Playing Guitar In Odd Meter – Using Odd Meter To Play Cool Guitar Riffs
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In this odd meter article...
... I show you simple and fun tricks for playing guitar in odd meter.
These tricks let you play cool guitar chords and create odd meter guitar riffs that sound advanced.
(But they are very simple to play.)
But don't let the fancy name (odd meter) fool you...
Playing guitar in odd meter isn’t any more challenging for your hands than playing guitar in 4/4.
The only reason most guitarists struggle with using odd meter to create guitar riffs is...
Nobody taught them the simple rhythm guitar tips (and ways to play cool guitar chords) you’re about to learn.
And when you learn the tricks to playing guitar in odd meter...
... you’ll create guitar riffs you’ll feel proud to call your own.
Emotion To Any Guitar Lick
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Ready to start?
To begin, watch this video about playing guitar in odd meter that shows you how to create guitar chords you’ve probably never played before:
Now that you know the basics of playing guitar in odd meter, let’s go deeper.
Here are 5 more tricks for playing cool guitar riffs using creative guitar chords.
Tip #1 For Playing Creative Guitar Chords In Odd Meter: Use Cool Voice Leading
Voice leading is one of the most powerful ways to play cool guitar chords (whether you are playing guitar in odd meter or not).
What ‘is’ voice leading?
It’s the way the notes move from chord to chord during the chord changes you play in your guitar riffs.
Similar to playing guitar in odd meter, “voice leading” sounds like an advanced concept, but it’s not.
You can understand and use voice leading to play creative guitar chords and cool guitar riffs without being an advanced guitar player.
Check out this video that shows you how:
Question: “Tom Hess, if voice leading is so important, why do so few guitar players (and guitar teachers) ever talk about or use it in their guitar riffs?”
Answer: Most guitar players (and guitar teachers) in general focus on ‘what’ to play vs. ‘how’ to play it. This is a big reason why most guitarists’ playing isn’t as creative or expressive as it could be (whether we’re talking about lead guitar or playing guitar in odd meter).
That said, voice leading is one of the key topics I help my guitar students master when helping them play and write creative guitar riffs using cool guitar chords.
To see more cool examples of voice leading (that you can use when playing guitar in odd meter), check out this video:
Pro tip: when playing guitar riffs using distortion, make sure the lowest interval of the chord is a perfect interval (e.g. a perfect 4th or a perfect 5th). If you put an imperfect interval in the bass when playing rhythm guitar riffs with distortion, the chords you play will sound muddy and will lack clarity. This is true even if those same creative guitar chords sound great using distortion.
(This applies whether you are playing guitar in odd meter or not.)
Why does that happen? Answer: because distortion compresses the sound – making all the notes equal volume. That is why some guitar riffs can sound great with a clean tone, but horrible with distortion.
Check out this video for more tips on playing creative guitar chords.
Tip #2 For Playing Creative Guitar Chords In Odd Meter: Work On Your Timing
One reason why many guitarists struggle to play cool guitar chords in odd meter is because they struggle to play guitar in time.
In fact, playing guitar riffs in time is possibly the least practiced musical skill of all... as it’s not as sexy as working on guitar speed or learning cool licks.
That said, if you want your playing to sound pro (and have more fun playing guitar in odd meter), you’d better make your guitar timing super tight.
How do you do this?
Here is a simple drill to get you started (that helps you play tight guitar riffs in any time signature – including odd meter).
Level 1 Of Playing Guitar Riffs In Time: Put your guitar down (you won’t need it for this step.) Turn your metronome to 60 bpm and clap your hands to the click. Your goal is to clap exactly on top of the click – creating an illusion that the click has disappeared.
(Yes, I know you are not playing any rhythm guitar ideas here yet, and it seems like this has nothing to do with playing guitar in odd meter. But this step lays down the foundation that will help to make your power chords sound better.)
Level 2 Of Playing Guitar Riffs In Time: Now, pick up your guitar. And at the same tempo, begin strumming simple quarter notes to the click to get the same effect (making the click “disappear). For example, simply strum an open E power chord.
This is a bit harder (because you have to coordinate your hands to play the chord while focusing on playing in time). That said, you’re now practicing one of the core skills that helps to make rhythm guitar riffs sound pro.
Level 3 Of Playing Guitar Riffs In Time: Practice strumming other note values (8th notes, 16th notes and triplets) to the click at the same tempo as the previous 2 levels. Stay on the same power chord you were using in the previous step.
Focus on making the first note of each beat line up with the click.
Level 4 Of Playing Guitar Riffs In Time: Add more chords (and/or single-note guitar riffs) to what you are playing. Concentrate on your timing staying just as tight as it was in the previous step.
