How to keep better track of gutiar rythm when jamming

I was recently at a jam session where there were parts that lacked a drummer. I was told to follow the rhythm of the one gutairist but I could not tell what was going on. The down-strumming throws me off and it just ends up blurring together. I also had a hard time hearing when the notes change for the gutairist. Is this normal to struggle with??? I asked if he could explain it in like quarter notes or something and he was like you just need to feel it. I hope that that I am not someone who just cant feel it but then again I never really play with gutairsits.

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I’m still very much a noob, but in the absence of drum parts, the other people playing may even be looking to you to keep the rhythm. Have you got the B2B course? If so, check out Module 14 as it covers keeping time when the drums drop out. I’ve found it very helpful and sometimes record myself and playback to see how close I got in keeping the “groove”.


If the guitarist is strumming in the way most people teach guitar, downstrokes will often be on the beats. They are also sometimes on notes between the beats as well, but usually if any note is played on the beat, it will be a downstroke.

This is not how I (yet) play guitar though. Still need to work a lot on my strumming.


Ooooh I am doing the course but I haven’t gotten to that part yet. I am really looking forward to the playing with others section cause im just in the playing faster now. I also think they were more so asking me to copy them because they were telling me to copy them and didn’t let me go away with finding my own place in relation to the drums or even juststicking to the root note


so all the strokes are on beat or just downstroke?

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Usually downstrokes on the beat, upstrokes off the beat if they are strumming eighth notes in the way usually taught. A lot of people don’t strum this way though.

It’s more complicated for 16th notes but even there the ones on the beats should still be downstrokes.

It takes practice to strum like this (like I said, I currently don’t), so it depends on if the guitarist is strumming the “proper” way or not. Quite a few people don’t. But it might give you a hint anyway.

Ideally there will be a drummer though. Playing to the drums is the real thing bassists should do. At least then it will still sound good, even if not the correct bassline; can definitely stand in that way until you leard the “real” one.

One ironic thing might also be if the guitarist is trying to follow you :slight_smile:


Awesome, there is lots of great stuff in the course. I’ve setup a few extra grooves to practice with in EZdrummer.

Module 15 includes “Jumping in with a Guitar Vamp” which you might also find handy in this siituation.


Yeah the course does cover this. The course is totally worth every penny and more.


looking forward to it! I am just at the playing faster part right now


wow why do guitarists have to make it so hard haha and they had. a whole song list and wer telling me to follow them so it didn’t work out that way unfortunately

My first question is: does this group play songs that you are familiar with? If they are pulling out songs and genres that are alien to you, or far beyond your comfort level, it will make it very difficult for you to meld into the flow.

The guitarist who said “you just need to feel it” isn’t giving bad advice, but it might not be helpful if they are playing stuff you can’t sing or hum while walking down the street.

My next question is: does the group include other beginners? And even if it doesn’t, are they at least patient with beginners? (Sorry if you’ve given more background elsewhere; I’m late to the party.)

If you’re dealing with more advanced players, and they aren’t playing music you know and enjoy, and they aren’t patient with beginners, then you might want to consider finding (or forming!) a group more in line with your own likes and needs.

Whatever the case: DO NOT GET FRUSTRATED AND GIVE UP! Building up your experience and comfort with this group, or finding a couple of compatible people with complementary talent and tastes and starting your own group will make things suddenly fall together.


It would help if you could share the songs you are talking about. Most down strumming are on the down beat 1 and 3 and up are on the back beat 2 and 4. On a quarter note bar for example different genres have different rhythm guitar styles. I think of Cory Wong when it comes to rhythm guitar. His playing my be complicated but it’s easy to follow along.

I could feel your pain on the part without drums. This is the song I’m working on right now, the kick drum is very subtle and even though it’s only 75bpm there are many 16th notes it’s a great song with awesome vibe.



Pay attention to what Howard said and notice when you see a group performing that the bassist is usually situated near the drummer. They have to work together.

The drummer and the bassist drive the rhythm.
If the guitarist screws up and plays a wrong chord, of incorrect note on a solo, chances are nobody will notice but if the drummer or bassist screws up the rhythm the song will fall apart.

Howard is right about following the drummer and whoever told you to follow the guitarist is wrong as you found out.

