I was looking for some iconic rock rhythms for introducing to my guitar student and just thought I would share some of my favourites here. Most of them were from the 90s though, simply because that's the period I am most familiar with. In fact all these rhythms are used everywhere, across different eras and genres. I hope this post would inspire students to do their own research and find their favourite rhythms.
"Bo Diddley" beat
Listen carefully to these songs, it is not hard to find they share a similar underlying beat, which is known as the "Bo Diddley" beat. Also observe how the guitar rhythmic pattern interacts with the underlying beat.
KT Tunstall - Black Horse And The Cherry Tree
Guns N' Roses - Mr. Brownstone
Beck - Black Tambourine
Here's a video of Bo Diddley playing the beat himself in one of his performances, and followed by Larkin Poe's video of a Bo Diddley cover.
Bo Diddley - Bo Diddley
Larkin Poe - Who do you love (Bo Diddley cover)
And this great lesson by Keith Wyatt will show you how to play the Bo Diddley beat.
The "Smells like Teen Spirit" beat
The intro of "Smells like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana is iconic enough on any rock guitar list. Its indie, grungy strumming style has influenced lots of musicians. All these songs are my favourites because they feature raw, dirty distorted guitar tones with lots of attacks.
Tied eighth notes
These rhythms place accents on an offbeat and often combine with chord changes. In fact this is used everywhere. Must-learn for any student.
"Charleston" style comping rhythm
Simple but effective in creating a catchy groove, the Charleston features accent on the "2 and". Although this term is associated more with jazz, but you can also find some good references in rock.
Listen to the drum beat on "Every Breathe You Take" and rhythm section on the verse of "Sweet Child O Mine", you can feel that the impulse of the groove falls on beat 1 and 3.
More Resources for students
Below are some cool articles which I found on this topic. Feel free to check them out!
I have made these tabs for use in my guitar lessons. I did not include any instruction with the tabs. If you are a beginner, you will need a guitar teacher to explain them to you. Feel free to drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. I will try my best to help.