Can You Play Rhythm and Lead Guitar at the Same Time?


lead and rhythm guitar

Many guitarists seem to think you have to specialize at either rhythm guitar or lead guitar, but there is another option: playing rhythm and lead guitar at the same time.

But wait: is that even possible? How would it work? Why haven’t I heard of it?

Yes, you can play rhythm and lead guitar at the same time. In fact, many famous guitarists are masters of this approach.

To help you out (and prove to you that it’s possible), I put together the list below, featuring the best guitarists at weaving in and out of lead and rhythm, combining both approaches to reach guitar mastery.

But first, let’s look at a prime example of playing lead and rhythm guitar at the same time.

An example of playing both lead and rhythm guitar

Can A Cello Play Two Notes At Once?
Can A Cello Play Two Notes At Once?

When it comes to combining lead and rhythm guitar together, Eric Johnson is one of the best. In his intro and his solos throughout this leave performance of his song “Cliffs of Dover,” you can see Johnson masterfully blend chords and rhythm playing into his lead guitar soloing. Check it out below.

Guitarists who played lead and rhythm at the same time

The following are some more examples of guitarists who were absolute masters at combing lead and rhythm approaches in their guitar playing.

  1. Jimi Hendrix
  2. Stevie Ray Vaughn
  3. Wes Montgomery
  4. Eric Johnson
  5. Steve Vai
  6. Al DiMeola
  7. Chet Atkins
  8. Tony Rice
  9. George Benson
  10. Eddie Van Halen
  11. Merle Travis
  12. Mark Knopfler
  13. Roy Clark
  14. John Frusciante
  15. John Mayer

How to listen to these guitarists for free

If you want to listen to these guitarists play rhythm and lead guitar at the same time, I really recommend doing so with Amazon Music Unlimited. If you simply sign up for their free trial, you get access to over 60 million songs completely free – and you can listen anytime, anywhere. It’s a great way to enjoy some awesome guitar playing. You can check out the free trial here.

How to play rhythm and lead guitar at the same time

If you yourself want to master this unique blending of rhythm and lead, here’s the best way to go about it. You should learn each style, but go through periods where you’re more intensively focused on one moreso than the other.

For example: the next three months I’m going to really focus on my rhythm playing, chord changes, bass walk-downs, etc etc.

Then after that, switch back to focusing on lead-oriented guitar playing.

If you keep using this approach, you’ll develop comfortability and familiarity across both styles, and they’ll start to blend seamlessly, just as they do in the guitar players listed above.

Good luck, and happy picking!

Ready to Get Better at Guitar, Faster?

Whenever you’re ready to take your guitar playing to the next level, check out a few of my favorite resources below:

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Corbin Buff

Corbin has played guitar for over a decade, and started writing about it on Acoustic World in an effort to help others. He lives and writes in western Montana.

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