Melodic Chords

Because of how guitar is typically taught—chords in one lesson, scales in the next—many beginning guitarists gain the misconception that rhythm guitar and lead guitar are two entirely different approaches. Actually, these practices often overlap. The Edge’s hypnotic breakdown on U2’s 1984 hit “Pride (In the Name of Love)”—which inspired Ex. 1—is one of a zillion guitar phrases that demonstrates this fact. Is it a melody? A chord progression? Who cares! It sounds lush and lyrical.

A crucial ingredient of this combined lead/rhythm approach is major and minor seconds—whole-steps and half-steps, respectively. These intervals are present in just about any melody you can hum. In chordal situations on the guitar, open strings are very handy for generating harmonic seconds, as The Edge just proved. (If you arch your fretting fingers and let Ex. 1’s notes ring, you should hear the pleasing clang of a harmonic major or minor second in each bar measure.) Inspired by Steve Lukather’s harp-like guitar hook on Toto’s “It’s a Feeling,” Ex. 2 ups the ante and brings many more seconds to the party. How many can you count?