By the way being close to the drummer is a very good reason to get yourself some good earplugs.
Not the foamy ones that construction workers use. A good set can be had fairly cheaply but it is definitely worth it to save your hearing. Hearing damage is not reversible and tinnitus is a bitch, with ringing in your head constantly, as many on this forum can contest to.

Anyways congratulations on getting out there and playing with others and as has been said already just don’t give up. :+1: :+1: :+1:

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Wasn’t the original question ‘how do I play in time without a drummer?’


*Play from the sheet music or the tabs so you can see the actual music and timing when practicing - some bands have tablets in front of them while playing
*Know the song from memorization
*know the timing of the chord changes and play accordingly
*yep, feel the groove and hear the key/notes play accordingly
*maybe the band has little or no patients for newbs
many things can be done but need to find what will work for you at the time


There are different types and level/layers of practices and rehearsals. When you practice with others at minimum you have to know your part, band practice is where you workout your lane in the band similar to what you are doing now.

I’m sure everyone wants to be cool and not want to show their weakness so they just don’t say much, the guitarist probably on his/her forum right now asking about how to jam with others, lol.

Practice your part until you can play it in your sleep before your next session, then if you still miss the timing ask him how he keeps his time. This is how you play with others. Your drummer could also cue you in with the count. This is a good thing and it’s how you learn to play with others, soon you’ll start asking all the right questions or better learn how to speak their language.

Post the song here, we can help you with your part, us Bassos got to stick together right? Lol.

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I started on guitar before bass and most of my down strumming would be on the beat and up strumming would be on the “and”. I think the main reasons I learnt this was it’s easier to include a syncopated rhythm and easier to keep time with the beat (unless the BPM is high, down on 1 and up on 2 is very slow).

Everyone is different though and really can be impacted by what you’re playing though :slightly_smiling_face:

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Yeah that’s what I am learning too, down on the beats, up on the eighth notes. Sixteenth notes are still down on the beats, and also on the “and”.

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Hi @olliviatherese!

I am currently also working my way through the course. One thing that has helped me in these situations without drums is to keep time with my body. Tap your foot to feel the beats, or move the bass, whatever it is just do it evenly.

If they want you to “follow” the guitar player, ask for very specific instructions about the chord changes. Playing the root, for example, would work if the whole bar has one chord. What they probably mean is there are several chords in one bar, and they would like you to follow/support that.

You can write down a “beat ruler” for the chords, e.g., | Am | C | G | Am | …

This way, the parts without drumming will make more sense.

I had the same problems in jam sessions, it is exactly like the others here describe: half of the band knows half of the things, nobody is fully in charge and the bassist gets lost because no-one tells you what to do - and they don’t want you to lead either. If you want a structured jam, agree on a structure, write it down and then stick to it. :smile:

Hope this helps!
Best wishes,


Absolutely yes, totally and completely yes.
Following a guitarist for rhythm is like asking a tourist for directions.

It can be done - and is done - but it takes time and practice, and it really helps to know what their hands are doing so you can see it instead of trying to hear it amidst the jingle jangle of whatever else is going on.

There are groups and musical styles where there are no drums - lots of folk music has this as it’s arrangement - and the bass has to take the roll of time keeper. It’s difficult in the best of situations.

This is almost certainly code for “I don’t know what a quarter note is”.
This happens all the time when the people leading the jam have learned by ear and are comfortable with what they do, but may not have any idea what they’re doing in musical terms, and may not be able to explain other people’s parts in clear terms/musical terms/anything other than “just gotta feel it”.

This is not on you at all.
This just means that the level of experience of the leader is not at actual “leadership” levels.

The “playing with a guitar vamp” suggestion from @howard is right on point.
And, these experiences are the ones where you learn the thing to work on, and where you level up in bass playing.
Be fearless in these situations!

My first public jam was with a piano player. I was in tears and went and hid in my room after.

Later, I was in a room of pros and trying to follow along, and they kept yelling out numbers, and I had no idea what they were talking about. I had to go and learn what chord-progression numbers were.

It’s always humbling, and always exciting, and - hopefully - always rewarding.

Good on you for being out there and playing.
Add this to the list of things guitarists do that don’t help the guitarist stereotypes, and hopefully your next go will be smoother.