Trying to figure this out. I have always called myself just a guitarist because I play guitar obviously, but the lead/rhythm thing came up first when I was forming a band, and again while watching one of my favorite bands.

I really don't see much of a difference between the two, except lead plays more melodies? I kind of more of call myself a rhythm guitarist now since I like to keep time more and stuff(learning drums now and considering learning the bass).

So what is the difference between these?
Quote by matthewzguitarz
I really don't see much of a difference between the two, except lead plays more melodies?

That's it in a nutshell.

It's an artificial division really. There's no rule that if you have a band with 2 guitarists, then one has to play rhythm all the time and the other guy does all the solos. In reality, it's best to learn to play every guitar part in every song you learn just for the learning experience and the ability to fulfill any role you may need to.
There are none. The terms have come into existence because some people don't like/feel like they are better at one than the other. It's also worth noticing that the terms came into existence with rock groups, and not prior to that. If you look at blues or jazz musicians, which has been around longer than rock musicians, they don't have that view at all. You are expected to be able to comp and improvise lead over tunes, and that is how it has always been for those styles (even though the guitar didn't become a prominent lead instrument for jazz until a bit later, mainly because of volume issues).

Point being, there are no such thing. There are guitarists, with different strengths and weaknesses.
Fusion and jazz musician, a fan of most music.

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Quote by matthewzguitarz

I kind of more of call myself a rhythm guitarist now since I like to keep time more and stuff

So what is the difference between these?

lead players have to keep in time as well

the way i would define a "lead" is the foremost voice in a piece.. voice doesnt really mean vocals here.. but could be guitar/synth/etc... so the guitarists doing the passages, where the guitar is the foremost instrument, is playing the "lead"... synths can also be "lead" like for example in some Bodom songs or Dream Theatre songs, but they dont call it "lead-synth" same with vocals (read further for this though.)

but the term "lead-guitarist" is for insecure douchebags, who wanna prove to others that theyre good at playing guitar, although they really suck shit. As a matter of fact i've met people who've called themselves a "lead vocalist" in a band with 1 vocalist only. they just wanna prove that theyre "leading" something.. all just for show.

good "lead-guitarists" will just refer to themselves as guitarists.. and when asked, they might say yeah they shred.... this has always been the case in my experience. never met a GOOD shredder, who introduces himself as a "lead-guitarist" theyve just always said "yeah i play guitar"

please correct me if im wrong... i dont think malmsteen/vai/satriani/gilbert/etc have referred to themselves as "lead" guitarists either.
Last edited by The SoundGuy at Apr 16, 2014,
^ so true. I wish I remembered the exact quote, but I remember reading about Eric Clapton once meeting someone who didn't know who he was, and when the subject of music came up, he just kind of nonchalantly said that he played a bit of guitar, and just left it at that.
In my day job (animation) I've been to talks by Ray Harryhausen and Glen Keene, two of the greatest ever, and both were just totally down to earth, nice guys.
It does seem that the people that are really good at something don't make too big a deal of it, and just let their craft do the talking.
Oh, that makes sense Going to go back to what I was originally doing, studying every guitar style I can(right now I am working on R&B, Blues, and Jazz).