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3 guitars together = mush. How to improve the group dynamic?

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(@gabba-gabba-hey)
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In our church band we'll sometimes have three acoustic guitarists all playing the same thing. It can sound pretty bad. I think they're all doing the same open chords but with some slight strumming variations, and it just gets "off." Mushy, muddy, etc.

I suggested they break things up a bit - maybe one does open chord strumming, one plays in a different octave, one does something else. They looked at me like I had two heads. We don't really have a musical director, and I'm usually on bass (I sub on guitar when the others aren't available), and I'm not really sure how else to explain it to them.

What do you do in a band situation when you've got multiple rhythm guitarists? How do you define the roles they play? (We don't really do solos, so designating a "lead" guitarist isn't what I'm talking about.) Any advice would be appreciated.


   
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(@alouden)
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What we did at our church was go to one acoustic in the band each week. Then the players rotate in the schedule. I know that isn't the answer you were looking for but it is an option.


   
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(@katmetal)
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I'm not sure there is a good answer to all playing at the same time. If they could rotate as suggested, that might be one option, or even take turns during the service. Years ago, my band played bookings with another band that had 3 acoustics in it. (1 had a pickup) The "lead" guy played thru an MXR phaser 100% of the time.

Believe it or not, it all sounded pretty good together, although the concept of 3 flat-tops seemed odd. This was Country-Gospel style music.


   
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(@anonymous)
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if they're not gonna take direction, there's not much you can do.
but i've recorded stuff with 3 or more guitars and it can be really good if done right. for instance, i had one where one was strumming, one was fingerpicking, and one was actually just soloing straight 8th notes on the beat. it all fit together really well.


   
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(@dan-t)
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Your suggestion to not have everyone play the same open chords is probably the best besides the rotating idea. I'm assuming they looked at you like you had two heads was because they aren't very accomplished guitarists? If you could learn some different chord voicings for a couple of the songs you do, and then show then what you mean, it might help. I played in a church band before with multiple guitarists, usually two acoustics & one electric, and this is exactly what we did. One plays open chords, one plays the chords using different voicings, and the other would appregiate or finger pick between the two. Good luck.

"The only way I know that guarantees no mistakes is not to play and that's simply not an option". David Hodge


   
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(@gnease)
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I suggested they break things up a bit - maybe one does open chord strumming, one plays in a different octave, one does something else. They looked at me like I had two heads. We don't really have a musical director, and I'm usually on bass (I sub on guitar when the others aren't available), and I'm not really sure how else to explain it to them.

well ... you may have two heads, but this is a very good solution to the problem. good orchestration would do more than simply make it not-suck. it could really made it happen. need to get these people to play in different registers. get someone to add the fills and flourishes (this is not soloing. needs to be done tastefully). if you do not have a drummer or other low percussion, have someone play muted (choppy, palm muted chords) or just 5 (a.k.a. power) "chords" (fundamental and fifth) to emphasize the beat. put a capo on one of those guitars to force the player into a higher register.

it is possible to have two or three guitars play the same part once in a while. with good tuning and lockstep strumming (lockstrumming?), the guitars can come across as very strident and awe-inspiring. but is depends on the guitar players really being able to work together, the piece, and timing must be really good. and like any other technique, is can be overused.

-=tension & release=-


   
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(@minotaur)
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Your suggestion to not have everyone play the same open chords is probably the best besides the rotating idea. I'm assuming they looked at you like you had two heads was because they aren't very accomplished guitarists? If you could learn some different chord voicings for a couple of the songs you do, and then show then what you mean, it might help. I played in a church band before with multiple guitarists, usually two acoustics & one electric, and this is exactly what we did. One plays open chords, one plays the chords using different voicings, and the other would appregiate or finger pick between the two. Good luck.

Just for my own education and curiosity as a beginner and not too good (yet) with different chord voicings:

If these guitarists are also not accomplished and familiar with different chord voicings, would capoing help? Say each guitar is capoed a couple of whole steps different than the other? They'd be in the same key (I assume) but at a different pitch? Of course I guess this assumes strumming in synch.

