9 Rock-Solid Rhythm Guitar Lessons from Jon Finn

9 Rock-Solid Rhythm Guitar Lessons from Jon Finn

Playing 8th and 16th note rhythm patterns is the backbone of what binds rock and funk together, and focusing on these rhythmic concepts will help you understand how to play these type of grooves. Having a deep understanding of different rhythmic patterns will make bands take notice, and help you become an in-demand rhythm guitarist.

In his TrueFire course, Rhythm Lab: Rock & Funk, Jon Finn breaks down how to play these rhythm patterns and applies them to performance studies so you can see them in action. Taking from the course here, these lessons will sample four of the 8th and 16th note rhythm lessons, and two performance studies to put it all together. Let’s check it out:

8th Note Displacement Combos: 1 – Demonstration & Playalong

Download the tab and notation for this rhythm lesson on TrueFire.

Each example is 4 measure long and repeated. In each example, the 1st and 3rd measures always accent the 1st eighth note, while the 2nd and 4th measures “displace” the accent. In example 9, measures 2 and 4 accent the 2nd eighth note, while example 10 accents the 3rd eighth note. Each subsequent example accents the next eighth note until all the possibilities are exhausted.

8th Note Displacement Combos: 8 – Demonstration & Playalong

Download the tab and notation for this rhythm lesson on TrueFire.

Each example is 4 measures long and repeated. In each example, the 1st and 3rd measures always accent the 8th eighth note (“and” of beat 4), while the 2nd and 4th measures progress through the different displaced accents, excluding redundant examples. Note that C5 is played in the 1st measure, Ab/C in the 2nd measure, C6 in the 3rd measure, then Ab/C for the 4th measure. This completes the 8th note displacements section of this course.

16th Note Displacement Combos: 2 – Demonstration & Playalong

Download the tab and notation for this rhythm lesson on TrueFire.

When grouping 16th notes in groups of 3, or accenting every third 16th note, the result feels like a polyrhythm, where two different rhythm patterns are superimposed upon each other. This is also sometimes called a “hemiola” (only use that word at parties where you’re trying to sound “smart”). Here, I’ll demonstrate a few ways to think of this concept.

16th Note Displacement Combos: 7 – Demonstration & Playalong

Download the tab and notation for this rhythm lesson on TrueFire.

Since grouping 16th notes in groups of 5 creates a 5-measure pattern, each example takes out two measures and demonstrates 4 two-measure patterns. Example 27 is the 1st and 2nd measures of Example 21. Example 28 is the 2nd and 3rd measures of Example 21, etc. Because you’re playing a “partial” pattern by only playing two measures, there’s a rhythmic “skip” in the pattern that makes it interesting and funky. But this time, it takes longer to get to the “skip”.

Outdrive Rhythm Guitar – Overview

“Outdrive Rhythm Guitar” is from a tune called “Outdrive”, from my third album Bull in a China Shop. This is a raucous tune in A with a bunch of different rhythm patterns, some chords, a couple of different licks, but this is the part of the tune that drives the whole feel of it. It uses a lot of the accent ideas that we’ve gone over in this course, but put to practice it’s a little more complex than what we’ve done thus far. Let’s check it out.

Outdrive Rhythm Guitar – Performance

Download the tab and notation for this rhythm lesson on TrueFire.

Let’s play through “Outdrive Rhythm Guitar” along with the backing track. Note that the backing track and notation are given also so you can practice on your own. The backing track here is not from the original recording. This part is simplified for the purposes of this project.

Outdrive Rhythm Guitar – Breakdown

Download the tab and notation for this rhythm lesson on TrueFire.

Let’s breakdown what I did on “Outdrive Rhythm Guitar”.

Funky in F Minor – Overview

“Funky in F Minor” was written to demonstrate all the ideas in Section 2 put to use in a more musical context, using a slightly more “rock” approach.

Funky in F Minor – Performance

Download the tab and notation for this rhythm lesson on TrueFire.

Let’s play through “Funky in F Minor” along with the backing track. Note that the backing track and notation are given also so you can work with it on your own.


If you’re ready to put these into the big picture, go to TrueFire and grab the full course. Jon will work through nine different rhythm patterns for both 8th and 16th notes, as well as three more performance studies to check out. Get ready to nail your rhythm!