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The Devil’s Right Hand

July 25, 2013

The world needs more and better rhythm guitarists.

If you’ll allow me to get all curmudgeonly on you, I will tell you what’s wrong with music today. On most radio hits, synths and drum machines have taken over most the rhythm duties. Where there is guitar, it lacks personality. Somewhere along the line, we as a society stopped valuing great rhythm guitar work, and we are clearly worse off for it.

One of the unfortunate hallmarks of modern production is a sanding down of the rhythm. Every beat is put into place digitally. A song’s chording is run through compressors and digital overdrive to give it a focused, buzz-saw tone. It’s placement against the bass and drums is deemphasized. We allow our songs to be driven by click-tracks rather than allow it to flow organically from the musicians. It’s clear that this style has lead to the increasing homogeny of the last 15 or so years of American popular music.

If I could give one bit of advice to aspiring guitar players out there, it would be work on your right hand. This is the hand from which the rhythm flows. It can lead the band, controlling the tempo, providing accents and character to the song. Your right hand provides propulsion and defines the beat. And too many guitar players today treat it as an afterthought.

I’d like to live in a world where learning guitar meant spending as much time practicing a Bo Diddley riff as learning scales. Where we recognize that rhythm is the soul of a song. Where you can tune your radio to damn near any station and dance.

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