Rhythm Guitar is one of the instruments who provide, as the name suggests, rhythm to the band and knowing the role of rhythm guitar in a band is very crucial to the success of the band. Sadly, many guitarists don’t want to be a rhythm guitarist. Most of them wants to be the lead guitarist who plays the solo and melodic lines or licks that the people usually remember in the song.
I cannot blame them. People wants to be known and lead guitarist has a ‘better’ spot to be recognized. But I believe in the saying the music is meant to express yourself and not to impress others. The attitude of wanting to be in the spotlight is what typically destroy the musician.
Rhythm Guitar vs Lead Guitar
No one is better. Both are needed for the success of music. If you insist on studying to be a lead guitarist, then go ahead. But I would like you to think about this:
Most songs are….
Rhythm = 95%
Lead = 5%
I will not recommend you studying to be a lead guitarist without even mastering the rhythm. Rhythm is so important in any music because it is the foothold of the melody lines. The emotion, the feel of the music is clearly expressed if the rhythm is tight.
Mastering rhythm will help your band succeed. Even without those flashy solos, if you are able to play with a tight rhythm and locking in with each other, you’ll surely have a good career in music. Lead guitar lines are embellishment and clearly helps in adding beauty to your music. But I’d rather have a good rhythm than having a good lead lines.
The role of Rhythm Guitar in a band
1. Provide good footing for the lead lines
Many people doesn’t want to be the support but without a tight rhythm, the lead guitarist will sound “meh”. As the rhythm guitarist, you can do some cool stuffs like adding notes, sliding the chord, doing the inversions, but once the lead lines come in, you have to lie low and stay out of his range or frequency while giving him a good footing for his solo.
There are times that you will have to the same thing over and over again throughout the whole song but it doesn’t mean you are not great. Being able to lock in with drummer, bassist and acoustic guitarist, if you have one, will always result to a great music. Doing your part well requires discipline.
2. Add ‘growls’ to the punches
When the bass and drums are locked in, they sound full and tight. It can survive on its own even without any other rhythm instruments and still have a good rhythm. Listen to this tutorial and ‘see’ for yourself that drums and bass is enough to cover for the rhythm.
So does that mean that a rhythm guitar is not needed? Well, yes and no. Yes, if your rhythm guitarist is just destroying the tightness of the rhythm of your band by trying to do more than he should do. No, because the presence of the guitar adds growls to the punches of your rhythm.
If you can perfectly stay locked in with the drums and bass, then your music as a whole will be much better and sound more amazing than before.
3. Add different color to the rhythm section
This is where the guitar effects, amps, and gears come into action. Proper use of effects can add different color to the rhythm and it can bring it to another level. Effects like overdrive, delay and reverb are one of the common effects that are sometimes available to amp, or you can just buy a pedal.
Using this effects should be studied carefully and a lot of experimentation is needed to achieve locking in with the band. This is what separates you from drums and bass. Those two instruments have their own effects too but they are not heavily used unlike in guitars which is a need because of the beauty it adds to the music.
Some tips you need to know if you are a rhythm guitarist
1. Stay out of the bass player’s way
Don’t ever get in the way of the bass player. When you became super loud and with too much bass, the bass guitar’s sound will be overwhelmed by you and that is not how it should be, musically and relationally speaking. Your bass player might get mad and your music will not sound tight and full.
I’m not saying that you should avodi the low end register, just be mindful to what your bass player is doing and complement what he is doing rather than getting in his way. You’re music will sound fuller and better, and your bass player will love you. That’s a win-win situation.
Try to reduce your low end tones or try to lock in with him when you hit the bass notes.
2. Pick your spot
This is almost the same with the first tip, but you are just considerin every musician in the band. Don’t play on the same range like any other player in the band. You should talk with them during practice and ask them on what range they will be playing.
You can play the same notes but different registers and you’ll still sound right. Playing on the same range can overwhelm that frequency and you might be cut in the mix. Someone, if not you, will not be heard if you insist on playing on the same range. This is actually for every band members and not just the rhythm guitarist so tell them not to be in the same range.
3. Go out of the box
Let’s say that you have a simple chord progression and strumming pattern. You can add some notes into it on the middle of the strumming or just go around the frets using your knowledge in scales. If you like that then repeat it until you can make yourself a cool riff that will be remembered.
Because you are the rhythm guitarist doesn’t mean that you’ll get to do the tedious parts. You just have to be creative enough by applying different techniques. Be careful not to step in the boundaries of other instruments because you might overwhelm them.
4. Use proper effects
Chorus effect can sound good in some song. Even the flanger, phaser, tremolo and many other effects but they won’t always sound good. Understanding different effects to when they will sound good will give you an edge in providing good rhythm.
Sometimes the only thing you can do is strum once and let the delay do its work to fill in the space but still sound better than strumming all the way. I suggest that you master one at a time. Mastering everything at once will be counter productive and will leave you frustrated.
5. Practice different Chord voicings
This is a must-skill for every guitarist since you have to adjust your range most of the time. There are times that you will do power chords but there are also time where you do some small chords at the higher register. Knowing some chord voicings will help you be in the right spot even if you have a lot of musicians in the band
Most chord voicings I know in the higher register or the higher frets are only two note chord and can provide good rhythm already. You don’t have to play power chords all the time to have a good footing for the melody lines.
6. Make sure you are in tune
This is a basic knowledge. Having a chromatic tuner in your gear will be a great help since there are times that your guitar will be out of tune. Checking your tune before every song should be a habit of yours. No one wants an out-of-tune guitar riff.
7. Change your strings regularly
Your guitar strings will be surely abused since you are going to play from all over the fretboard. The dust and sweat accumulated in your strings can deteriorate the sound of your guitar. Your rhythm will be lifeless even if you have the best gear and amp in the town.
Always clean your strings before and after playing to prolong its life. Use the recommended guitar cleansing oil and avoid any other because it can deteriorate your strings faster or even destroy the wood of your guitar.
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8. Rhythm guitar is not always about strumming
In my opinion, Solos are not the most remembered lines in a song. Guitar riffs which is typically done by rhythm guitarist are remembered more. You should try to be creative by stopping your strumming midway and add a note without losing your time.
Most popular guitar riffs are like that. They are not full strumming but there is always something added in between that adds color to the chords. Don’t be a template guitarist that is just strumming all throughout the song.
Rhythm Guitar is a cool part of a band. It is often ignored because everyone wants to be the lead guitar. But you should not be like that. While everyone wants to be the lead guitar, master the rhythm and you’ll have an edge. No one wants a musician who can’t lock in with the band and just want the spotlight on himself.
If you master the rhythms, studying how to do lead lines will be easier because most of it are already tackled in the rhythms. If you have any questions, please leave it in the comment box and I will be happy to discuss it with you.
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