Connecticut Shoreline Studio for Music Lessons
in Voice, Piano, Guitar & the Fundamentals of Music

All Skill Levels Welcome, Ages 4 -104

Connecticut Shoreline Studio for Music Lessons
in Voice, Piano, Guitar & the Fundamentals of Music

Clef Notes

Plays Well With Others

Let’s take a break from all that chord chemistry and talk about something practical (and musical) when playing with another guitarist or keyboard player.

I’ve found that if guitarists each play the same chord, unless they are both carefully tuned and locked into each other’s rhythm playing, tuning and rhythmic differences can clash. When playing rhythms with another guitar player, try playing your chords in a different position. 

Look at the E major chords below. The first open position shape is one of the first chords you learn, but the others you may not have played yet. If one guitarist is playing the open position chord, play one of the other forms simultaneously. You’ll get E major chord tones in the higher range, which can make rhythm parts bright and fuller sounding

Try the same experiment with the A chord forms. If you’ve got a looper or multi-track recorder, you can experiment with chords that sound best. 

Here’s an extra credit challenge–take one of the higher voiced E chords and replace the third (G#) with the ninth (F#) or replace a fifth (B) with a sixth (C#)–you’ll start to hear some richer harmonies, and hopefully you’ll recognize some of these sounds in your favorite tunes.

Play Well With Others E Chord 01
Plays Well With Others E Chord 02
Plays Well With Others E Chord 03
Plays Well With Others A Chord 02

Playing with a keyboardist can present some additional challenges. If the keyboardist is playing full with the left and right hand, and you’re strumming big 5- or 6-string voiced chords, the music can sound very cluttered. You’re playing both in the same “sonic space” and overlapping lots of notes. Also, the keyboardist is likely comping differently from the guitarist, resulting in very uneven sounding rhythms.

Your best bet is to listen and learn from your keyboard player how they play on your tunes and try to strike a balance if you want to play simultaneously. My own experience is if the keyboardist is not experienced playing with another guitarist (and vice versa), that you both agree to play smaller chords and in a different tonal range–the “sonic spaces.” When it’s time for one of you to solo, make your comps even smaller to let the soloist shine in the full range of their instrument.

Your bass player will have something to say too . . . the low notes belong to them and you both need to stay out of the way!

Listening carefully and communicating thoughtfully is the key if you want to play well with others!

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