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Rhythm Guitar...A Lost Art?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by lowphatbass, Oct 21, 2012.

  1. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass **** Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    Last night we had a sub guitarist in a "variety dance/wedding band" I play with. He's a seasoned pro with a big named act and needless to say his playing was exceptional, but his rhythm work was just head and shoulders above the the regular guitarist's offerings...not that they're shabby by any means.

    It's rare these days that I get to work with a guitarist that provides tasty harmonic textures while totally contributing to the groove in a positive way. Rhythm guitar playing used to be a specialty field, and I suppose it still is if you're lucky enough to be in a large enough band that can feature more than one guitarist in different roles. In my world this isn't the case. I wish more guitarists would effort to improve in their rhythm skills, I get to play with a lot of great guitarists but it seems like the majority of their energy in terms of tone and skill are focused on lead work as opposed to the supportive role. This is more appearant with the younger players I've noticed.

    I don't live in Nashville or Austin, but in my neck of the woods rhythm guitar seems may becoming a lost art. So often it feels like the drummer and I are alone on a island.
  2. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan Strings, Nordstrand Pickups, Korg Keyboards
    Too many rhythm players think that all they have to do is play barre chords. It's great when you find someone who can dynamics as well and it makes a world of difference.
  3. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Beat me to it! Fingering a barre chord and slamming the strings repeatedly does not constitute "rhythm guitar".

  4. +1, a good rhythm guitarist comps like a good pianist, so knowledge of harmony, good taste, and sense of rhythmic nuance make a world of difference.

    There's nothing like it when bass, drums and rhythm guitar lock in, David Bowie's mid 70s bands as an example (eg Station to Station) were great at this.
  5. icecycle66


    Feb 4, 2009
    Does "rhythm guitar" necessitate anything more than staying in time?
  6. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass **** Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    Technically probably not but it's still possible to stay in time and not groove. Above that you can play the same rhythmic patterns with different notes and tone and one can groove a whole lot harder than the other.
  7. In some ways, it seems it is a lost art. I spent a lot of time on guitar as a rhythm player, and a lot of what I did was try to keep things interesting, but tight with the bass, even when doing covers. And as a bass player, I spent a lot of time substituting for a drummer. Just like good lead is more then scales and licks, good rhythm should be more than just standard fare. And a good bass player should be able to get beyond root/fifth or root/octave lines to create something interesting yet supportive. Each thing has ways in which it can be taken beyond the norm and become great, while still fulfilling its primary role.
  8. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile
    I played rhythm guitar for a short while in a bar band led by the drummer from the original project I was in at the time. The lead guitarist was a SRV wannabe all full of flash and chops and the material was typical early 90s bar stuff (Stones, Petty, REM, VH, Gin Blossums, Eddie Money, SRV, Hendrix, etc). More times than not, I'd get the audience musicians praising my playing while the lead guy was ignored. I'd usually reply with "Thanks, I'm a bassist" :bassist:
  9. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    Some 'guitarists' stop at learning the chords and arrangement. Perhaps thinking their job is done and 'on to the next song'.

    Just like a bassline, many rythm guitar parts are constructed of all sorts of tones & techniques...hardly raking away at chords.

    Livin' Lovin' Maid by Led Zepplin (II) is a great example of really using the instrument.
    Brick House by The Commodores is another great example of nice chording work.

    Good rythm playing is as much percussion as it is about the chording correctly. Keeping the grove, banging the pots, and making music.
  10. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather

    On the R&B side of things.......where is the next Paul Jackson, Jr.??? All I get is loud, heavy, lead style guitarists who feel they always have to be on top of the band! No blending in! No tasty 'chickin' pickin'! Ugh!
  11. Jhengsman


    Oct 17, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    We are in trouble the current generation is into Chris Brown
  12. Stilettoprefer


    Nov 26, 2010
    I play rhythm guitar at church. Also play bass.

    I have pretty limited guitar knowledge past chords (which I know A LOT about) and rhythms. When I play bass I do more show-offy stuff, but never too much. It all comes down to musicality (dynamics, right chords, rhythms, general feel, time, Etc)
  13. zarah825


    Sep 21, 2012
    I think Thom Yorke is a great example of really solid, original rhythm guitar actually? His parts complement the lead parts without hiding behind them.
  14. Duckwater


    May 10, 2010
    USA, Washington
    I agree, most rhythm players that I have played with just strum chords/powerchords along with the basic chord structure. Luckily I have found one who is passionate about creating atmosphere and adding to the groove and harmony of the song.
  15. JohnMCA72


    Feb 4, 2009
    Too many people in general (not just guitar players, & not just musicians, even) seem to think that rhythm guitar is just for somebody who isn't good enough to play "lead". Good rhythm guitar is an art & there aren't enough good ones, in my opinion.
  16. JohnMCA72


    Feb 4, 2009
    I personally consider Pete Townsend to be probably the all-time best Rock & Roll rhythm guitar player.
  17. RedMoses

    RedMoses Supporting Member

    Jul 4, 2012
    In my experience, good rythm guitar players end up switching to Bass... Too many Guitar players are too caught up in trying to prove themselves every time they are on stage and miss the point of how powerful their instrument can be when playing in the rhythm section.
  18. bass12

    bass12 And Grace, too Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    The kind of rhythm guitar playing I like is definitely on the decline, and has been since the 90s. Back in the 80s you were still hearing the influence of funk and R&B rhythm guitar playing. Listen to Madonna's "Holiday", or "I Can't Wait" by Nu Shooz. Those were dancy pop recordings but the rhythm guitar was happening. And how about the rhythm guitar parts on Michael Jackson's Thriller album? Man, some of those parts helped define the song! Now go out and listen to today's dance pop. You'll be lucky if you find any rhythm guitar there at all.
  19. daveman50

    daveman50 Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2007
    Westchester County NY
    For me, Nile Rogers is the epitome of late 70's & 80's rhythm guitar. Chic, Diana Ross, Madonna, Bowie, and more.

    But let's talk Freddie Green!! Count Basie's rhythm guitarist - unbelievable. Check him out if you are not familiar.
  20. Funny you should say that. After a long time as a rhythm guitarist first and a bass player second, I find that bass has suddenly become my dominant instrument. I think working to be a good rhythm guitarist and locking with bass and drums in my first band made me a natural to take up bass the next time around. And time spent on bass further strengthened my rhythm style.

    I used to see myself as a guitarist who also played bass. Now, I feel like a bassist who does some guitar. I could never give up guitar totally, but it's definitely taken a back seat.

    And I've seen some think, and actually say, bass is for people who weren't good enough to play guitar. No joke.