The Woodshed

Does anyone remember rhythm?


I couldn't help notice that just about every time any guitar gear demo dude or dudette on YouTube plays, they're doing some sort of lead playing (usually playing licks as fast as they possibly can). Hardly anyone busts out a killer rhythm part.

So it was refreshing to see the video lesson from Zac Childs on electric country rhythm playing.

Now, I know we have a lot of killer rhythm players around here, and for some of you this is old hat (Stetson?) but this is the kind of stuff I need to get better at. I still haven't spent enough time trying to nail that "Mystery Train" style of thing. I really like that he emphasizes a "less is more" ethos, depending on the setting you're in.


Creedence Clearwater Revival without Tom Fogerty was seriously lacking. So much so that the last album (Mardi Gras) was never re-released, though lack of rhythm was prolly least of its problems.


Whenever I want to hear some great rhythm guitar I just listen to the Basie band with Freddie Green holding it all down with one of those enormous archtops he played -- maybe a Super 400 or a Stromberg? I'm also a big fan of the great chord/melody players such as Bucky Pizzarelli and Marty Grosz. It's a style that I hope never dies out completely. Bucky's son John Pizzarelli is a demon at this sort of stuff -- obviously taught well by his Dad.


lx: thanks for that info.


Today, young great dedicated rhythm guitar players are very rare (in my experience). I started playing in bands in the mid 70's, as a rhythm guitar player. Back then, it was how you learned your chops. You almost inevitably began as a rhythm player. But you're right, Jimbodiddley, as time went by, we saw fewer and fewer players interested in filling the dedicated rhythm slot in a band, bringing us to today where they are as rare as he's teeth.

I believe it's because backing tracks are so readily available for the beginning guitarists to jam along with, so it takes the need for learning good rhythm playing away. For the past twenty years or so, kids have been cutting their chops to backing tracks, so I think that they naturally concentrate only on lead guitar.

What's even more rare, is the guitarist who can cover both rhythm and lead, like in a three piece band, and keep it interesting. I think that I lucked out in that regard, because I, and probably many GDP'ers, played in three piece bands early on. The popular rock music, that is now called Classic Rock, was full of three pieces bands, and covering their material forced us to be better all around guitarists.


I totally agree with this.... I cut my teeth on rhythm playing for many years. I think a huge part of it is the Internet. Back in the day there were no online tabs to learn from. It was work to just learn the cords for a song. Today is a different story. But now I’m that guy that plays rhythm/lead and is the lead singer in a 3 piece band. Just wish it would have all come together when I was 20.


I remember hearing about rhythm, but to my knowledge I've never successfully played with any.


I'll never be a great lead guitarist. Arthritis is not my friend. But---I enjoy playing rhythm. Probably being a piano/organ player first has something to do with it.


I still play most of the rhythm's in my band. I never became a decent lead player so, no worries.

I can dabble with the pathetic scale but I still suck at that. I'll stick with rhythm. The rhythm patterns he was demonstrating are probably above my pay grade, for that matter.


A handy bit of rhythm from Mr Grosz. I think the bow tie helps.


bo knows rhythm



And John Pizzarelli. OK, all together after four.....


i've wound up as a lead player over time, but love playing backing guitar, or as Bob Weir was credited on Jerry Garcia's Reflections album, "second guitar" (a la first and second violin). like bass, a creative second guitarist can totally steer the feel, voicings, chord substitutions, and structure of a song.

not that there's anything missing from a sharp, brutal, precise chop. one fun thing about the UG Roundup was that it reminded me how much i enjoy staying in the back playing little Steve Cropper and Curtis Mayfield bits.


Jimbo, great topic!!! The music in my head that I always wanted to learn years ago was to develop my style as a lead player ONLY if I could "get it right". I wanted to create and I wanted single notes to be my voice. My biggest influences many moons ago? David Gilmour, BB King, Hendrix, Dicky Betts, and eventually SRV (which led me to tons of other players).

I didn't want to copy anyone but rather let their styles help me shape mine to the point I could run with it and be the lead player proficient enough to play lead that served the song. I also thought of this as a position where I should always be improving....satisfied with what I can create, expand material via style, be satisfied with those gains and just continue to grow.

My approach changed somewhat in that with the many times I have played in a trio, I knew I needed to have the rhythm playing shine.....or in other words, make lead guitar be the best rhythm player I could be. This helped me develop a style that gets me playing rhythm that I want to shine. Now? I am in a happy place while I recognize there is tons of room for improvement, growth, and "new ways" to play rhythm.

I think my other half, the guy that plays acoustic and also sings, really helps my development as an electric rhythm player.

I love the basics and that is learn the melody of the song as I can do nothing well until this happens..... it is the foundation....then I can start building and creating.

