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THREE guitarists in a band?

Wooley

Member
Messages
2,600
Anybody doing this?
How's that workin' out?

My new band has been evolving for some time, going through two drummers, three singers and debates about the keyboard player.
Saturday we invited another guitarist/singer to come and jam with us, and we had a GREAT jam (although, in honesty, we were having a great jam before he got there too). We each seemed to work around each other very comfortably on rhythm and never seemed to step on each others space, we shared leads very democratically, and the vocals, both lead and harmony, were the best we've ever had.
Anyway, he can sing lead vocals, harmonize well, play a nice rhythm guitar and some solid, conservative lead guitar, and doesn't seem to bring a lot of ego with him.

So we actually invited him to join us, and axed the two other singers we were using (other than myself and the bass player, yes we actually had FOUR SINGERS! in the band for a little while).

My question is, has this really worked for anyone other than The Doobie Brothers? I mean, all of you guys, have you been in bands with THREE GUITARISTS, and if so, how has that worked out?

We've always had concerns that adding another guitarist just wouldn't work (too much sound, too much of the same instrument, too many egos, etc.), but on this first go-round, it really seemed like a perfect fit.

Thoughts, comments, suggestions?
 

Guitar Josh

Resident Curmudgeon
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
18,943
Works for Radiohead.

A friend's band in high school had the lead singer playing guitar, even though he was practically audible. He preferred to play and sing at the same time, because he had no stage presence, and the guitar helped him with his confidence. They figured it was better than having him just stand around singing. He was a very good singer.
 

jetattblue

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
596
One of my all time favorite bands, The Freddy Jones Band, worked extremely well with three guitars - 2 electric and 1 acoustic.
 

Gas-man

Unrepentant Massaganist
Messages
18,611
I don't think it's a good idea for two main reasons:

1. Volume/frequency wars--you are bound to step on each other's space eventually

2. Dough--too many mouths to feed

Both my current bands are three piece.
 

tms13pin

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,840
We each seemed to work around each other very comfortably on rhythm and never seemed to step on each others space, we shared leads very democratically, and the vocals, both lead and harmony, were the best we've ever had.

We've always had concerns that adding another guitarist just wouldn't work (too much sound, too much of the same instrument, too many egos, etc.), but on this first go-round, it really seemed like a perfect fit.
Well, you've pointed to a lot of the issues right here. It's really a matter
of how you arrange your music and how everyone works together. Let's
face it, most guitar-based music is recorded with more than two guitar
tracks, so when you play it live, you're picking and choosing. If you
have more guitars, you can cover more of those and make the sound
fuller, as long as you work your arrangements so that people aren't
stepping on each other's toes, and that people don't hog the spotlight.
Some people just can't NOT be the center of attention and get miffed
if someone else is soloing, etc. It's really a matter of your group's
dynamic and the personalities.

Let's face it, orchestras do this with many more than three of the same
instrument all the time. No reason a rock band can't make it work too.
Many of the southern-rock bands used three guitarists so they could
keep a rhythm thing going and interleave solo lines and textures. Works
especially nicely if the guitarists have different (but complementary) tones
and styles.

--Tom
 

IIIBOOMERIII

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,553
Man the volume wars is bad enough with one other guitar player much less two! I like being the ONLY guitar player.
 

jtm622

Member
Messages
9,303
Three guitars works for me - you can have more of an "orchestral" approach to the guitar with three guys.
For example - the rhythm parts can be stacked for a BIG sound (e.g, "Saturday Night special") with one guy playing the typical low end "power chords", and the other guys building extra 4ths, 5ths, and octaves on top of that.
It does, however, take a lot more planning and rehearsing to avoid "redundancy"...

P.S. - Remember, you've gotta have three guys who are pretty secure in their playing abilities to avoid the little ego clashes that inevitably spring up with guys of questionable musical ability; i.e., guys who can't visualize the "Big Picture"...
 

explorer76

Member
Messages
1,687
Iron Maiden does it quite successfully these days. Seen em a few times with the 3-guitar lineup and it always sounds incredible.

Still....I'm no fan of Janick Gers and feel the band should dump him in favor of the classic Dave/Adrian lineup.
 

