LESSON: Writing for two guitars

There comes a time in the life of every axe slinger when he/she must venture out of the bedroom/garage/New York sewer and interact with other musicians. Maybe even – gasp! – other guitarists. And sooner or later, said guitarist might get bored with the sound of two guitars playing the exact same thing. So what do to? You don’t necessarily have to arrange all your riffs like Def Leppard (“not that that’s a bad thing,” 10-year-old me mumbles), but there are many interesting things you can do to get the most out of a two-guitar band.

First off, CLICK HERE to see the tab/music for this lesson. 

Figure 1 is a simple 8th note strum on a Gm chord. Yawn. Figure 2 makes it slightly more interesting by delegating the bottom two notes to one guitar (which chugs them out with some palm muting), and the top 3 notes to the other, played more freely and maybe with some delay and reverb to add a nice reverberous chime.

In Figure 3, guitar 1 picks out a few notes from the Gm chord while guitar 2 chugs out the same 8th note figure as before. Figure 4 is a further evolution of this idea, but more melodic, perhaps used as a main riff between chorus and verse in a vocal song, or as part of the main theme in an instrumental.

Figure 5 steps outside of the Gm framework a little. Guitar 2 (who seems to get all the easier parts in this lesson… poor guitar 2) just strums whole note G5 power chords while guitar 1 gets all Queensryche, playing a higher version of G5 in the first bar then dropping the fifth down for a deliciously evil tritone.

Finally, in Figure 6 we have something Metallica would be proud of, where guitar 2 plays the same G5 power chord while guitar 1 alternates between an open G string (oo-er) and fretted notes. Try playing a different chord for each of 4 bars in this style, and keep the rhythm of guitar 1’s part but change the notes to match (or build upon) the new chords.