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Rhythm Guitar Playing - What Exactly Is It?

Apr 8, 2008
Rhythm guitar playing is when the instrument is used in order to provide rhythm and accord to accompany a singer or other members of a group of musicians. Quite often you'll see a guitarist play rhythm to a lead guitar in a band. On these occasions it refers more to the kind of playing and not to the guitar being used, as these two guitars are very similar overall.

Whilst the lead guitar supplies the melody, the rhythm guitar adds harmony and supports both the lead guitar and the vocalist. The bass guitarist and drummer both support the rhythm guitar but the rhythm guitar is able to make additional touches of melody, at the same time as the lead guitar plays chords and harmony. The playing of chords in sequence depicts rhythm and there is such a great deal to be learned about chords and their progressions that anyone with an interest in this subject is likely to be kept busy for a great deal of time.

In swing and jazz, playing of the rhythm guitar is a much harder task which involves the adding of a moving bass or counter melody. Different again is the use of the rhythm guitar in rock music where riffs of different kinds and degrees of difficulty are demonstrated. Either acoustic or electric guitars can be used to play rhythm and upon perfecting such skills you will discover it is a great way to meet other musicians and maybe take part in a jamming session or two with them.

Picking and strumming skills are required as well as power, open and many others types of chords. A rhythm guitarist also uses some of the following techniques.

* Drones - where one note is repeated whilst others are being played. An example of this is bagpipe music

* Arpeggios - when the notes of a chord are played individually instead of being strummed as one. This is quite often heard in blues ballads and it sounds super when a tremolo or a shimmering chorus is included.

* Finger picking - you could be forgiven for thinking that this is only for lead guitar playing. It can be, however, as easy or as complicated as you want it to be.

* Strumming - thought by some to be boring but it really isn't. It can be very creative in adding that special touch to a quite ordinary tune and giving it a bit of bounce or swing. By punctuating a stop or sustain, a chord you can give each section of the song its own individual identity.

* Riffs - you only have to listen to "Foxy Lady" and "Day Tripper" to hear some really good examples of this. Enough said!

The sound of the rhythm guitar adds great depth and vibrancy to any melody, and this is the reason why they are used so often in by band members.
About the Author
Kevin Sinclair is the publisher and editor of MusicianHome.com, a site that provides information and articles for musicians at all stages of their development.
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