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View Full Version : What are the benefits of having two guitars in a rock band?


SmackFu
05-17-2005, 09:14 AM
Plenty of bands have two guitar players. Plenty of other bands get away with having the lead vocalist play nothing, and only have one guitar. And a few other bands get away with a single lead vocalist/guitar player.

What are the pros/cons of the various configurations?

audiobottle
05-17-2005, 09:17 AM
Some bands like the fuller sound of two guitars. You can have one guitar playing lead lines over the rhythm of the other guitar. It's really just a matter of taste. The White Stripes have no bass player and they sound just fine too. Led Zeppelin only had the one guitarist for concerts (not counting when John Paul Jones did some guitar or mandolin or whathave you), but on their albums they layered the guitars over and over.

twickster
05-17-2005, 09:30 AM
Depends who the guitarists are. Duane Allman and Dickie Betts -- or Duane Allman and Eric Clapton -- pretty damn good.

Marley23
05-17-2005, 10:16 AM
Depends who the guitarists are. Duane Allman and Dickie Betts -- or Duane Allman and Eric Clapton -- pretty damn good.
Couldn't have said it better. ;) The specific benefit that guitar pairings served in these two bands is that the guitars were able to harmonize, so that adds an entire new dimension to a band's sound. And when you get two guitarists who are skilled and work well together, then they can play off of each other to great effect. Sometimes one plays rhythm while the other solos, but what makes it really interesting is when there's a real back-and-forth and they throw ideas at each other.

RancidYakButterTeaParty
05-17-2005, 11:58 AM
The main reason for having two guitar players is so you have one to steal the glory from the bass player, while the other steals it from the drummer!

Mister Rik
05-17-2005, 12:06 PM
The main reason for having two guitar players is so you have one to steal the glory from the bass player, while the other steals it from the drummer!
Yeah! Just look at what happened to Iron Maiden! :D

Clothahump
05-17-2005, 12:09 PM
Having two guitarists didn't seem to bother the Beatles much!

WordMan
05-17-2005, 12:16 PM
As a guitarist who just recently moved from a power trio where I was the singer and guitarist, to a two-guitar format with other singers along with me, the differences are many - and there is no right answer:

- With a single guitar - I could improvise more without having to worry about coordinating with the other guitar. Selfishly, I got to play all the cool parts - if that meant a crunching rhythm - that's me. Cool lead - me again! Since guitarists are often raging ego-types (who - me?) this can be a great advantage.

- With two guitars: You can fill in the sound live. There is nothing cooler than playing, say, Aerosmith's Walk This Way, where I am the one guy singing/rapping out the lines, and playing Joe Perry's syncopated riffs underneath the verses (try it sometime it is HARD - I had a ton of guitarists come up to me asking me how I did it) - but there is nothing WORSE than transition to the lead bits and having no rhythm guitar to fill in the sound - it just empties out the sound and loses momentum. That is why "true" 3-piece bands like Cream or the Who or Rush tend to feature bassists who play a form of "lead bass" - they climb into the tonal range of a rhythm guitar. Zep and Van Halen both uses multi-tracked guitars heavily when in the studio.

- I would also say that a 3-piece can lead to a looser feel. When singing and playing difficult stuff - Walk This Way, Message in a Bottle (!) - I am really doing tough stuff. By just focusing on a guitar part, say, I can deliver that part with much more precision.

I guess that's it. Sure, as other posters mentioned - you can certainly do two-guitar harmony work with two guitars - and it can sound great. I would also point out the Stones - where Keith Richards' vision of having two guitars that weave into each is just brilliant - neither is quite fully rhythm or lead and it can be damn near impossible to tell where one leaves off and the other begins.

tdn
05-17-2005, 12:17 PM
Even though they sucked, Black Oak Arkansas had a neat 3-guitar (plus bass) configuration. One played 12-string rhythm guitar while the other two did harmony leads, usually in thirds. It's a nice Southern rock sound.

Without a keyboard, a 2nd guitar is great for filling in harmonies. Unless your last name is Page or Lifeson, you'd have a hard time soloing while filling up those missing chords.

waits
05-17-2005, 12:21 PM
Because two guitars are louder than one.

Birdmonster
05-17-2005, 12:22 PM
Yeah! Just look at what happened to Iron Maiden! :D

No glory can ever be stolen from Iron Maiden's bass player (Steve Harris!). He wrote all the good songs. Bruce Dickenson & company cower to his phenomenalness.

tdn
05-17-2005, 12:23 PM
but there is nothing WORSE than transition to the lead bits and having no rhythm guitar to fill in the sound - it just empties out the sound and loses momentum.
I spent my entire college career trying to get over that hump. Being that I played mostly jazz, I had the advantage of playing a lot of "chord leads." This is nice because you can reharmonize a passage on the spot. It's a lot more creative than being locked into the existing harmony.

