha No apology necessary for the waffling :grin: :sunglasses:, it does clarify some things and it is nice to read that you do maintain a structure in learning :sweat_smile:… Rhythm and playing a lick the right way comes with time, and got the scale down means ( in my head) that you can also make music with it, it starts with knowing where the notes are, but that is the very beginning of a long and fun path of discoveries about what is “hidden” in that scale… :smiley:

Greetings and keep the fun and curiosity :sunglasses:

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Hi Rachel,
You posted a great topic and it was one very close to my situation so I have also appreciated all the feedback responses.

Hopefully we can take all this onboard and make headway with this blues caper. Good luck :crossed_fingers:. :guitar::+1:

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Hi, Rachel. I applaud you for exploring challenges that keep you engaged while you’re patiently working your way through the fundamentals. Like you, I put in an hour or more every day, so there’s “free time” to venture outside the program.

I’m firmly convinced that I do not possess any natural rhythm, which is why I use a metronome for almost everything. Recently, I discovered an app called “Metronome Beats” that allows a wide range of drum and cymbal sounds, and I really like it. If I were learning a riff like yours, I’d probably begin by using my metronome app at a very slow speed. As I got better at that, I’d gradually increase the speed. Once I got close enough to the speed of the backing track, I’d try switching to it. The first thing is to get very familiar with the riff so you can play it smoothly without thinking about it - but slowly.


This might be nature’s way of telling you to finish your consolidation step from the beginner course. Nature may also be whispering, "Slow it down…)

Sounds very familiar to me. I raced through grades 2-3 and jumped into areas I want to learn (songs, blues, fingerstyle) and found I lacked the core skills to be able to make much progress. I spent a good 6 months mostly “consolidating” with repetitive exercises, revisiting lessons, and learning to practice with a metronome (still don’t like it, but it’s necessary like flossing your teeth). Now I find it easier to learn new techniques and songs. Another student told me that it’s one thing to know how to do many things with the guitar, it’s a different thing to be competent at it. You know what to do Rachel!


Think of learning guitar like an infinite pyramid. You will unlikely reach the top but regardless of how far you climb you will need deep and wide foundation. Ignore that and everything else will tumble to the floor like a pack of cards.

I have often used the analogy of many guitarist being like over keen builders, They are convinced they can put the tiles on the roof before the walls have been built.

One thing often neglected and you hit the nail on the head with your title. Rhythm under pins everything. As our man @LievenDV frequently says Rhythm Is KING and amen to that. The only way you learn rhythm is to learn songs and to learn chord progressions. You start simple on one strum a bar, then 2 strums on every other beat, then 4 strums per bar. Then you learn about that space in between the beats, the AND + and you learn to play rhythm in 8ths 1+2+3+4+. Then you learn to miss some strings like Old Faithful, Then you move on to playing rhythm in 16th 1e+a2e+a3e+a4e+a and you learn to play songs like Wonderwall yes that !!

All this foundation works gets rhythm ingrained into your fingers, your mind, your body and your soul. Then when you come to learn licks and lead these whole half quarter eighths and sixteenths notes are second nature. And you will understand how each lick fits into the groove.

Its as simple as that. Every lead guitarist spends 90 to 95% playing rhythm, its what makes their lead work so good.

Don’t invert the pyramid. Lay the foundation first.

Hey all that folks and I never mentioned sprints and marathons. Oops there I go again. :rofl:



The title is a bit misleading though, as it is about Reading Rhythm but it doesn’t emphasize that by doing the exercises the way they are clearly explained, you tap your foot, you go along with the metronome, yoy count and with consistent practice you develop that sense of Rhythm you thought Nature didn’t gift you with.
I highly reccomend you use the book for your Rhythm fundamentals.


Everybody here has great suggestions, but I’ll let you know how I was able to play those kinds of licks when I was just a few months in.

1 - Slow the recording down in Audacity, youtube, whatever you have to do. Slow it down to 25% or whatever you need to do.
2 - Play the lick over and over UNTIL YOU CAN’T GET IT WRONG.
3 - Increase speed by 5% and go back to step #2.
4 - Once you can play the lick without thinking at say 50%, add in a few bars that lead into the lick, a few bars that come out of the lick, and do it all again. Slow it back down if you need to.

What you are trying to do is to stop thinking about the lick and start to FEEL the lick. When you FEEL the lick then you can do it in time, come off time a bit then come back, etc.


Hello Rachel,

Lots of good advice here already.
Just wanted to add what I think is perhaps the most important here.

If you can’t sing the rhythm, the groove etc, then you can’t play it. Simply not possible.

And while you’re attacking this stuff pretty early, there’s no reason you can’t make some solid progress.

My suggestion is to put your guitar down, put on a backing track and sing the groove - the licks, the phrasing etc. I would make it pretty simple to start with.

Then pickbup your guitar, and let that groove flow from your consciosness to your fingers. You may be surprised that this works very, very well. Keep at it.
Equally important is listening to some masters etc, and hear how they utiluse and vary phrasing etc .
I’ve been at this a little while now, and I do this everytime; it works.

Cheers, Shane


Afternoon All,

Thank all for the excellent advice and help, I do appreciate it :smiley:

I did feel like a naughty schoolkid who’d not done their homework properly from some of the comments :rofl: Just kidding, did have a chuckle to myself.

To answer a few suggestions first:
I do have the app “Metronome Beats on my phone, but I recently purchased a digital metronome which has a timer, beats selection, BPM selection and also Rhythm which I’ve started using while practising.
I also at the same time purchased the 'Rhythm Reading” book as mentioned by @SILVIA , so slowing working my way through that as well.
@sclay - Please explain what you mean by singing the licks etc… I don’t understand :see_no_evil:

We’re all here to help each other and every comment I’ve taken onboard and decided on the following plan of attack (LOL) going forward.

  1. Going to revisit and consolidate all the previous modules I’ve already done. Make sure the basic foundation, technique of everything is solid and I’m confident with it all. This includes my strumming and fingerpicking which is good, but I’ll make sure it’s definitely second nature along with everything else.
  2. Go slower through the modules on the grades, make sure completely confident on the module before moving on.
  3. Carry on slowly working on the Blues licks etc. but take it a lot slower, use the metronome, Guitar Pro 8 (I’ve learnt to transcribe so will do that, added practise), JG video’s etc. to slow it down and make sure I have the licks ‘muscle memory’ perfect including the correct beat count etc.
  4. Carry on having fun learning to play the guitar, that’s the most important thing.

I know the Rhythm will come in time, it will be a lightbulb moment and then I can slowly put the ‘rafters’ up on the house while still stabilising the never ending foundations of the house @TheMadman_tobyjenner :wink:

Thank you again everyone for the advise.


I heard a lovely story from Joe Robinson recently (Amazing Australian guitarist who Justin recently had in as a special guest).

Joe was playing a show with Tommy Emmanuel one evening, and after the show ended, they both packed up their kit and went back to the hotel. Later that night Joe was walking to his room and as he went past Tommy’s room he heard the ‘Tick, tick, tick’ of Tommy’s Metronome as he was practicing.

You are never too good to be working with the metronome!


It means literally vocalising the licks over the backing track…
da-da-da, doot-doot-da

Cheers, Shane

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I think Shane is referring to what was called “Scat” back in the 30s & 40s (not sure if that term is still in use) like Louis Armstrong or Ella Fitzgerald. Jason Mraz does this, too… you’re vocalizing the melody but without words per se while staying in time & on the beat.
It works to get the timing & “feel” of the song!
Hope this helps!!!


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