The Art Of Two: When The Pen Meets The Paper

Deals directly with some basics of having 2 guitarists: arranging, writing, live playing and others. A couple of tips from personal experience.

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Ultimate Guitar
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Hi everyone, welcome to the next instalment of "The Art If Two" (see first part "The Art Of Two: Dealing With A Two Guitarists In A Band"). Here I intend to cover some more aspects of a two-guitar band, as well as covering some topics that you well pointed out and without which the band's sound wouldn't work.

So what attracts the listener in a two-guitar band? A different sound is an obvious response. This is where harmonies come into play. The dictionary defines harmonising as singing or playing notes that are different to the main tune to produce an overall sound which is pleasing to the ear. And having two guitars sets you on the right track, or, to be more specific, it simplifies your task. A band of this layout usually has three instruments capable of producing melodies (I assume in this case the bass being part of the rhythm section, although it's not always the case, as seen with Red Hot Chilli Peppers). These are vocals (and/or backing vocals) and the two guitars. So how do we do it? Technically, one is laying down the main tune/riff, where as the other instruments play around it in order to "comlete" the melodic picture. Using the 3 Doors Down "Here Without You" as an example, the vocals are laying down the main melody, one guitar lays down the arpeggios, and the other plays melodies as a response to the vocals around C# major scale (relative minor, which is the backbone of the song is A#m). This creates a song much more sonically pleasing than, say, a song where the riffs just sort of happen, without seeming to be related to each other, because this connects the song together. And that's the idea of harmonising - to fill up your sound, and to make the song sound as a whole. It becomes music rather than just a collection of notes.

Second issue that this instalment will be attending is sharing around. From personal experience, I know that everyone wants their moment to shine, and getting some space for yourself to be heard can be quite difficult. What do you do? Share. A song is always at least a couple of minutes long, and there is enough space for everyone. Otherwise, suppose you are very proficient technically, speeding away on your Jackson in a 64th-note scorching lead. But the other guitarist, although he plays slow solos, is better than B.B. King in squeezing the life out of a single note. In this instance, if you're the leader of the band, let one guy do the solo in one song, but put him on rhythm in the other. Sometimes it is the case that the guy who happens to be slower in soloing, actually is a better rhythm guitarist. But because everyone wants their moments of glory, share the roles around a bit, so everyone feels included and is more happy to switch back to their original job. Just a matter of feeling secure that you're not just your lead guitarist's backing band. The point that some of the bands tend to miss. And as some of you pointed out, two guitarists should most certainly be used to the full extent - it brings diversity to your music, because not matter what direction you are heading in, everyone sees the same thing differently. So let them switch between rhythm and lead work. Maybe one day this approach will lead you to stardom. At least it will perhaps eliminate one reason for band break-up, where everyone felt they were just stuck behind one thing in a ghettoish environment.

From the beginning of music, there were loud and soft ways of playing any musical instrument. The different volumes were created to correspond with the song's mood during that particular part, attitude, atmosphere... A rock band is no exception. Staind, for example, uses dynamics usually to accentuate choruses or verses - clean for one and distortion for the other. Effects aside though, there are several ways to go about this technique, both with one guitar and two guitars. First of all, pick attack. The relationship here is obvious - hit harder, get louder, harsher sound that's aggressive in nature. Pick soft - get a sound that's respective of your picking. For dual guitarists, this is even simpler. Just let one guitar do a particular part on its own, then have both play - for example, one guitar for the verse, two for the chorus. Here comes the opportunity for sharing parts as well - suppose you play the first verse yourself, but let your bandmate play the other. And the same goes for the lead section as well - do half the lead yourself, with your bandmate on rhythm part, then switch. It will entertain the audience as well as challenge your band because that requires good execution in order to sound good.

Well, I guess that's it for now, hope you enjoyed reading this. There will be certainly some important points that I missed, so if that indeed happened, or you just have something else to add, feel free to post. Until then, rock on.

P.S. I'm gonna be writing another article, not sure of the topic, so if anyone has any ideas ar anything they'd like to know, email me at a_fire_inside_666_@hotmail.com

16 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Luk
    1st... yeah Pretty good article, got some good ideas out of it.
    tremontifan
    yay, first comment. good information, there have been so many bands that have broken up due to bruised egos. as for your next article, work on writing mechanics. peace.
    Radray990
    i totally agree about the space thing. everyone has to leave space so they're not on top of each other. any idiot who knows how to finger tap can play blisteringly fast solos. its not that amazing. faster isn't necessarily better.
    Geldof the Grey
    two solid articles and still going strong. Happy to read anything else you've got, and if I think of anything I think you could do a good job of, I'll mail it over to you. nice work
    Encore_God
    In this instance, if you're the leader of the band, let one guy do the solo in one song, but put him on rhythm in the other. Sometimes it is the case that the guy who happens to be slower in soloing, actually is a better rhythm guitarist. But because everyone wants their moments of glory, share the roles around a bit, so everyone feels included and is more happy to switch back to their original job. Just a matter of feeling secure that you're not just your lead guitarist's backing band. The point that some of the bands tend to miss.
    THAT'S good real life practical advice that makes good sense. Great article mate, very informative.
    kill_o_meter
    "uhh yeah very basic, for noobs only"....f*ckers, like you are the masters, arrogant pricks nice article BTW
    Emenius Sleepus
    thanx guys, I didn't think much of it when I wrote it but appreciate all the comments. As a lot of you have noted, it's fairly basic, but it is aimed at the more beginning-type of players or the ones that just started a band, and playing with other people is an entirely different thing rather when just jamming by yourself. Thanx again, peace.