As you go through these steps – you’ll find that playing guitar in odd meter (and keeping your playing tight) becomes a lot easier.
Tip #3 For Playing Creative Guitar Chords In Odd Meter: Refine Your Palm Muting
After playing guitar riffs in time, palm muting is the second key to playing guitar in odd meter (and rhythm guitar in general) tight and pro.
Here are the biggest palm muting mistakes to avoid:
- muting ‘everything’. This is the guitar playing equivalent of highlighting every word on a page of text. It simply doesn't add anything to your playing, even if you are playing cool guitar chords and your guitar riffs are played in time.
- muting inconsistently. This makes your guitar riffs sound sloppy (even if you are playing the most creative guitar chords). Inconsistent palm muting becomes even more of a problem if you try to double track your guitar parts (when recording guitar riffs in the studio).
- muting too aggressively. This happens when you either apply too much pressure to the notes of the chords you are playing, or you are muting too far away from the bridge. Either way – this also makes your playing sound sloppy (and makes it hard to enjoy the cool sound of playing guitar in odd meter).
Watch this video to see a demonstration of these palm muting mistakes and how to easily fix them:
How do you practice making your palm muting tight?
It’s actually quite simple (and the solution works whether you are playing guitar in odd meter or playing guitar riffs in any other time signature).
Start with a single power chord (no need to play any creative guitar chords here). Get clear on what rhythm you will be playing. And decide which of the strums will be muted and which ones will be open.
Then, begin playing and listen to how tight and clear your palm muting sounds. Make adjustments in the intensity of the muting to keep it clear, tight and consistent.
Palm muting is 95% listening and 5% controlling your hands.
Tip #4 For Playing Creative Guitar Chords In Odd Meter: Create Rhythm Variations On Your Guitar Riffs
One big mistake guitar players often make with their guitar riffs is: playing them the same way every time.
And doing this – even if you are playing the most creative guitar chords – can get very boring.
Fortunately, you can easily add more variety to your guitar riffs and make the cool guitar chords from this article even cooler.
Here are some ways you can create rhythm variations when playing guitar in odd meter:
- add rests
- use dotted notes (to create syncopation)
- add quarter note triplets
- compress notes (example: turn 16th notes into 8th notes or quarter notes).
- expand notes (example: turn quarter notes into 8th notes or 16th notes).
If you are unsure of how to do this when you are playing guitar in odd meter, get a guitar teacher who can show you how.
Don’t worry about the quality of the variations you are coming up with. The goal here is quantity – not quality (yes, you read correctly). By creating a lot of variations of your guitar riffs, you become much more likely to find ideas you’d never have created any other way.
This is an example of writing music “for the trash can”. As the name implies, you focus on creating lots of guitar riffs (playing guitar in odd meter) – expecting to throw all of your ideas away. If you come up with some creative guitar chords in the process – that is a bonus.
Watch this video to learn more about this way of writing music on guitar:
And the irony is:
When you lower the bar for the quality of your songwriting ideas (during your songwriting practice)...
... you often come up with more and better ideas you can use when actually writing songs. (As opposed to putting pressure on yourself to write the perfect guitar riff on your first attempt.)
Tip #5 For Playing Creative Guitar Chords In Odd Meter: Practice Modifying 4/4 Riffs Into Odd Meter
This is a very fun way to practice playing guitar in odd meter. Simply make a list of very simple and popular rock and metal guitar riffs from bands like AC/DC, Poison, Ozzy Osbourne, Scorpions, etc...
... and challenge yourself to create dozens of variations from each one using odd meter. You’ll be turning 4/4 riffs into 5/8, 5/4, 7/8, 3/4, 11/8, 9/8, etc.
Don’t change the chords themselves (there is no need to try to find cool guitar chords for this). Use the same chords (or single notes) as the original guitar riffs and concentrate only on the rhythm.
This not only makes practicing rhythm guitar more fun – it also will likely help you create new guitar riffs you wouldn’t have created any other way.
Question: “Tom Hess, but what’s the point of this? I won’t be able to use these variations of guitar riffs in my own songs anyway!”
Answer: First, you are getting more practice at playing guitar in odd meter (which makes you better at that skill). Second – you can take any of the variations you create and replace its notes (or chords) with other chords (and notes). This makes it possible to use your guitar riffs in your own songs.
You now know a few simple ways to level-up your guitar playing. The next step in your quest to play guitar like a pro is to develop all the OTHER skills you need to play guitar the way you’ve always wanted.
I can help you with this in my personalized Breakthrough Guitar Lessons.
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