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RENT – Detailed Notes on the Guitar 2 / Keyboard Book

Music, Lyrics & Book: Jonathan Larson
Year: 1996

In this article, I take detailed look at the guitar parts for the RENT Guitar 2 / Keyboard book. The book is mostly keyboard parts, with guitar on only 14 of the 43 numbers in the show. I cover equipment requirements and electric guitar tones, describe the different versions of the score, provide some general observations on playing the book, and comment on each of the 14 guitar parts.

Let me start by saying that I have never actually performed this book, and probably never will, because it’s mainly a keyboard book and I am not a keyboard player. However, I did study the book in detail when preparing a combined Guitar 1 & 2 book (see my notes on that subject here). For this article I revisited the book, played through the parts and listened carefully to the Broadway Cast Recording.

DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF THE GUITAR 2 / KEYBOARD BOOK
There are three versions of the Guitar 2 / Keyboard book for RENT:

  • Hand-Written: the original hand-written version of the score.
  • Typeset: the typeset version superseded the hand-written version, and is now the official licensed rental material provided by MTI. In terms of content, there are no significant differences between the Typeset and Hand-Written versions.
  • School Edition: also typeset, but with edits to tone down some of the more adult content. I provide a list of changes made in the School Edition here.

rent-g2-handwritten-vs-typset

EQUIPMENT
The following equipment is required to play the Guitar 2 book:

  • Electric guitar: I recommend a “Strat”-style guitar, with single-coil pickups. The bridge pickup is used throughout. A Telecaster would also work for this show. The thicker tones of a Gibson-style humbucker are not suitable for the material.
  • Acoustic guitar: a standard 6-string acoustic, fitted with a pickup.
  • Amplification: required for both acoustic and electric guitars. I do not recommend running the acoustic guitar through an electric guitar amplifier. A DI (Direct Input) to the house sound would also work for the acoustic guitar.
  • Effects: compressor, overdrive, distortion (or heavy overdrive) and tremolo effects are required for the electric guitar. As an alternative, the overdrive and distortion tones could be generated using the electric guitar amplifier, if it has sufficient flexibility in terms of channels. No effects are needed for the acoustic guitar.
  • Capo: a capo for the acoustic guitar is required.

ELECTRIC GUITAR TONES
Three basic electric guitar tones are required for the RENT Guitar 2 book:

  • Clean: pickup position 4 (bridge and middle pickups. Crisp and bright. Used for #43: “Exit Music” only.
  • Overdrive: bridge pickup. Bright overdrive sound, but not full-on distortion.
  • Heavy Overdrive: bridge pickup, humbucker mode. A thicker, but still bright, distorted heavy tube overdrive. A distortion pedal would also be suitable.

When setting up the guitar sounds, I recommend working with the Guitar 1 player to dial in sounds that are sufficiently different in terms of EQ from the Guitar 1 sounds, to avoid a mushy mix when the two are playing together. In general I suggest going for slightly less overdrive/heavy overdrive than Guitar 1, and using slightly brighter, “scratchier” tones to suit the parts, which are predominantly simple rhythm.

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON THE GUITAR 2 / KEYBOARD BOOK
Like the Guitar 1 book, the Guitar 2 parts for RENT are not particularly detailed, making liberal use of slash notation. However, this is less problematic than for Guitar 1, because the parts are mainly simple rhythm playing to fill out the sound; for this reason the charts are mostly adequate.

The book doesn’t always indicate which guitar tone to use, and I have included recommendations in my detailed commentary below. Page turns are good throughout, and there are very few errors. There are a few quick instrument changes, which I have also noted in the detailed commentary.

RENT School Edition - Seattle Children's Theatre, 2018

RENT School Edition – Seattle Children’s Theatre, 2018
Image courtesy of Seattle Children’s Theatre & ©2018 Eva Blanchard

SONG-BY-SONG DETAILED REVIEW
In the following notes, I cover only the 14 numbers where guitar is required. In all other numbers, Guitar 2 is either playing keyboards or Tacet. The notes are mostly brief, because the Guitar 2 parts are quite simple, and the level of detail in the score is adequate in most places, unlike the Guitar 1 book. These notes are based on the Typeset version of the Guitar 2 / Keyboard book, although I do refer to the Handwritten and School Edition books to point out differences and errors.

