1. Great lead guitarists
2. Great rhythm guitarists
3. Homework assignment
4. Songs to try
5. Warm up exercises for beginners
Great Lead Guitarists
Because of the glamor they can often carry, lead guitarists can be an inspirational bunch. Below are some clips from legendary lead guitarists in some of their most memorably work. Note how the best lead guitar work is also fueled by a strong sense of rhythm and timing; ultimately, being a successful guitarist will requires cultivating skill on with your lead hand on the fretboard and with your rhythm hand over the sound hole.
Below are three examples of exceptional lead guitar work by some of music's finest guitarists. Listen to the clips below to help gain a feel for how lead guitar can play its part in music.
Arguably the most revolutionary guitar player to receive critical acclaim, Jimi Hendrix's incendiary style of guitar playing changed rock music permanently. Check out the video below of the classic Jimi Hendrix song "Purple Haze" for a sample of some of his lead guitar and solo riffs.
Stairway To Heaven.
Jimmy Page, the guiding force behind the legendary hard rock band Led Zeppelin, penned a remarkable solo for the song "Stairway to Heaven" off the band's fourth album. Note how towards the end of the song the lead guitar works in tandem with Robert Plant's screeching vocals to drastically re-energize the song till its completion.
The Thrill Is Gone.
Blues great B.B. King illustrates the power of blues music for soloing purposes. King's mastery of the blues, particularly from a lead guitar perspective, has influenced countless guitar greats in various genres. Check out the video below of him playing his song "The Thrill is Gone" with another guitarist known for his lead guitar capabilities, Eric Clapton.
Great Rhythm Guitarists
As noted earlier, rhythm guitarists provide the backbone of a song's structure. While often overshadowed by their more flamboyant and theatrical counterparts who play lead guitar, the rhythm guitarist is indispensable in the process of creating a great song. Below are some song clips of the most memorable work from the most critically acclaimed rhythm guitarists of our time.
Prior to his tragic death, Elliott Smith had established himself as an immensely talented musician with an uncanny sense of rhythm: he played virtually all instruments on a number of his albums, and utilized rhythms that were instantly infectious. The video clip below from a live performance of his song "Angeles" is only of many examples of Smith's rhythmic brilliance.
The Dave Matthews Band as a whole is a remarkably rhythmic bunch; the band has managed to merge country, folk, blues, and rock stylings into a single coherent groove. Dave Matthews himself blazes the way on the song "Satellite." Check out the video clip below of a live performance of "Satellite" by Dave Matthews Band in 1995.
Johnny B. Goode.
Regarded as the "Father of Rock n' Roll," Chuck Berry's unique rhythm was a revolutionary departure from traditional blues music at the time. Berry had taken blues music and given it an entirely new feel. "Johnny B. Goode" is one example of this concept in action. Check out an amazing video of the song below, in which Chuck Berry plays "Johnny B. Goode" with John Lennon.
To help cultivate both your fretboard and rhythm skills, try playing the riffs below.
Riff #1 [sound clip]
When I Come Around [video clip]
A classic punk rock song by Green Day, the quintessential punk rock band. In the tablature below, you'll see notes marked as "x". This is simply an indication to play the string muted. Playing the string muted simply involves resting your fingers on the guitar string as opposed to actively pushing it down on the fretboard. When muting the string, the result is a sound that that is percussive and atonal as opposed to a musical note. Below is an audio clip that demonstrates the sound of a muted string.
Below is the tablature for the Green Day song "When I Come Around." If you're finding the tablature too difficult to play initially, try playing just the notes marked on the sixth string. As your fingers strengthen and your technique develops, you'll be able to move on to play the full chords easily. Be sure to check out the video as well -- it offers a thorough explanation of how to play the song.
Seven Nation Army [sound clip, video clip]
First bursting on to the scene in the mid-90s, the White Stripes have established themselves as a modern rock band with a sound highly reminiscent of classic rock groups. The song "Seven Nation Army" is prime example as to why this is. Below is a partial tablature and corresponding audio excerpt from the song. Be sure to have your speakers turn on, and please allow a few seconds for the video to load.
Iron Man [sound clip, video clip]
Before launching his solo career, Ozzy Osbourne fronted the British hard rock band Black Sabbath in the early '70s. "Iron Man" is perhaps the band's most prominent song. The slashes ("/") represent slides -- an advanced technique in which the guitarist slides his finger from first fret noted to the second fret noted without strumming the guitar again. Slides are covered in greater detail later in the Actoguitar curriculum. If you're having difficulty playing the riff noted above, try playing just the bass note of the respective chords. For example, the first chord calls for playing the seventh fret/sixth string and the ninth fret/fifth string; try dropping the fifth string and playing just the sixth if you're having difficulty. For the remainder of the song, try playing just the notes marked on the fifth string. With practice, you'll be able to play the piece with full chords in due time.
Stan [sound clip, video clip]
The Bass Brothers, the duo that did the vast majority of production work on Eminem's legendary sophomore effort The Marshall Mathers LP, penned a very rhythmic beat for what quickly became one of Eminem's signature songs, "Stan." The piece below is actually played on a bass guitar in the song, but can easily be transcribed for guitar. Riff one is played three times, followed by riff two being played once. Then the entire sequence is repeated throughout the song.
When you're just starting out, stregthening your fingers is something you may need to focus on. Here is a great exercise for getting warmed up, and for your strengthening your fingers as well. Try to play along with the video below.
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