Plus, when you're soloing over Giant Steps, no one can tell that you're not making the changes!

Biffy the Elephant Shrew
05-17-2005, 12:58 PM
Because two guitars are louder than one.
To be precise, it's one louder.

Mister Rik
05-17-2005, 01:09 PM
No glory can ever be stolen from Iron Maiden's bass player (Steve Harris!). He wrote all the good songs. Bruce Dickenson & company cower to his phenomenalness.
I know that. I was being sarcastic :)

I'll second everything WordMan said. I was the lead singer / bass player in a three-piece band, and there were many times when I wished we had a second guitarist. We performed a lot of songs where, in the original version, the bass line was very simple, but the rhythm guitar part was a distinct riff. A couple examples are Ted Nugent's Cat Scratch Fever and Motley Crue's Looks That Kill. During the guitar solos on those songs, I was forced to figure out how to play the rhythm guitar riff without losing the steady, driving "dumdumdumdumdumdum" of the bass line. I couldn't just play the straight bass line, because the rhythm guitar riff was essential to the song. At the same time, I couldn't just play the rhythm guitar part on my bass because then the song would lose the drive and groove of the bass line. I managed, though :)

SmackFu
05-17-2005, 01:13 PM
Thanks. What inspired this question was Green Day. They've always been a trio, but lately they've used another uncredited guitarist (or two) when they play live.

Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor
05-17-2005, 01:21 PM
Mostly, to cover up the fact that one of the guitarists is drunk/stoned/a pretty boy who can't play.


BTW--did you hear that the Metal Band, Exodus, has a new drummer? Paul Bostaph.

lieu
05-17-2005, 02:04 PM
The song that immediately came to mind after reading the title was Green Grass And High Tides by the Outlaws. Nice blending of guitar work there from at least two, if not three, guitars.

Lord Ashtar
05-17-2005, 02:11 PM
Check out the guitar duet at the end of Hotel California by the Eagles. Then tell me what the point is of having two guitarists.

WordMan
05-17-2005, 02:17 PM
Again - if you are into harmony leads - a la Hotel California, Southern Rock, etc. - then the benefits of two guitars are clear. Basically, they are essential.

But SmackFu's question was more about why does a 3-piece band occasionally leverage a second guitarist, especially in live situations?

In Green Day's case, American Idiot is much more multi-tracked than other GD CD's, so that matters more in live situations. Same with In Utero for Nirvana, when they brought in Pat Smear as a second guitarist...

lieu
05-17-2005, 02:57 PM
Who in the world would name their poor child Pat Smear? Don't answer that... I'm just feeling sorry for the guy.

Trunk
05-17-2005, 03:08 PM
Listen to AC/DC. Constant use of two guitars that go great together. One can't get a sound like AC/DCs really any other way.

Didn't early incarnations of Meatwood Flack have 3 guitars? Mick Fleetwood, Peter Green, and. . .someone else.

Murcielago
05-17-2005, 03:17 PM
Quite simple really. You need to shove the neck of one guitar under the chin of the club promoter, forcing him against the wall. Then your partner uses the second guitar to smash open the cash box and get the money you were originally promised for the show.

It's all about economics.

WordMan
05-17-2005, 03:35 PM
Who in the world would name their poor child Pat Smear? Don't answer that... I'm just feeling sorry for the guy.


Pat Smear is his "punk" name, like Jello Biafra, Joey Ramone or Cheetah Chrome...

Biffy the Elephant Shrew
05-17-2005, 04:45 PM
Didn't early incarnations of Meatwood Flack have 3 guitars? Mick Fleetwood, Peter Green, and. . .someone else.
Peter Green, Danny Kirwan, and Jeremy Spencer. (Mick Fleetwood's a drummer.) And they were hot in their day. The live at the Boston Tea Party CDs (three volumes) are a great source of extended blues-jammin' goodness.

vl_mungo
05-17-2005, 05:17 PM
When you're starting out, one of the benefits of not having two guitar players is that the meager amount you get paid at the end of the evening goes further. Plus it's easier to fit 4 people in a car than 5.

Scissorjack
05-17-2005, 05:41 PM
I guess that's it. Sure, as other posters mentioned - you can certainly do two-guitar harmony work with two guitars - and it can sound great. I would also point out the Stones - where Keith Richards' vision of having two guitars that weave into each is just brilliant - neither is quite fully rhythm or lead and it can be damn near impossible to tell where one leaves off and the other begins.