Take a song like SRV's "Pride and Joy". Great song for showboating stinging licks and killer solo playing. In a trio however, I admit that I was never satisfied with washing over the rhythm playing with just raking the strings to the chords with quick muting of the fretting hand. It worked great for Stevie but left me wanting to play more. I now play the rhythm with a hybrid strumming/pattern-picking to let the strings "ring" but the voice be heard just as importantly.....balance!

I love the Zac Childs video posted as I see this as "lead guitar via rhythm". I wish every guitar demo would do this played clean with the only differences being the different pickup combinations as it would really help me learn more about the tones the guitar can get.

I love the comments above about the Pizzarellis, the Count Basie Quartet clip, and other things above. It means to me that the guitar is meant to serve the song, and at times, lift it up with great rhythm playing.

So while I admit this will take away me ever being the dude only playing smoking solos, it makes me realize that smokin' solos without great rhythm most likely leaves the song less than what it could've been.

I'm playing more big band material than ever and my rhythm playing is growing....despite a month long slump I just got myself out of.

I will never be Danny Gatton, Albert Lee or many others whose physicality and style lifts the song to the top of what it can be. But.....maybe, just maybe I might get good enough where my rhythm playing, before any solos, will be good enough to be the highlight of the guitar accompaniment to the song and make it really special.....special to listen to and really fun to play!


I play both but often prefer rhythm playing. I don't always separate the two ideas and just think 'guitar part'. I do sometimes put dedicated solos in the songs I write to have something different happen in the arrangement. I keep them short and to the point. There's is nothing more tedious to me than really long guitar solos. I really don't know many people who are so good that they have something worthwhile to say after about 30 seconds. Often it starts to sound self-indulgent. This is of course just my opinion and I know many don't share it.

I do always find it funny when people demo a guitar with long single note guitar solos, often with distortion. How can you tell what it sounds like? There's so much more to guitar than lead playing! It has 6 strings!


I played bass in a very active band for three years during the 80's. My guitar gig had broken up, and I was in between bands. An opportunity arose to play bass for a regularly gigging group, and I hesitantly took it. I wasn't really a bassist, but I did have a bass (Fender P) and I was extremely fortunate to have been tutored by an amazing bassist a few years prior, so at least I knew better than to use a pick.

More than anything else, playing bass in that band anchored solid rhythm into my soul. We played a lot of Zeppelin, Boston, and Rush so the drums and bass had to be very tight. It really tightened up my guitar chops when I got back to playing the guitar in a band again. Working so tightly with the drummer had a lot of benefits.


Zac's great. I have watched a vid he did on the Fender Harvard. Everything he plays is tasty and with purpose

I agree with Toxophilite re demos. It's bizarre they are playing long n fast solos without melody, context or backing and more often than not completely out of time. Not that I'd be much better - but I aint recording demos


This subject really resonates with me. My advise to guitarists always begins with " remember, the guitar has always been first and foremost a rhythm instrument,and only in modern times a lead instrument ". The best compliment ever given to me by fellow picker who is really good was during a break where I was doing a duo with a singer . He said "wow, you never hear anybody just comping behind someone anymore ." Considering myself as just adequate ,I got what he was saying.


Working so tightly with the drummer had a lot of benefits.

i've stationed myself immediately to the left of the drummer in every band i've ever been in. it's surprising that my hearing isn't damaged after all those crash cymbals in my left ear. i sometimes used to put my foot on the bass drum rim at floor level so i could feel the hits coming and tune in. the inspiration: Keef and Charlie, duh.


like bass, a creative second guitarist can totally steer the feel, voicings, chord substitutions, and structure of a song

That was SO well said Macphisto, and Weir is one of the best examples. I've felt that way for a long time as the Rhythm Player in our Band, especially when playing with a really talented, strong willed Lead player . Great topic


Two words: Jimmie Nolen. The ryhthm guitar break after James sings, "Poppa's got a brand new bag" ... and all of those other tight, funky parts from that era ... Cold Sweat, I Got You, Get Up I Feel Like Being a Sex Machine ... and this baaaaad (shut yo' mouf!) Jimmie's disciples include most of the guitarists that have played with Tower of Power over the years, and especially Jeff Tamelier. Their current guitarist, Jerry Cortez, is likely the best all-around guitarist they've had, but Jeff had impeccable grooves and feel. Check out his playing during the breakdown section!


the combination of loose-limbed funk and military precision in Nolan's playing is remarkable, and his influence runs from P-Funk and Nile Rodgers to today due to the widespread use of JB samples in hip-hop and rap.


Zoc is cool. I first saw him on the True Tone Lounge on Youtube and also the True Tone web site. Great interviews with all sorts of guitar players. Always low key and informative.

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