(From top to bottom) Curtis Mayfield, Steve Cropper, Cornell Dupree, Larry Carlton, Jimmy Page, Jimmy Nolan, Grady Martin
I ’m a firm believer in the huge
importance of rhythm guitar. I’d go as far as to say
it’s the number one way guitarists make a living.
Rhythm guitar has everything to do with how you
“feel” in a band situation, and a solo-guitar or duo performance is
essentially a rhythm-guitar gig, as well. So I always stress studying
rhythm parts from the masters. I could fill pages with grooves
you should examine, but the rhythm guitar licks I learned from
these 12 players have been the backbone of my career.
• The timeless rhythm concepts of Jimi Hendrix and Curtis
Mayfield apply to many styles of music. I use them every day.
• I owe a huge debt to the Memphis sound of Steve Cropper
for rhythm-guitar licks.
• Rounding out my R&B library is the work of Cornell Dupree
in New York and Jimmy Johnson in Muscle Shoals. Hearing their
groove, it’s easy to see why these guys worked so much.
• The Los Angeles session guys who had a huge influence on countless
records are Danny Kortchmar, Steve Lukather, and Larry Carlton.
• Check out Jimmy Page for his pre-Zeppelin studio work.
• Jimmy Nolan is essential for his playing in James Brown’s band.
• Nashville’s Grady Martin shines for playing on tracks as
diverse as Marty Robbin’s “El Paso” and “Oh, Pretty Woman” by
• Richard Thompson for acoustic playing.
These players are essential listening for rhythm-guitar work,
but they are only a fraction of the people I listened to while coming
up. Study their tracks, and never underestimate the importance
of rhythm guitar in your arsenal of skills.
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