Television were the perfect example of this: Richard Lloyd and Tom Verlaine's intertwining soloing on Marquee Moon, where they weave in and out and around each other seems almost telepathic, and the effect is just breath-taking.

Slight hijack: besides Keith, who was your favourite Stones guitarist? I was always partial to Mick Taylor, whose slide work offset Keith's rhythm playing beautifully.

Marley23
05-17-2005, 05:50 PM
Pat Smear is his "punk" name, like Jello Biafra, Joey Ramone or Cheetah Chrome...
Or like Darby Crash, Smear's bandmate in The Germs years ago.

Biffy the Elephant Shrew
05-17-2005, 05:58 PM
Slight hijack: besides Keith, who was your favourite Stones guitarist? I was always partial to Mick Taylor, whose slide work offset Keith's rhythm playing beautifully.
Oh, yeah, definitely Mick. All due respect to Ronnie, but with him it's a bit like the Stones have two Keefs (a scary one and a smiley one). And I think of Brian more as the sitar-recorder-dulcimer-harmonica-whatever-and-guitar guy than as strictly the Stones' guitarist. Note that on the Let It Bleed tracks he played on, he played autoharp and percussion, not guitar.

Mick Taylor, though, with stuff like "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" and the Ya-Ya's version of "Sympathy for the Devil"--he's the man.

dalej42
05-17-2005, 08:47 PM
How about Genesis? Listen to Genesis with Steve Hackett and then when he left. Thankfully, Tony Banks' keyboards became more important in the music. Mike Rutherford simply can not play lead guitar like Steve Hackett.

Reeder
05-17-2005, 09:36 PM
Just give The Outlaws a listen.

You will hear the magic of more than one guitar.

IMHO the best guitar band ever.

Snooooopy
05-17-2005, 10:31 PM
Thin Lizzy switched from a one-guitar configuration to a two-guitar configuration because Phil Lynott never wanted to be in a pickle if a guitarist quit on him again.

Askance
05-17-2005, 11:31 PM
Plenty of bands have two guitar players.

There's a difference between having two lead guitars, and one lead and one rhythym (Lou Reed has said if he had his time over again he'd still choose to be a rhythym guitarist!). Did you particularly mean one or the other?

My favourite exponent of twin lead guitars is Wishbone Ash. Magic.

I did hear that in early concerts all 5 members of Blue Oyster Cult played guitar on some tracks! Didn't happen when I saw them a few years ago. But they had credits for "stun guitar" on at least one of their early albums.

Sam Stone
05-18-2005, 12:12 AM
What are the pros/cons of the various configurations?


Pros: It freakin' ROCKS, dude.

Cons: Who cares?

Oslo Ostragoth
05-18-2005, 01:16 AM
The song that immediately came to mind after reading the title was Green Grass And High Tides by the Outlaws. Nice blending of guitar work there from at least two, if not three, guitars.
An excellent memory from college days - the University of Illinois guy who had the 11 p.m. (or whatever) shift one semester started every show with this one.

Oslo Ostragoth
05-18-2005, 01:18 AM
Check out the guitar duet at the end of Hotel California by the Eagles. Then tell me what the point is of having two guitarists.
One of the sweetest duets of modern time....

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater
05-18-2005, 03:33 AM
Check out the guitar duet at the end of Hotel California by the Eagles. Then tell me what the point is of having two guitarists.
They have three.

Scissorjack
05-18-2005, 04:36 AM
Thin Lizzy switched from a one-guitar configuration to a two-guitar configuration because Phil Lynott never wanted to be in a pickle if a guitarist quit on him again.

Thin Lizzy played Jazz Odyssey?

Scoundrel Swanswater
05-18-2005, 08:32 AM
Does anybody know how many guitar-players are in the Queens of the Stone Age?
It sounds like 3 at least.
I love the tapestry of guitar these guys can weave, where it is really hard to tell the different guitars apart.

kidchameleon
05-18-2005, 09:01 AM
I did hear that in early concerts all 5 members of Blue Oyster Cult played guitar on some tracks! Didn't happen when I saw them a few years ago. But they had credits for "stun guitar" on at least one of their early albums.

Who played Cowbell?

Ukulele Ike
05-18-2005, 09:13 AM
Thread title fixed, as it was buggin' me.

-- Uke, CS mod

Lord Ashtar
05-18-2005, 09:21 AM
They have three.
Of course, but I was just trying to show the kind of magic that two guitars playing together can produce.

twickster
05-20-2005, 09:03 PM
Three words: Love Devotion Surrender (John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana)