"I'm not that coordinated, I cant keep time."
"I just wasn't born with it..."
Often beginner guitar students get hung up with rhythm and trying to keep time when learning to play a song on the guitar. Its a test of patience and focus for both the student and teacher when learning how to transition from chord to chord while simultaneously trying to strum or pick the correct strings. Lots of fret buzz, accidental notes and open strings can get in the way and really be frustrating for students. Learning to transition from chord to chord with the left hand, while keeping track of the right hand strum pattern, and trying to tap the foot to keep time will give you and the student syncopation problems!
Simplify the lesson.
Break it down into steps.
Give each student clear and concise objectives that are achievable.
Celebrate each time the student accomplishes an objective.
Take the time to highlight each moment and point out that the student is growing and making clear progress.
For example. For beginning guitar students it can be difficult to transition from the G major chord in open position to the D major chord in open position. This transition is usually the one that will keep beginner students from completing the chord progression and playing it smoothly while keeping time. Ask the student to focus only on the transition hand (usually the left hand). Slowly practice the transition from G to D and then to G again. Repeat this direction until you see some progress made. The student may or may not notice their progress so it is important to point it out to them. Once they see a little progress ask them to gently strum each chord. There should be no rush to achieve the final result.
The students goal is to improve the transition, and eventually to play each chord with clarity. Hearing their chords played clearly will put them at ease and eventually make the transition less scary for them to attempt. Eventually they should be able to make the successful transition every time (slowly) and hear each chord clearly.
The teachers goal during the lesson is to help students focus on the little adjustments that need to be made with the left and right hands. Its important not to overwhelm the students with too many detailed instructions. Gentle suggestions regarding left hand positions and right hand placement will suffice. Once students are focused on their hands and feeling relaxed, they should be able to start progressing on their own and learn to make the subtle adjustments to produce clear chords and successful transitions with out the teacher's interjection.
Rhythm is the result of consistent repetition. Repeat and repeat, gently adjust to make the sound clear and the time smooth, and eventually the student will make music.