These notes will be more meaningful if read in conjunction with the Guitar 2 / Keyboard score, and are intended to help players preparing to play the show.

#03: Rent
Instrument: electric guitar, bridge pickup.
Tone: heavy overdrive throughout.

Technique: this is such a great number to play, and Guitar 2 has more to do than in any of the other numbers, so dig in and enjoy. It’s mostly straight 1/8-note rhythm work while Guitar 1 takes on most of the flashy lead parts. There are a lot of slash notes in the score, so here’s a detailed walk-through with my suggestions:

  • m.2-10: the intro section. Play obvious power chord voicings (no 3rds) and play the rhythm as written. Play the lead line in m.9-10 as written.
  • m.11-36: first two verses. Play 1/8-note rhythm using power chord voicings (no 3rds) very slightly muted throughout.
  • m.37-45: continue the slightly muted 1/8-note rhythm, but drop to pianissimo as written. Crescendo throughout to m.42. At m.43-45 play big, loud unmuted chords as written.
  • m.46-50: this is the intro section again, but Guitar 2 is shown as Tacet in the score. It shouldn’t be (and isn’t on the Broadway cast recording). Play m.6-10 again here.
  • m.51-63: third verse. Play 1/8-note rhythm using power chord voicings (no 3rds) very slightly muted throughout.
  • m.64-72: same as m.37-45. Continue the slightly muted 1/8-note rhythm, but drop to pianissimo as written. Crescendo throughout to m.69. At m.70-72 play big, loud unmuted chords as written.
  • m.100-101: big but crisp F and C chords on the downbeats of these 2 measures. I usually play these at the 8th fret.
  • m.102-110: same as m.37-45. Play the slightly muted 1/8-note rhythm, but drop to pianissimo as written. Crescendo throughout to m.106. At m.107-110 play big, loud unmuted chords as written.
  • m.111-118: guitar solo! This is actually a duet with Guitar 1. The parts are synchronized, so it’s worth practicing a few times with Guitar 1 to get it sounding tight. Play as written.
  • m.127-139: play the rhythm as written. I recommend low voicings (1st-3rd frets).
  • m.143-165: play straight 1/8-note power chords, tightly in sync with the bass. Start loud, and gradually get louder and build the intensity through to m.165.
  • m.166-171: play fortissimo, ringing power chords (no 3rds). The rhythm shown in m.166 should be used for all 6 measures. I usually play the G at the 10th fret and the D at the 5th.
  • m.172-177: play muted 1/8-note power chords. Start very quiet and build to forte at the end of m.177.
  • m.178-190: play big power chords with the rhythm as written. I typically start forte at m.178, rising to fortissimo from m.182 to the end. Let the chords ring and really dig into it. For the fermata at m.189, tremolo strum for as long as needed.

#07: One Song Glory
Instrument: acoustic guitar, capo at 2nd fret (Note: the School Edition score also says to capo at 2nd fret. This is an error: it should be 1st fret, because the song is dropped half a step).
Tone: clean, no effects.

Technique: Guitar 2 plays only in the middle, louder section of the song (m.45-60). It’s straightforward acoustic rhythm, and the obvious, full, low voicings should be used. Two tips:

  • The chord names in the score are the shapes you should play with the capo on. For example, where the score says to play “E” you’re voicing it like an “E” but actually playing “F#” because of the capo.
  • Rhythm: The rhythm should be straight 1/8 notes, as shown in m.45, but where 1/8-note rests are shown, keep strumming and mute the strings instead. I provide an example below.

rhythm-1-song-glory-g2

#11: You’ll See
Instrument: acoustic guitar.
Tone: clean, no effects.

Technique: for Guitar 2, most of this number is a repeated picked arpeggio, over and over again, in sync with a more complex Guitar 1 picking pattern. It’s very repetitive and it’s easy to get lost. The original handwritten score includes notes identifying the start of each verse and chorus but these are missing from the Typeset and School Edition scores. I suggest marking them in. For reference they are:

Start of Intro: m.9 / Verse 1: m.15 / Chorus: m.35 / Verse 2: m.39 / Chorus: m.57 / Chorus: m.81.