It is difficult to answer when one does not understand the question.


   
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(@moonrider)
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I suggested they break things up a bit - maybe one does open chord strumming, one plays in a different octave, one does something else. They looked at me like I had two heads. We don't really have a musical director, and I'm usually on bass (I sub on guitar when the others aren't available), and I'm not really sure how else to explain it to them.

This is exactly what needs to happen. Three guitars, three parts. All three don't need to be playing all the time through every song. The hardest part of learning to play in a group is learning when and what NOT to play.

Playing guitar and never playing for others is like studying medicine and never working in a clinic.

Moondawgs on Reverbnation


   
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(@moonrider)
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Just for my own education and curiosity as a beginner and not too good (yet) with different chord voicings:

If these guitarists are also not accomplished and familiar with different chord voicings, would capoing help? Say each guitar is capoed a couple of whole steps different than the other? They'd be in the same key (I assume) but at a different pitch? Of course I guess this assumes strumming in synch.

Yes and no . . . it depends on how may open chords ya know. Take a G, C, D progression. If you capo at the third fret, you need to use the E, A and B chord shapes to get the G, C and D chords. Same if you capo at other frets - you still need to know the alternate fingerings to be able to play the right chords

Here's a link for you to explore and learn different chord fingerings with. http://www.all-guitar-chords.com/index.php

Playing guitar and never playing for others is like studying medicine and never working in a clinic.

Moondawgs on Reverbnation


   
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(@gnease)
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The hardest part of learning to play in a group is learning when and what NOT to play.

+1

learning to listen to the group as a whole, and not only ones own playing/contribution seems to be a tough thing for many -- new and even experienced. gotta focus on hearing the performance as the audience hears it, and understand that they rarely listen to one player (that "me me me"), but will judge the performance as a whole. and just because you may play better than another, trying to "contribute" more will not necessary make the overall performance better.

Almost without exception, when a group gets together to play, they will sound better if everyone makes a point of playing less. and it really takes pressure off players, giving them the time to play the less as well as possible.

-=tension & release=-


   
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(@minotaur)
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Yes and no . . . it depends on how may open chords ya know. Take a G, C, D progression. If you capo at the third fret, you need to use the E, A and B chord shapes to get the G, C and D chords. Same if you capo at other frets - you still need to know the alternate fingerings to be able to play the right chords

Here's a link for you to explore and learn different chord fingerings with. http://www.all-guitar-chords.com/index.php

OK, thanks... this is material to study.

It is difficult to answer when one does not understand the question.


   
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 cnev
(@cnev)
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Minotauer,

when you use a capo you will be using different chord shapes to get the same sound you were getting when you played without the capo.

It's not slap the capo on and play the same chords that won't work.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


   
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(@minotaur)
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Minotauer,

when you use a capo you will be using different chord shapes to get the same sound you were getting when you played without the capo.

It's not slap the capo on and play the same chords that won't work.

I think I just discovered that by looking at chordbook.com, where you can move the capo around, select a chord, then let it tell you what that chord actually is with the capo.

I may have this screwed up beyond belief but let me try...

Em (022000) capoed @ 2nd fret is actually Fm, and Amaj X02220 capoed @ 2nd fret is actually A# maj or Bb maj? I have a transcription of My Sweet Lord (the one I am playing) which capos @ 2nd fret, but the progression is Em (022000) and Amaj X02220 for the intro. So I'd actually play Fm and A#maj if uncapoed?

I fear the answer. :lol:

It is difficult to answer when one does not understand the question.


   
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(@gnease)
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2nd fret is a whole step up

Em played with capo 2nd => F#m
Amaj played with cap 2nd => Bmaj

if un-capoed, you'd play F#m and Bmaj

-=tension & release=-


   
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(@gnease)
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Minotauer,

when you use a capo you will be using different chord shapes to get the same sound you were getting when you played without the capo.

It's not slap the capo on and play the same chords that won't work.

Unless of course one slaps the capo on the 12th fret ... then all the same, but one octave higher. :wink:

-=tension & release=-


   
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