How To Combine Rhythm And Lead Guitar

Posted by Mike Schumacher

When guitarists start practicing their craft, they usually focus more on learning how to play individual notes and licks. It is very important to learn how to combine these pieces together into songs! This way you do not have to worry about what note or lick goes where, as your guitarist friend or teacher will take care of that for you.

Combining music comes after musicians are trained in reading music. Being able to read music gives you the tools to pick up any song quickly because you know what everything means. Once this is mastered, then you can begin combining music by thinking about where things go and creating a story with it.

This article will talk about some basics of rhythm guitar and lead guitar and how to apply them to your own style. What I like to call “combination” playing happens when one instrument (the lead) is supported by another (the rhythm). In this case, it is the rhythm guitar that supports the lead guitar by keeping time.

Learn to read chord charts

how to combine rhythm and lead guitar

A guitarist never really starts learning how to play guitar until they are able to recognize, understand, and count chords. This is one of the most fundamental skills that aspiring musicians must learn!

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Many people start playing by picking an easy song with simple music patterns. These songs usually have only a few notes per measure so there is not much need for more than just knowing what major, minor, or tonic chord fits into which place in the song.

But then these beginners move onto harder songs that use more complicated rhythms and lead lines. At this stage some begin to feel overwhelmed as their progress comes to a halt. They give up before even starting due to the complex nature of the music they want to play.

A hard lesson many beginner players forget about is being able to identify the correct rhythm pattern for the given chord progression.

They also fail to teach themselves how to reading chord diagrams (also known as chord charts). These can be tricky at times, but once you get the hang of them, it makes things a lot easier.

This article will go over some basics of both rhythm and lead guitar along with tips on how to combine the two.

Try using the same beat but with a different rhythm

how to combine rhythm and lead guitar

A second way to combine lead guitar with bass is by creating rhythmic leads. This can be done in two ways!

The first way is to use notes that are one note down from a normal lead, then put a strong accent on the next lower note. For example, if the main chord of a song has an F as its root, you could play an E sharp (a raised leading tone) as your lead instrument.

Then, take either the next higher or lower note depending on whether the music wants to go up or down. For instance, if the music was moving down, the next note would be D, making this our new lead. Or if it were going up, the next note would be A, making this new lead also.

This technique works very well for songs that have a steady pulse and feel like they’re walking along at a comfortable pace. It creates some interesting effects, such as having a part that just keeps ringing away before settling into the next section.

Use accents and slides

how to combine rhythm and lead guitar

There are two main types of guitar playing styles that use rhythm as a basis for their songs- lead guitar and bass guitar. While both use the same chords, there is a difference in how those chords are incorporated into the song.

Lead guitarist uses notes that go directly over the other instruments’ parts, whereas bassist uses lower pitched notes that work together with the rest of the band.

The second part is what makes it different when it comes to combining rhythm and lead guitars. A bass player will usually be one or the other, either leading by writing music or using strong rhythms. But you can have a combination of the two!

A lead guitarist can add an accent or slide onto a note, changing the pitch and length. This is done mostly for flavor, to make the piece more interesting. For example, if the chord has a tonal quality (like a major tone) then adding an accented drop will create a harmonic effect and give the song some depth.

You can combine these concepts into one easy exercise. Let’s take a look at the first line of a poem and play a couple of patterns over this line.

Combine long notes with short notes

how to combine rhythm and lead guitar

A rhythm guitar part can be anything from a simple pattern to more complicated licks that stick around for some time. What is important when writing these parts is creating natural transitions between different sections.

For example, if you have two short notes followed by one longer note, the eye naturally moves quickly across the instrument starting with the shorter notes and ending at the longer one. This creates an easy transition as the mind understands where it will be in relation to the length of the instrument!

You can also take this concept and apply it towards melodies. If your melody contains several notes of varying lengths, mix up the order to create similar effect.

These types of shifts are very fluid and natural, which makes them good candidates for practice.

Glide your fingers

how to combine rhythm and lead guitar

A rhythm guitar player can really take his or her craft to new heights by adding lead vocals! As mentioned before, being able to play a solo is great, but being able to combine solos into a song with a solid beat is even better.

Combining songs often requires playing some sort of lead chord (or note) for a set amount of time until another chord comes up. This creates a transition from one part of the music to the next, which is what we refer to as a lead-chord fragment.

A lead guitarist isn’t necessarily someone who knows how to play lots of notes, they are usually just aware of their root, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth chords. By mixing in other chords, however, you will need to know about modes, dominant sevenths, and half steps.

These are all types of leads that can be mixed together to create cool transitions.

Use the whole fretboard

how to combine rhythm and lead guitar

A lot of guitarists start off learning rhythm guitar by only using the first position of the bass barre chord or the open string. This is not a good way to approach it!

Using just the open strings as your rhythm instrument will limit how many songs you can learn properly. The reason for this is that most music contains both syncopated rhythms and non-syncopated rhythms.

A syncopation is when one part of the song is stressed and then the rest of the song takes a break before coming back together. For example, in the song “Happy Birthday” there are three main parts: the verse, the chorus, and the bridge. The verse is stressed and repeated twice (one measure long), while the chorus has a short stress every other line and a longer one at the end (two measures long). Then the bridge repeats the lyrics twice more and goes down an octave.

If you know the basic chords from position 1 of the bass barre chord on up through position 5, you have covered a significant amount of the chord structure. By adding additional positions to play these chords in, you can easily add extra colors to your playing. Adding the sixth position white keystone shape chord, for instance, adds some major third flavor to any chord.

Practice with something you already know
Start practicing by trying to combine the same position pattern between two different notes.

Play using both your hands

how to combine rhythm and lead guitar

Even if you are only playing one guitar part, it is important to know how to combine rhythm and lead guitar. Sure, there is an easy way to do this, but it does not work for most people!

Most advanced musicians learn how to play rhythm and lead guitar simultaneously. This is because they understand the importance of having both in your music career.

But, this is definitely not the case for beginners!

It can be very confusing trying to figure out which hand should be used for what when you want to switch between rhythm and lead modes. This article will go into more detail about how to mix them together.

Use chords to create riffs

how to combine rhythm and lead guitar

A riff is a way to get into a pattern of notes that go up, down, or both. Starting with an easy chord, you can add onto it or take away parts as needed.

You can do this by using steps or scales in your music. For example, if the song has a main rhythm then use a scale with that tone as your starting note to make a riff. Or start with a lead guitar line and combine it with the other instruments’s lines to make a seamless whole!

There are many ways to play guitar so there is no one right way to learn how to combine rhythm and lead guitars.

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