Live playing : getting the lead to cut through the rythm


New member

Whether during rehearsal or in live situation, with a 2 guitar band, how would you set up both guitars/amp/Fx for sonic balance ?

First thing first, when both guitars are playing the rythm parts what are your views on their respective EQ-ing, Fx, etc.


What is your take on the lead guitar, for it to be heard, cutting through the rythm mayhem all around (rythm guit, bass & drum).

Thanks a whole lot in advance, we, as a band have quite difficulties properly adjusting our sound balance. Your help and advices are more than welcome !



Illuminatius Overlordious
What I have found that works for me is to tweak the mid-high and high EQs of each guitar so they are not overlapping at specific frequency ranges but fill in the whole spectrum when they are both playing. I also pan them around 10 - 2 respectively.

Another thing that seems to really bring it out is to add a little stereo separation on the lead with a 20-40 millisecond delay on the left or right channel, this widens the position of the guitar and outs it in a different space.



Just another guy, really.
Make sure everyone, esp. your two guitarist, can find the ONE knob that is all-important in that kind of situation- the one that keeps their egos from being turned up too much! Seriously, guitarist who are being band members before being lead guitarist are golden. Be THAT guy! (Well, THOSE guys.) It will go far towards fixing the problem- actually, it might make it a non-problem.


New member
Stevieb....that view of yours on the subject is very wise. I totally agree with you. I'm one of the 2 guitarists and I can report that the 2 guitarists here are really not into an ego thing at all. We're into having an as good as possible sound AS A BAND. At 45 and 47 years old, we, the guitar guys, sort of "been there-done that" and we're now into playng with our band as a side line pleasure in life. I'd get out of the band if anyone of us was into music for the "ego" thing. What matters is simply 2 things: fun and efficiency.



The truth is out there!
if the band has two different amps/guitars, they will probably sound pretty good on their own anyway without a lot of tweaking.

for leads to bust through...boost pedal.


prophet of Dave
Hmmm I know your predicament! Well obviously you don't want to be in the same freq. range and you want the lead a little louder probably. I like to wah my lead up pretty good. And I'd stay away from reverb for the lead...that'll make you melt back too much.


The truth is out there!
or just rock out and nobody will care what it sounds like and they'll buy your cd where you can show them how awesome you sound!


"Hi, I'm in Delaware."
I dunno, for recording I find that reverb on vocals gives me nice separation from everything else. I don't mean a ton of it, just a hint.


New member
You might also try to reduce the amount of distortion on one of the two guitars (either dial down the pedal or use a cleaner amp). typically this would be done for the rhythm and the lead would have the more distorted sound.


Son of Yoda
I used to just shoot a "Now you STFU for a minute" look across to my rhythm guitarist last time I was in this position... seemed to work OK....

But seriously, I've met many musicians who don't really get on-stage dynamics and think that they need to play all loud all of the time as it portrays emotion and feeling or some such shit... really, people need to learn when to play loud and when to back off a bit to allow other instruments (including vocalist) to "breathe"...

Will do more for you than EQ...


Just another guy, really.
Well, scaron, it appears I have hijacked your thread, simply by answering your question! So sorry.

But really, as you both are reasonable fellows, the only other thing I can suggest is listening to how the band sounds, from the audience's perspective. Trust your sound man! If you are both playing rhythm, it often helps for you to be playing the chords in different positions- one of you in first postion "cowboy chords," the other up the neck. Makes balancing the two guitars easier, and keeps things from getting muddy.


Recording Modus Operandi
one of you in first postion "cowboy chords," the other up the neck.
That works + just like during the singing parts everyone in the band needs to turn down during leads. It's also a good idea to learn how to turn down using playing technique instead of lowering the volumes. Think of total acoustic do they do it?

Music arrangement also has a big effect on the sound cutting through. When two are palying the same thing only the louder one will be heard.

Use a graphic equalizer to ring out the room and parametrics to shape the sound of your instruments.


Just another guy, really.
Learning to play dynamics is one of the key differences between mere "players" and true "musicians." Not an easy skill to acquire, but worth the time.


If you're gonna use a boost pedal for leads, get the fucking timing right. There's nothing cheesier than going into a lead and hitting the boost a measure late, and turn it off on-time as you go back into rhythm mode.


The truth is out there!
Of you could do what a lot of classic rockers do and ride the volume knob. Lower would be less volume and gain. Higher will kick in some more gain and volume. I saw jimmie page do this and it changed my world. He never used any pedals that I saw and just controlled his sound through the pickups, tone, and volume knobs. Amazing tonal differences just from the guitar.


*insert clever title here
regarding boosting signals, I use a 7 band EQ pedal for leads and solos. if you've got the $130+ to spend buy the Boss pedal. I use a POS Behringer. it's made of plastic and feels really cheap, but it gets the job done. plus it was like $35 new


if one of you plays ALL the leads, you could try scooping some of the mids on the rhythm guitar and/or boosting them on the lead

the STFU look works pretty well too


New member
I have played in bands for nearly 40 years, and I have found that these tips helpful: 1) Make sure the DRUMS are not too loud-get away from hard sticks which and use rods if necessary; 2) Avoid having instruments double the same part as much as possible-seperate them either by playing in different registers or rhythmically distinct parts; 3) scoop the mids a bit on the rhythm section instruments so they are not trying to occupy the same sonic real estate as the vocals and lead instruments; 4) Know when NOT to play--arrange your songs so that there is space for all the parts.

Hope this helps!