The 10 Most Underrated Rhythm Guitarists: Introduction

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What is an underrated Rhythm Guitarist?

What does ‘underrated’ mean anyway, and where do we draw the intercept between skill and obscurity? Should we go about digging through YouTube, hoping to exhume dusty players who’ve been lost to time? Or do we instead opt for more culturally relevant guitarists? For this, dear readers, we’ve passed the reins to you.

Do you feel there are any artists whose rhythm guitar, in whatever capacity, perhaps hasn’t been given its due praise?

If we were to hazard a description of rhythm guitar, we could say it’s a certain art of playing which focuses on creating or building upon the underlying rhythm of the song.

To try and make a sharp distinction between rhythm guitar and lead guitar is impractical. It wouldn’t suffice to simply say that rhythm guitar players play chords while lead players play widdly single-note melodies, although that may in part be true.

The role of a rhythm guitarist may range from strumming the chords of an entire song, to, as is often the case for the funkier side of music; sparse and rhythmic single-notes. Indeed, some of the most famous rhythm parts in history have been a subtle peppering of notes in the ‘gaps’ between the other instruments. 

Michael Jackson’s ‘Wanna be Startin’ Something’ is a prime example.

The importance of rhythm cannot be overstated, both in a band context and within the skill set of a guitarist. Although our ears and eyes are immediately drawn to the lead guitarist and singer, the humble rhythm guitarist often is the music.

You take the lead guitar or vocals out and what remains is a song, and most likely a pretty complete one at that. Remove the rhythm parts however and what you’re left with is a musically underwhelming compaction of noise, with the bass and drums struggling to create the sonic ballast we’d normally associate with a ‘full sound’.

Remove the rhythm parts however and what you’re left with is a musically underwhelming compaction of noise, with the bass and drums struggling to create the sonic ballast we’d normally associate with a ‘full sound’.

Accordingly, we feel that rhythm guitarists deserve a lot more credit. Just like Angus Young said, “it’s the rhythm thing that’s way more impressive and important to a band.”

Angus Young said “it’s the rhythm thing that’s way more impressive and important to a band.”

So over the next few weeks we’ll be uncovering the 10 Most Underrated Rhythm Guitarists, starting with no other than Angus Young’s brother and bandmate Malcolm Young.