Rhythm And Lead Guitars: What Are They All About?Posted by Mike Schumacher
So what is rhythm guitar? And what is lead guitar, then? Technically speaking, there is no such thing as just “guitar”! The word itself refers to the instrumented part of music that uses notes to create a melody or narrative. An example would be playing a chord with your left hand while using your right hand to play a note outside of the chord, creating a harmonic sound.
Most people associate the term “lead guitar” with someone who plays an extended solo in a song. This person typically uses some sort of technique like double-stepping (moving both feet together) or alternating between picking (using only one pick) to achieve this effect. While these are great ways to learn how to play lead guitar, they are not the only way! There are many other strategies for achieving this same result!
This article will talk about some different types of leads and their similarities and differences.
Finding your passion and working on it
There are many ways to play guitar, but only one that is considered professional-level music playing. That way of playing is called lead guitar.
Lead guitarist means writing or creating songs in the studio or outside the studio by composing, sequencing, and altering rhythm guitars, bass guitars, keyboards, and/or other instruments.
You can also consider this type of musician as someone who mostly uses their instrument to create an accompaniment for another instrumentalist’s part. For example, if there is a solo violin piece, then most likely the guitarist will use some kind of chord progression or riff that fits with what time the violin player has given them.
Becoming a great guitarist
A lot of people get stuck thinking that lead guitar is just to play really fast riffs and bass lines. This is not the case at all!
Lead guitar actually refers to when an instrument becomes the main focus for the song. Your rhythm guitar will have parts where they are barely in the music, but your lead guitar part must be more prominent than the other instruments.
Your lead guitar can be anything from playing a solo, to singing or even writing a verse or chorus of the song.
A very famous example of this is The Beatles’s “Twist and Shout.” All of the instruments contribute to the overall sound of the song, but it is the lead guitar that gets most of the attention.
Rhythm guitars still make an appearance throughout the song, but their role diminishes as the lead guitar takes over. In fact, there are some songs where you cannot tell who wrote what sections!
The trick is to learn how to write lead guitar parts and use them effectively in songs.
Taking guitar lessons
Even though lead guitars are notated with more notes, there is an understanding that most songs use rhythm as their leading tone. This is why music students learn to play chords — it’s because those chords create a steady bass line for your song.
When you start studying guitar, you will be taught how to play some basic chord structures. Chords are simply groups of three or five different notes strung together. For example, the first chord we learned was the major chord, which has one note in each position – the root, the third, and the fifth.
The root is typically played using your index finger, the third using the middle finger, and the fifth using your pinky. These are our “home base” fingers; any other string can be used to make up the rest of the chord. The second position is usually left open so you can add the ring or little finger if needed.
That’s what makes them called polychord chords! You get the same feeling you would know by heart, just extended. That’s what a lot of classic rock songs rely on — strong roots made into melodies.
Practice makes perfect
Rhythmic guitar is usually categorized as using time to create music, whereas lead guitar uses extended notes or licks to create musical pieces. Technically speaking, rhythm guitars use short melodies or riffs that go along with the chord changes in songs!
However, outside of technicalities, what most people refer to when they talk about rhythmic guitar are instrumental sounds such as drumming patterns and/or bass lines. These types of rhythms can be used for creating your own music or just because you love them!
There are many ways to learn how to play this type of guitar soloing style. You do not have to be professionally trained to perform these covers. Many musicians picked up rhythm playing by practicing repeatedly. Make sure to explore all of the resources available online and via YouTube to gain some knowledge.
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