10 Rhythm Patterns That Get More Complex (with guitar tabs)

In this article we will look at ten rhythmic patterns that gradually become more complex, along with guitar tab examples.

Before playing these rhythmic patterns on the guitar, it is important to understand the fundamental elements used to create rhythm in music.

Rhythmic elements

In music, rhythm is created by combining different note durations and their equivalent silences.

In Western music, the note pyramid, also known as the rhythmic hierarchy, represents the fundamental building blocks of rhythm and time. The note pyramid is made up of a series of rhythmic values that are arranged in descending order of duration, with each note being a multiple or fraction of the previous note.

The semibreve/whole note, minim/half note, crotchet/quarter note, quaver/eighth note, and semiquaver/sixteenth note are the most normally used notes in the pyramid.

Note Pyramid

Note: If the lower numeral in the time signature is not 4, (which is the most common, and used in every example in this lesson), the value of these notes changes.

The semibreve/whole note has the longest duration of the note pyramid, lasting four beats. (A breve or double whole note exists, but is rarely used and has been left out of the pyramid).

The minim/half note is the pyramid’s next longest note value, lasting two beats.

The crotchet/quarter note is only one beat long.

The quaver/eighth note is half a beat long, while the semiquaver/sixteenth note is one-quarter of a beat long.

The thirty-sixth note, demisemiquaver, is rarely used and will not be included in the rhythmic patterns for guitar presented below.

Ties and dots

Dots and ties are used in rhythmic notation to modify the note’s duration.

A dot in front of a note increases the value by half of its duration, whereas a tied note combines two or more notes into a single longer note.

A dotted quarter note, for example, lasts one and a half beats, whereas a tied note joins two notes of the same pitch into a single note of the combined duration.

Rhythmic patterns 5 and 6 will introduce ties and dots.


Rests are important in music because they help to establish the rhythm and timing of the piece while also giving the performer or singer a break. Music would be a continuous stream of sound if there were no rests, making it difficult for the performer to keep track of the rhythm and the listener to distinguish different phrases.

Each note in the pyramid has an equivalent rest, which represents an equivalent period of silence.

The following are the rest equivalents of each note in the pyramid.

Rest chart

As with a played note, a dot can be applied to a rest to increase its value by half. Ties do not apply to rests because a note cannot be tied to a period of silence.

Rests will be introduced in the lesson’s final two rhythmic patterns.

Rhythmic patterns for guitar

Now that we’ve looked at the elements that will be used in our rhythms, let’s look at the rhythm patterns themselves.

These rhythms can be played on one note as shown, but they can also be applied to chord strumming.

When you use eight/quaver or sixteenth/semiquaver notes, you are given picking directions. Quarter/crotchet or longer notes should be played with a downstroke.

Though picking directions do not change the sound of the note, using the given directions will keep your hand in sync with the flow of the rhythm. This simplifies both understanding and playing the rhythm.

Pattern 1: Long notes

The first pattern is very simple, consisting of notes that are a beat or longer in length. This pattern’s notes can all be played with a downstroke.

Rhythm patterns 1

Pattern 2: Dividing the beat in two

The next pattern introduces eight/quaver notes, the duration of half a beat. The second quaver note in the beat should be played with an upstroke.

Rhythm patterns 2

Pattern 3: Dividing the beat in four

The next rhythmic pattern introduces semiquavers/sixteenth notes.

Rhythm patterns 3

Pattern 4: More semiquavers

The following rhythm makes further use of eight and sixteenth notes.

Rhythm patterns 4

Pattern 5: Ties

The next pattern is kept simple to help you understand the syncopated sound that can be created by using ties.

Syncopation is the practice of accenting a note when the listener is not expecting an accent. This occurs on the third beat in this example.

An accent is expected on the first half of the beat, but because it is tied to the previous note, it is heard on the second half.

Rhythm patterns 5

Pattern 6: Dots

In the next pattern the effect of syncopation is created by the dot after the first note.

Rhythm patterns 6

Pattern 7: Eight and sixteenth note in the same beat

The previous examples have used eight and sixteenth notes, but not within the same beat.

In this example, the third beat of bar one and the first beat of bar two combine an eighth/quaver note and two sixteenth/semiquaver notes.

Rhythm patterns 7

Pattern 8: More eight and sixteenth notes in the same beat

This example explores more combinations that can be used when eight and sixteenth notes are combined in the same beat.

Rhythm patterns 8

Pattern 9: Rests

So far, the rhythmic patterns explored do not make use of silence within the music.

This rhythm introduces quarter note and eight note rests.

Rhythm patterns 9

Pattern 10: More rests

The final rhythmic pattern for guitar in this lesson uses eight note rests in a more complex context.

Rhythm patterns 10

Rhythm is a fundamental element of music that is created by combining different note and rest durations.

Understanding fundamental rhythmic elements such as the note values in the pyramid, their equivalent rests, ties and dots, is necessary for mastering more complex rhythms on the guitar.

In this article we have looked at ten rhythmic patterns that gradually increase in complexity, along with guitar tab examples.

By practicing these patterns, you can improve your rhythm skills and become more proficient in playing complex rhythms as well as creating your own.

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