My friend and I are on different levels of guitar playing. Some of the stuff that I bring to the table, he has no idea what to do with. The first thing that comes to mind to him is “Hey! Let’s harmonize it!” Then he says that he can’t because the string switching action is too much for him right now. He’s willing to play chords that go along with the bass notes I’m hitting but we both agree that can get a little boring. What would you do in a situation like this?
Dear Shredder Dilemma,
The guitar duo, ala iron Maiden,, Slayer, , Anthrax, etc., has become a staple in metal music. I have seen this situation (guitar players at different ability levels) many times. I mean, we all can’t be Dimebag! And sometimes a good metal band needs that duel guitar work for their live show. Working with another guitar player can be both amazing and debilitating as egos collide. All you need is two guitar players in a room and you’ve got yourself an ego stew ready to boil! I, myself, have actually had the honor of being on both ends. I have been the master shredder in the band and I have also been the weak link. There is a two-part process I think you should try. It’s what works best for me and may very well work for you.
Step One; Documentation and Experimentation. The problem is your guitar partner’s physical playing ability hasn’t caught up to your creative needs. So, you need to slow the whole process down. You need to demo your music one-guitar part at a time. What works for me is this; we set up in our practice space and I use a Digidesigns MBOX and my computer to record with one little mic. A lot of times if I cant play the riff or the idea I will just play the bass notes, or just not play at all. At the end of practice we get our drummer to lay down just the beat of the song, it takes some imagination but a good drummer can pull this off easy. I then take that beat home and record a guitar riff or two, and so does the other guitarist. See, by recording it you are actually giving yourself the ability to look at every detail in slow motion. So lay all those ideas down, and experiment because no one is limited to their ability. Both of you can take your time. You can now bounce ideas off yourself because you can record one track and then start on another idea right over top of it. I swear you will see there are more options then just harmonizing, and you will both be able to be involved in the writing process.
Step Two: The Big Pull Off. So, after you’ve found all those sick harmonies and you’ve got your rock opera all recorded over your practice space demo you ask yourself: How are we going to play this live? And that is where step two comes in. To be able to pull it off you are going to have to get your guitar partner/band mate to do one thing… practice! The demo is the best tool to help him do that. It’s his guide. You can even tab the entire riff out for him; right down to every little detail. Try to communicate exactly how you want the riff to be played, and make sure you can play your end of the harmony clean. Lastly, be encouraging! Guitarists can be awful to each other, sometimes. I have seen some dark stuff in my day, and if you’re both encouraging and willing to work together, you will both progress as players and be able to pull things off neither of you thought possible.