I'm new to playing in a band and have mostly played by myself or with one other jam mate. Now I've found myself in a little amateur band with drums, bass, singer, another guitar player an myself.

What are common ways of having the guitars complement each other and the song instead of competing for space? I've already understood that both of us strumming 5-6 string chords mostly makes a mess. Some ideas I've found for what one of the guitars can do are:

  • Repeating a riff
  • Play power chords in some interesting rhythm
  • Play three-note-chords on the highest three strings, in some interesting rhythm
  • Play a "lead melody"

I'm looking for a list of common ideas for my inspiration. I've tried to listen for this in different pop songs but found it pretty difficult, and would rather have experienced musicians guide me.

  • 2
    See also: music.stackexchange.com/questions/80277/… Jun 3, 2019 at 21:06
  • The options you listed yourself are good, and that older question has more. But really, I think the best option is to try out stuff on a piece-by-piece basis. Jun 3, 2019 at 21:23
  • Great thread, thanks, I'll read it through! @leftaroundabout - I'm sure that would be useful, but also that there's ideas that would take way longer to figure out by myself than when reading a list. E.g. playing those three-note chords, which I didn't even know was a thing before someone told me.
    – Anna
    Jun 3, 2019 at 21:29
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    @DavidBowling Thanks for both the specific suggestions and the general advice on listening for spaces to fill, very useful. Yes exactly, I'm asking to find starting points and inspiration.
    – Anna
    Jun 3, 2019 at 22:54
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    If two guitars strumming the exact same chord is making a mess, then something is wrong. You should be able to all play the same thing and have it work together. Then most likely cause of it sounding bad is timing and tuning. You have to be in tune and all hit the chords at the exact same times. Next thing to check is that you have different guitar tones and that you're not turned up too loud. That's all besides the idea of how to split up parts so you're not fighting, but you should be able to double each other also without it sounding terrible. Jun 4, 2019 at 5:43

1 Answer 1

  • Have one guitar play power chords, the other playing full chords
  • Have one electric guitar and an acoustic one
  • Make pauses. Not everyone needs to play all the time; the second guitar can pause during the verse and come in again at the chorus. This will also add energy to the song when the second guitar comes in
  • Have the second guitar "analyzing" the chords. Say the first one is playing a D major chord, have the second one play the notes one at a time.
  • Have the guitars play the same chords with different effects.
  • When playing the melody, don't play it in the same octave, have one of the guitars play it one octave higher/lower.
  • Solos!
  • Play in a question/answer style. Have the first guitar play one bar, followed by a bar from the second one, followed by a bar by the first one, followed by both guitars.
  • 2
    Nice, the electric vs acoustic thing, and with different effects, were missing from my list here music.stackexchange.com/a/80278/51766 Jun 4, 2019 at 7:07
  • Thank you for the list, this is exactly the kind of answer I was hoping to find! With playing full and power chords, do you mean that they would be played in the same rhythm?
    – Anna
    Jun 4, 2019 at 20:39
  • @anna yes. Actually they could play in the same rhythm or change something Jun 4, 2019 at 21:45

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