A performer in a rock band, and other similar genres, who performs solos or melodic lines typically on an electric guitar. Since this term applies to the role of the performer in an ensemble, any guitar can be used in this manner. The lead guitar performs over the chord progression and the underlying rhythmic accompaniment performed by the other instruments in the ensemble. Since lead guitar is a style of performing, a performer can alternate between lead guitar and rhythm guitar at any time. The lead guitar is typically found in rock bands but can also be found in bluegrass, Country & Western music, and rhythm and blues music to name a few.
Prior to the late 1930's, guitar performers in ensembles were primarily limited to the role of rhythm guitar. By the late 1930's, guitars began to perform melodic solos (written and improvised). Often, the lead guitar would perform a fill, or a riff during the pause of a melodic phrase or section of the music while the rhythm guitar kept the beat and provided the accompaniment. Eventually, the lead guitar began to trade melodic sections with the vocalist or other melody instruments. By the 1960's, the typical rock band included two electric guitars with one designated as lead guitar and one designated as the rhythm guitar.
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