Playing Rhythm Guitar
Not everybody knows what rhythm guitar is. It has a definite function in a band but sometimes the boundary between lead and rhythm guitar seems a little blurry. This article will help you to clear up the confusion so you can concentrate on actually playing rhythm guitar.
If you have been wondering what rhythm guitar is and how it fits into a band, then this article should help you. Let's start with the fact that playing rhythm guitar is not a hard and fast style of playing. After all, a band is a group of musicians who may or may not stick with the conventions of popular music when they are writing their material. For instance a lead guitarist might decide to do some chord strumming and the rhythm player could indulge in some picking - a reversal of roles according to the way we usually think of how bands work.
There is no set division between lead and rhythm guitar but the rhythm player's job is mostly to form part of the rhythmic structure of a song. The rhythm guitar parts are usually very simple and serve to add body to the sound of the music.
To try and define the basic roles of the two guitar players, we can take the sheet music or tablature of a song with chords marked and play the song through using just one guitar playing the chords marked on the music. What you have just played is the rhythm guitar part. If there is any other guitar sound in the song, strictly speaking, it's the lead guitar.
So if you are interested in playing rhythm guitar you could start listening to your favorite bands and trying to catch the rhythm part. Another way is to go back in time to when the guitar parts were more easily defined than they are now. Bands from past generations like The Shadows, The Who, The Beatles and The Moody Blues are obvious examples.
Another approach to learning about playing rhythm is to listen not to guitar players but drummers and bass players. Get a feel for the rhythm of a song and see if you can play along using chord strumming. Your aim should be to fill a necessary role in the music's rhythm.
As far as actually playing rhythm guitar, you could try turning your volume control down slightly to give yourself a chance to experiment without making any embarrassing noise and to play harder and more expressively. As you progress in your rhythm playing you could experiment with muting strings with your left or right hand or both, and also you might benefit by not strumming all six strings, leaving some of the music to the lead and bass player.
The lead guitarist usually plays solo breaks or extended solos during a song and is not bound to follow the basic rhythm of the song if he finds it more interesting to move in and out of the rhythm.
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