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Playing guitar with a band or group requires certain skills, knowledge and attitude for things to work properly and make the overall sound coherent, rocking, and above all, a joy to listen to.
Depending on who and what instruments you are playing with, you’ve got a role to fill and really need to look for the right ingredients to make a difference and be part of something great.
Let’s take a look at some of the most important things you need to work and focus on when playing with others.
Be a part and value to the band or group. Don’t try to stand out by outplaying everyone in the band. To make a band sound great you want to make it a whole, not four musicians and an ego-maniac.
Make sure your amp volume is appropriate and levels with the other instruments. Try to find the right balance.
Don’t fill every second with riffs, fills and solos, leave space for your fellow-musicians and let the music breath now and then. Be a team player.
Listen carefully to what others have to say. Talk about it. Learn from constructive critism. It can be tough to swallow, but these are the moments when you grow the most as a musician. Respect the opinion of your fellow musicians. Keep things cool. Be supportive and appreciative.
Listening is the key
The most important thing when playing with a band or group is listening. While a lot of musicians think they already do so, this is often not the case.
When you’re playing with two guitar players, you are playing in the same frequence range, so you’ve got to complement each other’s guitar parts. Try not being in each others face or things will sound muddy real quickly. I’ll explain in a minute.
Also clean guitars and piano are in the same range and need to play in a way that they accomodate each other. Create room, give each other space and listen very carefully to what the other is playing. Keep things simple and add value to the overall sound. This is challenging in the beginning, but it will get better in time.
It’s all about finding the chemistry with the other musicians. If you can’t seem to get on the same page, try to work up an accompaniment to complement the other player.
Find unique guitar tones
When you’re with two electric guitar players in a band, try to create a differente sound or tone for each guitar player to avoid a blurry and muddy mess. You could do this by changing the EQ on your amp or finding a different voice on your pickup selector switch. Also different guitars, amps, pickups, sounds (clean, overdrive, fuzz, distortion) and fx will add a unique sound for each guitar player.
Usually with two guitar players in a band you’ve got a rhythm guitar player and a lead guitar player. The rhythm guitar player makes up for the chords and rhythm part and the lead player will focus on the solos, riffs and fills. Yet this is not a rule. You can also have two rhythm guitar players or switching between rhythm and lead roles.
When you are both rhythm guitar players, try to complement each others parts. Let one guitar player cover all the open chords and the other play bar chords, power chords and riffs higher up the neck. Again create your own unique tone with EQ or clean and saturated sounds.
Listen to each other and work on something to enhance and enrich the other rhythm part.
Play with intention
While this is really important for blues and jazz players, it can be applied to all kinds of music styles. Play with intention! Don’t just improvise endless phrases without thinking about it, but first listen to what the music needs and decide to add or let the music breath by leaving space.
Make others sound good
Be of service to your fellow musicians. Especially when someone is playing a solo, make sure it stands out. Play something (or not) that will complement and lift the lead part to greater heigths.
All the things mentioned above need to grow. You will develop these skills if you keep focused and working on them and eventually they will become second nature.
In the meantime don’t forget why you’re are doing it all in the first place. Have Fun! If you’re only focused on improving, becoming a better player, making it all work, you might lose the fun out of sight.
Relax, have a drink, laugh, chat and talk open heartedly with your fellow musicians about music and life.
Enjoy the process!