Joey Watson
1 year ago

Leading from Rhythm Guitar

Hey friends!


My name is Joey and I play guitar for the Liberty Worship Collective. My role on the team is simple: play guitar and don’t play badly.


While I DO do that, I am also a worship leader and, more specifically, a rhythm electric guitarist.


Each member of a band has a very specific role, each quite different, but just as important as the others. For instance, the bass player holds down those deep, sweet bass notes in the low range, while the keys may sing a little bit higher up in the high/mid EQ range.

For the rhythm electric player, we have a pretty special role. Rhythm electric sits typically in the mid range area of the overall sound.

“But Joey, doesn’t the acoustic guitar play there too? And keys? What about the kazooist?”

Well, since you ask, the rhythm player covers a lot of ground that may seem to overstep other instruments. However, the timbre and tonal quality of each instrument allows for a variety of instruments to play within the same EQ range without sounding TOO busy.


BUT WAIT, there’s more!


Because there is so much sound happening within the same frequency range, each instrumentalist has to know when to play, when NOT to play, and what kind of parts to play that won’t step on another player’s part.

For the rhythm player, we typically keep it simple. A common phrase to hear for a rhythm player is: less is more.

Sounds easy right?


While this concept may seem easy, it can be a challenge to know when to play and when not to.


Let’s say we have a band of 6 or 7 members. Acoustic guitar, lead electric, bass, drums, keys, vocalists, (along with the possibility of some loops and tracks), and YOU!

The rhythm player must be always mindful of the other parts being played. If the lead electric player is holding down some ambient, reverb-y and delayed sounds during the verses, and the keys player is playing block chords in the middle of the keyboard, it’s probably best for the rhythm player to hold out until the chorus.


Now HERE’s where YOU SHINE! The Chorus


Big choruses of songs are prime opportunities to turn OFF those delays and verbs, and CRANK up the gain! (Think Green Day, not Rage Against the Machine…)

The rhythm player holds down those chunky chords at the lower end of the neck while the lead player rips a hot lead line up top.


NOTE! Always be mindful of your venue!


If you’re playing in a bigger arena, it’s best to turn off all of your verbs and delays for the sake of the natural reverb that’s already in the room. For a smaller setting, it may be okay to have on a subtle room verb with a second or two decay.


Now back to the song...


We have the choruses and verses covered, so what else is there to do?

The main thing: LISTEN!

Listen to the other members of your team. Work together. Practice!

To really understand the role of the rhythm player, or any other position for that matter, hop online and listen to some of your favorite worship bands. Groups like Passion and Vertical Church Band have great videos and recordings to take a look at when trying to understanding parts. Get some inspiration from some more seasoned groups and take notes!


Now that you’ve heard a little bit about the rhythm electric player’s position in a band, there is one final tip:

Learn your instrument!

The director of our team down here at Liberty always says: “80% of your tone comes from your fingers”. Sure, good gear is absolutely necessary to achieving a well-rounded, impeccable tone. However, that must be accompanied with a knowledge and skill-set.