29 August 2011

A Really Simple Way To Arrange Songs For Two Guitars

One question I often hear from readers is “How can I arrange a song to play along with two guitars?” It seems that many of us want to enjoy playing with a fellow guitarist or in a two-guitar band without playing the exact same thing on both guitars.


A few months ago I shared one technique that you can use to do this by playing little three-note chord inversions along the guitar neck. Today I’m going to show you an even simpler way to arrange for two guitars; this technique is so easy it can work for any level of guitar player. So, without further ado, let me reveal the amazing secret to two-guitar song arrangements.


The Easy Way to Make Up a Second Guitar Part

The incredibly easy yet highly effective way to make up a second guitar part for your song is to play exactly the same chords as the first guitar but change the rhythm.


If you’re feeling extremely underwhelmed by this incredible revelation then maybe you have already put this technique to work. Or maybe you’ve simply overlooked how effective it is. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples to illustrate how it works and give you a starting point to make up your own arrangements.


First, let’s start with a simple rhythm guitar part for guitar one, shown below. It’s an eight bar progression that you might find for the verse of a rock or pop song. Then we’ll make up a couple of examples using the same chords with different rhythms to show just how easy it is.




Example1 – Strum on First Beat and Hold

Our first incredibly easy alternative rhythm part is shown below. We simply take each chord and strum it on the “one” of each bar. Let the notes ring until the next strum on the “one” of the following bar.


In the example I’ve chosen to strum the full chord, but you could choose to strum (or pluck) just two or three notes to get different sounds. This technique works well with an electric guitar that has more sustain to let the notes ring.




Example 2 – Play an Arpeggio Over the Chords

Here’s a slightly more sophisticated rhythm for the second guitar. While guitar one strums away on the chord progression the second guitar plays an arpeggio pattern, like the one below.




I hope these two easy examples have made this approach to two-guitar arrangements clear. This approach might seem simple, but as is often the case the simplest approach is most effective. These exact same techniques are used in many songs to layer the guitar sounds and they’ll work for you too.


Have fun making up your own rhythm patterns for the songs you play with your friends or in a band.

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