Wondering what a guitarist does? Well this article helps answer questions like, “What is a guitarist?” and “What does a guitarist do?” After reading this, you’ll have everything you need to understand the many different roles of guitarists.
What Is A Guitarist? Definition
It’s always best to start with the basic definition when trying to learn something new. So let’s define a guitarist.
Simply put, a guitarist is someone who plays the guitar. More realistically, when people talk about guitarists, they usually refer to people who play the guitar professionally, either in a band or on their own.
Types of Guitar Guitarists Use
Guitarists can play many types of music and use a variety of guitars. You could compare guitarists to other artistic endeavors, such as painting. A painter is a painter, but some use watercolor or oil-based paints and can all focus on different styles or subject matter.
The main guitar types include acoustic, electric, and bass, although there’s a vast world of other guitars that may or may not fall into these categories.
Acoustic guitars usually are not amplified, meaning that you play the strings, and the instrument is the only thing that creates the noise. Electric guitars, on the other hand, are amplified and depend on external devices to relay the sound from the guitar to a speaker.
Bass guitars are a type that focuses on a deeper range of notes. While most acoustic and electric guitars have six strings, a bass guitar usually has only four. Some guitars can have 12 or even more strings.
What Does a Guitarist Do?
Now that we’ve covered “What is a guitarist?” we can move on to more specific questions. You might be wondering, “What does a guitarist do?”
If you pay attention to most movies and TV shows, you probably have a wild imagination about what guitarists do. They wake up sometime in the afternoon before barely putting on clothes and showing up to a music venue to put on a big show, then repeat the process.
In reality, very few, if any, guitarists do this regularly.
Like many creatives, guitarists have busy lives and wear multiple hats. This life often involves finding new jobs, putting effort into self-promotion, and building more-regular income, such as providing music lessons or working a different day job.
Practice, Practice, Practice
When playing the guitar, guitarists can still perform in a variety of ways. Of course, they put a lot of energy into regular practice to become more proficient and perfect their craft.
This fact is true for beginner guitarists but is also key to experienced guitarists' success. Like any skill, consistent improvement and fine-tuning are critical parts of the craft, no matter how talented one is.
While incredible guitarists can make things look very easy, that is likely the result of immense effort. Many hours have gone into honing their talent. Forming good practice habits helps hone the skill.
Playing in a Band: Rhythm and Lead
What does a guitarist do? They might be part of a band and play regular shows, also known as gigs, wherever they can get them. Many bands are constantly on tour. They schedule shows and drive or fly from location to location, getting paid by the owner of the venue or through ticket sales.
Bands will also put a lot of time and effort into recording albums. This process usually involves creating new songs and bringing that to a recording studio where the music is perfected and recorded for future playback.
Some bands use more than one guitarist to create music. The guitarist's two primary roles are playing rhythm and lead guitars.
The rhythm guitar usually plays a regular pattern of chords or music that serves as the song’s backbone along with the bass, drums, and other instruments. Don’t dismiss them as not talented. Many rhythm guitar players serve a critical role in the band.
Lead guitar players play more solos, off-hand riffs, and counter-melody, adding a bit of character to the music. Some lead singers take on the lead guitar role as well. It takes an incredible amount of talent to perform both of these functions.
Many guitarists aren’t part of a full-time band. But there are still plenty of ways to make money playing the guitar. Instead of touring, they might pick up individual gigs where they are paired with other musicians to create one-off songs or melodies.
Individual guitarists might also play gigs or record their music. They may work with music schools or independently teach others about the guitar. Providing lessons is one of the most popular ways to generate regular income.
Filling the Gaps
If you can’t tell, there are many ways that guitarists can make a living. Unfortunately, earning a stable income sufficient to cover most bills is challenging. Not only is playing the guitar an incredibly competitive skill, but it’s also one that doesn’t pay off for some people.
That is why some guitarists, if not most, have to work other jobs to make ends meet. They could be your local barista, or they could be a neurosurgeon. Or perhaps they work in a recording studio and merge their love for music with a slightly different role.
Believe it or not, many successful musicians are intelligent, hardworking individuals. They rarely adhere to the entertainment rockstar lifestyle shown in movies.
Examples of Guitarists
Chances are that you already know at least one guitarist. While they might not be making money or playing professionally, the amount of people who play the guitar at one time in their life is extremely high, with some estimates of about ten percent of the population doing so.
But the most successful guitarists are different. These people have had the skills combined with a stroke of luck and get to play the guitar for other people and make money while doing so.
Many well-known guitarists are part of bands. Here is a short list of some of the most popular guitarists:
- Jimi Hendrix
- Eric Clapton
- Jimmy Page
- Keith Richards
- Jeff Beck
- B.B. King
- Chuck Berry
- Eddie Van Halen
- Stevie Ray Vaughan
- Carlos Santana
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you can probably recognize some of these examples of guitarists. These guitarists are the cream of the crop, and if you want to break your way into the industry, you can take notes from them to find success.
Just keep in mind that guitarists can be very different. Not only do they play different types of guitars and music genres, but they can also have dramatically different playing techniques and styles. It’s paramount to find out what works best for you and stick with it.
What Does A Guitarist Do? Final Thoughts
A guitarist is someone who plays the guitar, whether they’re an amateur or a professional. They might play the acoustic, electric, or bass guitar and may play a variety of music genres.
Guitarists spend a lot of time practicing, creating music with or without a band, and recording or performing music for others to hear. They also might take on other jobs to generate enough money to cover their bills.