Flyin' Brian

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
30,156
The Outlaws
The Eagles
ABB when Gregg picks up an acoustic
The California Guitar Trio
John McLaughlin, Paco De Lucia and Larry Coryell
 
Last edited:

Wooley

Member
Messages
2,600
I don't think it's a good idea for two main reasons:

1. Volume/frequency wars--you are bound to step on each other's space eventually

2. Dough--too many mouths to feed

Both my current bands are three piece.
Fortunately, none of us are playing for a living.
We'd probably gladly pay clubs to let us play!
 

loudboy

Member
Messages
27,316
Every touring country act has at least 3. Usually 2 electric and an acoustic. Sometimes the artist play a little, too.
 

Wooley

Member
Messages
2,600
Well, you've pointed to a lot of the issues right here. It's really a matter
of how you arrange your music and how everyone works together. Let's
face it, most guitar-based music is recorded with more than two guitar
tracks, so when you play it live, you're picking and choosing. If you
have more guitars, you can cover more of those and make the sound
fuller, as long as you work your arrangements so that people aren't
stepping on each other's toes, and that people don't hog the spotlight.
Some people just can't NOT be the center of attention and get miffed
if someone else is soloing, etc. It's really a matter of your group's
dynamic and the personalities.

Let's face it, orchestras do this with many more than three of the same
instrument all the time. No reason a rock band can't make it work too.
Many of the southern-rock bands used three guitarists so they could
keep a rhythm thing going and interleave solo lines and textures. Works
especially nicely if the guitarists have different (but complementary) tones
and styles.

--Tom
Yeah, the way we were working before, with TWO guitarists was with one person holding down the main chord progression, and the other playing either licks or chord fragments in higher registers, and then whoever felt like soloing would solo.
That was working pretty well for us.
Having this third guy come in and get that right away, I mean he immediately went to finding a place in each song. Didn't try to just play the barre chords or open chords that someone was already playing, or solo the whole time, but found a place to fit into every song.

And that's the way I like to do music in general. I mean our band ain't about my guitar, and it ain't about the other guy's guitar, and it ain't about the vocals either (I mentioned we already cut a few vocalists loose). It's about having a good time making good music.
 

Dion

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
913
Wilco does it, although not all the time. But when Pat Sansone steps away from the keyboard and picks up the Tele for me it's some of their best "moments"!
 

Wooley

Member
Messages
2,600
Three guitars works for me - you can have more of an "orchestral" approach to the guitar with three guys.
For example - the rhythm parts can be stacked for a BIG sound (e.g, "Saturday Night special") with one guy playing the typical low end "power chords", and the other guys building extra 4ths, 5ths, and octaves on top of that.
It does, however, take a lot more planning and rehearsing to avoid "redundancy"...

P.S. - Remember, you've gotta have three guys who are pretty secure in their playing abilities to avoid the little ego clashes that inevitably spring up with guys of questionable musical ability; i.e., guys who can't visualize the "Big Picture"...
I couldn't agree more, and this is really how we like to operate. It was refreshing that the new guy got into that right away.

Me and the other regular guitarist are always playing the little jam games (the good ones) where you find a nice little spot in the groove and that look over at the other guy and do a little "check this out", and the other guy just smiles and then starts messing with the rhythm and challenging you to keep the lick working and all that kinda stuff. Even on structured songs, we always keep it layered, where maybe I'm playing the chords and he's playing fragments and licks over it, as part of the rhythm.

Importantly, we are also very mindful of the other instruments.
If the bass is holding down the roots of the chords, then neither of us will play any root notes at all really and just give the 3s, 5s, 7ths, 9ths, whatever, maybe in a middle register, but of course being respectful of the keyboard, and the other will pick up the top end.

I think that's why this new guitarist may work.
He played about an hour with us, always found (quickly) a place where his guitar fit, and never said a word to anybody about it. Sounded quite good on the recording too. Really added something.

I think it might be just the right group of attitudes and egos, where everybody just wants to play good music and have fun.

Funny, the bass player fronts his own band, plays lead guitar in another, and is a better guitarist than all three of us combined, and he just chills and plays the bass and sings harmonies.
 

22Top

Member
Messages
1,064
Check out Broken Social Scene. There have been up to 5... one guy is there just making ambient noises... very cool stuff live!
 




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