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I recently watched the live performance of 'Stairway to Heaven' by 'Led Zeppelin'. I had a question while watching that song but it even applies to other songs.

See during the section of the song where Jimmy Page does his guitar solo. The backing chords are G,F,Am. Now during a recording any of the performers may add the chords and play the solo separately.

But during the live performance when the lead guitarist is doing a solo who plays the backing chords. (after the solo ends and when Plant does the vocals the same chords are played by Jimmy Page I suspect) I had this query because not all bands seem to have a rhythm guitar player as such.

For instance in this song - Jimmy Page is the lead guitarist, Robert Plant is the vocalist , John Bonham the drummer and John Paul Jones is using the mellotron.

Is it the case that there are support performers also who do the rhythm guitar or is it the case that the backing chords are not played at all on a guitar as such during the solo. Or thirdly , is there like a effects processor which can play the backing chords ?


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2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

All of your answers are right, on different occasions. When a number is going to stay at the same tempo all the way through, a backing track can be used, either recorded by the existing guitarist, or by a session player. This won't work if the song is likely to speed up, as Heaven sometimes does, or change feel at a point chosen at that moment by the lead player, for instance. Now, another rhythm player ,live, is needed, and this person may not even be on stage. With a name band, for a concert, he'll probably be offstage, unless there are other big names at the concert, when one will be happy to provide rhythm.
On occasions, the rhythm drops out, but in all the renditions of this song I've heard, it keeps playing, so obviously someone's doing it ! This sort of thing happens frequently - Cream was a trio, but on lots of tracks there was another (rhythm) guitar; live, they seemed to manage without, though - a sign of great musicians working together

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For the general case, there are as many solutions as types of bands. The five common:

  • Support performers - for top tier bands live gigs this is the most common option
  • Different instrument - backing can be covered by keyboard, bass etc
  • Rhythm guitar played by other band member - Rush are strong proponents of changing instruments
  • Leaving out the rhythm guitar altogether and playing a sparse element
  • Recorded or looped backing

In general it is whatever works for the band.

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Are there any effects processors for looped backing ? Thanks for the answer. –  ameyask86 Aug 28 '13 at 11:13
Yes - the major vendors all sell ones. Line6, Boss, Zoom etc. –  Dr Mayhem Aug 28 '13 at 11:43

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