Freddie Green's Rhythm Guitar, a video worth seeing

We were talking about 6th Chords in another thread and Freddie Green came to mind.

Freddie Green was one of the great rhythm guitarists. He fit his playing to the bands and music he was in the same way as guitarists today fit their chords to the songs and styles of music they are playing. Here’s a very good video from James Chirillo on Freddie’s chord choices and rhythm playing. Notice how sparse the chords used are, often just two notes, sometimes just a single note. Freedie’s often hardly heard, more felt, in the bands he was in, but even the biggest baddest metal shredder of today is still doing the same thing even it happens to be at much louder volumes with far stranger chords. Enjoy.

Guitarist James Chirillo tells you more on how to comp like Freddie Green


OK, but for guys (like me) that don’t know the basic, more (comparative) examples are needed to be instructive

I think the short story here is that guitar parts, particularly background chords in any style don’t need to be big six-string chords. Those, I call the “orchestral chords.” This is when the guitar is covering a wide range from low to high. This can be great is needed in some styles, like Metal and other Rock styles.

Contrast those with more spare texture using, three, two, or even just a single note in place of a chord. This leaves room, “spectral frequency real estate,” in the overall band. The Bass player is playing the Bass part, the guitar covers mid-range tenor lines, and vocals, horns, etc. are playing in the upper registers.

Rather than use a full chord, use a partial chord. In the Freddie Green style, and many others, a lot of the time you’re just playing two notes, often the 1st and 6th (notes C,A for a "C Major Chord) and for a C7, you might use the 1st and b7 (notes C, Bb for a C7 Chord). In Rock/Metal/HC the “power chord” is a preferred texture – a Fifth or a Fourth (no 3rds).

Chords are “sounds” and “textures” that are used in the context of the overall composition.

If every chord is a big banging 6 note chord (or more, 7 string, 8 string, etc. guitars) and that is not part of the style, then a band or song can end up sounding “gray” – lacking color and texture. Mixing sparse chords with bigger chords adds texture and color. Try it out. As always we have to follow our ears.


thanks for explanation
I don’t think I can easily try it out anyway, because I don’t have a real guitar, but a plugin that I almost always drive in the Loop mode

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Thanks for sharing. Eye-opening for me.

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I’d like to see this added to Scaler 2, the ability to assign a range of the chord’s notes to be played, so that particularly with a guitar rhythm part, you could specify how many notes of the chord you’d like to be played, possibly tied to velocity or some other MIDI CC. Currently I use Musiclab’s range of guitar vst’s which do feature the ability to limit the strum width, but it’s still a struggle to get a decent replication of the playing style of many human guitar players.

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