The Guitar

Closeup of guitar strings.

The guitar is one of the most versatile instruments in music. For that reason, there aren't many bands out there that lack a guitarist -- there is simply so much you can do with a guitar. It can be a mellow voice, a hard voice, it can be in the background or in the lead.

Another great thing about the guitar is that it is one of those rare mediums of artistic expression that rewards the novice and the virtuoso in equal measures. Rock n' roll is filled with musicians who made fortunes overnight by writing songs on guitar with the three chords they knew (like "Do You Wanna Dance"). It is also filled with serious artists who wrote some pretty technically complex tunes. The Police's guitarist Andy Summers, for example, was a master craftsman who used every chord in the book -- and largely stayed in the background.

Although guitarists tend to think of their playing as a continuum, I tend to divide guitar playing into two different categories, rhythm and lead. Rhythm guitar playing is the strumming part -- playing the chords that move a song. Although he could play great lead guitar, this was a particular specialty of George Harrison when he was with the Beatles. I think of lead guitar as more fingerpicking a string of single notes than strumming chords, most notably in solos. This of course was the hallmark of players like Eric Clapton. Because the lead guitar often involves playing these linear notes, some of the concepts that go into it are discussed on my scale page for the electric bass. Major and minor guitar chords are diagrammed and discussed separately, and chord progressions are dealt with here. Click at the end of this sentence for a page concerning tuning...