Focus more on improving rhythm instead of just lead playing

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by rabbuhl, Apr 16, 2016.

  1. rabbuhl

    rabbuhl Member

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    I have focused a lot on over the years on improving my lead playing, e.g. minor/major pentatonic, arpeggios, and lately a bit of diminished, etc. As part of my homework with Chris Buono I also do lots of Guitar Gym drills to be able to play chords in different ways. I came to the realization there is a whole other world out there when it comes to rhythm playing. There are so many good options when it comes to playing chord alternatives but it takes some practice. This also important when you have play with more than one guitarist and want to NOT play the same thing as the other guitarist.

    My point: playing good rhythm is also just as challenging as trying to come up with a good solo!!
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2016
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  2. fenderlead

    fenderlead Member

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    A triplet in a melody or a solo is the same thing as a triplet in the harmony is it not.

    It's just that triplets in solos can tend to be faster than triplets in harmony or rhythm playing.

    They are all triplets.

    I just don't get this solo/rhythm playing separation because it doesn't seem to exist for piano players but it does seem to exist for some guitarists.

    Rhythm is in everything, lead lines/harmony/riffs etc and notes are great and provide interval steps but without rhythm variations notes are not much at all except tones.

    I see a lot of scale and other stuff around focusing on the notes, but without the right sort of rhythmic phrasing for whatever is trying to be accomplished the notes can sound really dull, and it's a combo of the notes and rhythmic phrasing that gives us the music that we hear, not just the notes.

    Stuff like the altered scale or some pattern where the focus seems to be on the weirder notes ala b5 #5 or whatever, but without appropriate phrasing and resolution the altered scale can sound like jarring crap.

    Same goes for patterns (solo or chord patterns) where without the right sort of appropriate phrasing and resolution they can sound out of place and basically wrong option at that time.

    If I put a well known melody into a different note rhythm then I will destroy that melody even though the notes are the same.

    Rhythm is more important than notes IMO but obviously notes are important too.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2016
  3. guitarjazz

    guitarjazz Member

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    I think OP is talking about like :"I'm Tom Fogerty. I play 'rhythm'." In other words: a role.
     
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  4. Bryan T

    Bryan T guitar owner Silver Supporting Member

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    It turns out that a lot of guitar playing is accompanying others. Probably worth practicing a bit.
     
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  5. JonR

    JonR Member

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    I think you're misusing the word "rhythm".

    You're talking about chords (and chord alternatives). That's a good exercise, but it's just "harmony".

    "Rhythm" is about time. Metre, beat, syncopation, accent, phrasing, etc. Nothing to do with chords. (fenderlead is using the word correctly.)

    The problem with equating "rhythm" with chords is that it persuades you to think that harmony is more important, or that rhythm (playing in time, etc) kind of takes care of itself. (4 beats in a bar, how hard can it be? :rolleyes:)
    Traditionally, music is supposed to consist of three main elements: melody, harmony, rhythm. And traditionally they are considered equal. In fact, in most kinds of popular music - from jazz to most kinds of rock - rhythm is the most important of the three, and harmony the least important.
     
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  6. fenderlead

    fenderlead Member

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    Yeah I'm just ranting in general about lead/rhythm and all of that.

    Some people used to ask me if I played lead or rhythm and I thought it was a question that didn't make any sense because rhythm is still there in lead stuff.

    Anyone ever hear of one player being a lead piano player and another being a rhythm piano player.

    Malcolm Young got stuck with being typecast as a rhythm player (because that's mainly what people saw) but rhythms are in his solos.

    Tom Fogarty did his thing with CCR and it was pretty good even though it was probably on the simpler side and John did the same and played solos and John's solos had rhythm as did his so called rhythm playing.

    End Of Rant.
     
  7. Magic-Sam

    Magic-Sam Member

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    Both aspects, rhythm guitar and lead guitar feed into each other. Learn both and you will improve on both. Keith Richards in his book or maybe his Netflix movie said you can't walk into a store and buy a "lead guitar" or a "rhythm guitar" lol. Lets not forget there are "chord solos" as well, adding to the confusion.
     
  8. guitarjazz

    guitarjazz Member

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    Good points!
     
  9. Motterpaul

    Motterpaul Tone is in the Ears

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    In my experience one always knew the difference between lead guitar and rhythm guitar. The lead guitarist did the guitar solos; the (generally) single note lines played over a verse or chorus to give the listener a changeup from the vocals. And so we get the definitions: Lead guitar - plays single note solos, rhythm guitar - plays chords. That does not mean the lead guitarist cannot also play rhythm guitar when he is not soloing, it just means he is the one who solos when the time come.

    The OP is just saying there are harmonic possibilities in rhythm playing, so you can have more than one rhythm guitarist playing. In fact, it is pretty much what George used to do behind the vocals (when he was not playing lead solos). I don't understand why this isn't just considered common lore in terms of defining roles of band members. In the old days every band had a "lead guitar player" and everyone agreed that meant soloist.

    As far as "harmony" in the rhythm guitar, it makes complete sense that when there are two guitarists playing chords (rhythm guitar playing) that they should look to diversify their parts so they coordinate, whether it is rhythmically or harmony.
     
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  10. Tone Loco

    Tone Loco Silver Supporting Member

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    No but it's pretty unusual to see two pianists playing together. If you did I wouldn't be too surprised if one was in more of an accompaniment role than the other. There are definitely pianists who specialize in accompanying singers and instrumentalists. As opposed to playing a lot of music that is written to feature solo piano. Which I guess would be the piano equivalent of a rhythm guitarist since they too tend to supply the harmonic background.

    And I have heard of lead trumpet players. As opposed to the rest of the players in a trumpet section.

    I think lead guitar just a common term maybe based on the lead trumpet who sets the style of the band to some degree, or the lead alto sax. The rhythm guitarist is also just a common term. Somebody like Freddy Green was there pretty much strictly to enhance the beat, the rhythmic quality of the band - not the melodic phrasing or anything.

    I don't really have a problem with either term or with people concentrating on one or the other aspects, though as somebody said above, a lot of guitar is played in support of other people and playing single note lines constantly may not be the best way to do that!
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2016
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  11. rabbuhl

    rabbuhl Member

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    Guys, sorry about the terminology. What I meant is that during a song a guitarist might play notes, riffs, or chords during the majority of the song. This role is filled by the rhythm guitar. During a song there might also be a specific part for a guitar solo. This role for the lead guitarist. The guitar solo might include notes, riffs, or chords. If there is one guitarist in a band or at a jam session they can fulfill both roles. If there are two guitarists they might both play rhythm guitar. However, at a points in the song one of the guitarist may play rhythm while the other guitarist solos.

    While playing rhythm you can just play bar chords. With one guitarist this is an easy approach. With two or more guitarists you need to start being creative, e.g. chord fragments, playing a riff while the other guitarist plays chords, and so on. I read the latest Guitar Player and Snarky Puppy describes their approach, i.e. they take turns using call and response. So, I have been working a lot on what to play in response to what the other guitarist is playing. If they play a D chord, for example, what can I play to compliment the D chord, leave some space, and still add something to the sound? For blues it is a challenge to learn chord substitutions which can give a nice variation on the progression.

    Anyway, I am trying to focus on improving my rhythm playing over just focusing on improving my lead playing.
     
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  12. guitarjazz

    guitarjazz Member

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    Cool. Joining a band will fix that right up for you.
     
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  13. Phletch

    Phletch Member

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    The main thing I'd like to stress is that whatever you're doing in a 2-guitar band (or 1 guitar + keyboards band) to be "different" or "creative" or to "set you apart from the other guitarist" - don't get so busy that your stepping all over the vocals.

    If one guy is just chugging away on "chords" (let's call him the "rhythm player") the "lead" player can play chord fragments, little fills, etc. elsewhere on the neck, taking his cues from the vocal (or whatever) melody, playing sparsely, between phrases.

    Two guitar bands can be a blessing or a curse.
     
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  14. JonR

    JonR Member

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    You're right, that's an important consideration.
    Sometimes its OK for both guitarists (and keys as well??) to bang away at the same thing, when you want maximum density of sound - but even then, choosing different shapes for the same chords, or arpeggios vs strumming, will spread the sound out usefully.
    Other times, you want more space, more variation of "colour". It's all about deciding what each song needs, at each point in the song. Ideally, you work up from a minimum - say, bass and drums alone - and stop when you've got enough: remembering that the vocals are the important thing.
    But as guitarjazz says, you only really learn all this stuff when you're actually in a band: provided the other members are open to this sort of thing!
    I.e., how much of this kind of planning you do depends not only on the demands of the song itself, but on the style of the band: how they like to play. Some bands can play heavy, loud and dense and it sounds OK. Other bands (playing the same song) will treat it differently. Sometimes "less is more", sometimes "more is - er - more". :).

    It's also true that focusing on improving your "rhythm" playing (not just chord options, but timing, feel, groove, etc) will improve your lead playing. Good lead playing springs from firm rhythmic foundations.
     
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  15. Turi

    Turi Member

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    You could always try not playing, especially if the other guitarist is playing 6 string barre chords.

    You could hit some triads, arpeggios etc.. play the same notes higher up the fretboard, or you could mimic the vocal melody.. just make it up as you go man, you'll work out what fits.
    I'm just reading your question as "what to do when someone is singing?" because I think that's what you mean.
    Call and response is killer. Just wing it. Whatever feels right. Smaller chords, like 2 note stabs etc etc. Single notes is cool. Can slide up/down to 'em to keep the momentum going.

    Loads of ideas. They just kinda pop into your head as you play/listen.
     
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  16. rabbuhl

    rabbuhl Member

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    In our band we had two guitarist for a long time. We played the same bar chords for most songs and it spread out the sound usefully and wonderfully. It is now just me in that band and I like the freedom. In the weekly jam sessions, I play with a lot of the same musicians. In that setting, I really need to be able to develop my ability to compliment what the other guitarist(s) are playing.

    Like I mentioned I study regularly with Chris Buono. I also take an occasion lesson from Matthew Stevens. In Matt's lesson he gave me some triad drills and some really cool exercise to play chord cycles to help improve my rhythm playing. Matt's style of rhythm and soloing in really cool. I was lucky to see him Matt perform with Esperanza Spalding in Paradiso.

    Both Chris and Matt are monster players. They have a level of rhythm and solo playing to which I look up to.



     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2016
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  17. Turi

    Turi Member

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    Ahhh.. well, in that case, I'd go with a less is more approach and just play smaller chords or triads/arpeggios.. could do power chords?
    Dunno.
    I don't play with other guitarists.
    Hopefully someone can help you out some more mate.
     
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  18. fenderlead

    fenderlead Member

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    It depends on the style and what sort of thing someone wants.

    The classic basic thing is Malcolm/Angus Young, Izzy/Slash that sort of thing.

    Angus sometimes plays the same thing as Malcolm or inversions but Malcolm's main role is to hold down the low end like a piano players left hand might and Angus can add things to the top of it like a piano players right hand might and Angus does the stock standard solos as well.

    That's how George, Angus and Malcolm used to work it out, at a piano.

    Basically Malcolm and Angus were a piano.

    Malcolm and Angus were occupying different tone areas as well and that was helped by the gear that they chose to use.

    In Lynyrd Skynyrd there were 3 worked out guitar parts going on as well as keyboard/bass and 3 guitars taking solos at various times.

    Clean Funk might use small fills and inversions blended between the 2 guitars maybe.

    It's arranging and it can be very different for different styles and what someone wants and likes to hear.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2016
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  19. rabbuhl

    rabbuhl Member

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    Inversions. That was the other thing to look at besides triads and chord substitutions.

    All the things everyone mentioned here are good start for me to focus more on improving my rhythm playing.
     
  20. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    A couple of lessons posted here that might be of interest to you - by a pro country guitarist - of course if shouldn't take much effort to apply his lessons to whatever style you're playing:

    Rhythm guitar lesson:


    What to play if you're the lead guitarist and not soloing:
     
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