It’s also easy to rush this number; a steady tempo and remaining in sync with Guitar 1 is essential, so listen carefully and count time!

The score helpfully gives chord voicings for most of the middle section (m.61-80). Where slash marks are given, a 16th-note strumming pattern should be used.

#14: Out Tonight
Instrument: electric guitar, bridge pickup.
Tone: heavy overdrive. Add tremolo pedal for m.93-98 only

Technique: this number can be played pretty much as written. Guitar 2 plays mostly chugging 1/8-note rhythm using the obvious power chord voicings (no 3rds). Guitar 1 plays a more flashy set of riffs over the rhythm section. For the arpeggios in m.93-98 of the half-time section, add a tremolo pedal. There’s a quick change to acoustic guitar at the end of the number.

#15: Another Day
Instrument: acoustic guitar.
Tone: clean, no effects.

Technique: Guitar 2 plays simple fifth chords an octave above Guitar 1 for m.6-13 and again for m.72-75 (Roger’s verses). Play as written. The rest of the number is keyboard. The m.72-75 section is cut from the School Edition. There’s a very quick change to electric guitar at the end of the number, for the downbeat of #16: “Will I”.

RENT School Edition - Seattle Children's Theatre, 2018

Support Group
Image courtesy of Seattle Children’s Theatre & ©2018 Eva Blanchard

#16: Will I
Instrument: electric guitar, bridge pickup.
Tone: overdrive.

Technique: slowly strum a “D” chord, hold for 2 measures, then change to keyboards. That’s it – next!

#22a: Over The Moon – Playoff
Instrument: electric guitar, bridge pickup.
Tone: overdrive.

Technique: play major chords (8th fret for F, 6th fret for Eb). They should be crisp and slightly staccato, with a “choppy” feel.

#25: Happy New Year A
Instrument: acoustic guitar.
Tone: clean, no effects.

Technique: Guitar 2 plays acoustic rhythm throughout, using obvious, low chord voicings and an 1/8-note rhythm. Fill in with some muted 1/8-note rhythm in the rests to keep the rhythm going. Otherwise play as written.

RENT School Edition - Seattle Children's Theatre, 2018

Happy New Year
Image courtesy of Seattle Children’s Theatre & ©2018 Eva Blanchard

#28: Happy New Year B
Instrument: acoustic guitar.
Tone: clean, no effects.

Technique: this number is a continuation of #25. Guitar 2 plays acoustic rhythm throughout, using obvious, low chord voicings and an 1/8-note rhythm. Fill in with some muted 1/8-note rhythm in the rests to keep the rhythm going. Otherwise play as written.

#36: Halloween
Instrument: acoustic guitar.
Tone: clean, no effects.

Technique: the guitar parts for Halloween are really one part split between the two guitars. Guitar 1 has the “treble” and Guitar 2 the “bass”. The Guitar 2 part should be played crisply and cleanly with a pick, and exactly as written. Tempo should be very steady – don’t rush and be sure to stay completely in sync with Guitar 1.

#37: Goodbye Love
Instrument: electric guitar, bridge pickup.
Tone: heavy overdrive (or use a distortion pedal).

Technique: Guitar 2 plays the root note of the chord sequence throughout m.25-56. This should be played aggressively to match the action on stage. On the cast recording, the guitarist slides up and down slightly between the notes, which sounds very effective.

#38: What You Own
Instrument: electric guitar, bridge pickup.
Tone: overdrive (with light tremolo m.31-38 and m.63-70)

Technique: Guitar 2 has a bit more to do on this number than just straight rhythm, and there are some errors in the Typeset score. Here’s a run-through:

  • m.31, 33, 35: the “B” whole notes are incorrect. These should be whole note chords (A2 at m.31 & 35, A2/G at m.33). They are shown correctly as chords in the Handwritten score.
  • m.37: the G2 chord is incorrect. It should be A2/G. This is shown incorrectly in all versions of the score.
  • m.39-45: play 1/8-note rhythm as shown using the obvious power chord voicings (no 3rds).
  • m.46: play a ringing E5 power chord at the 7th fret.
  • m.47-62: chorus section. This should be played more or less as written. There is some sloppiness in the transcription:
    • m.51 and m.55 should be played the same as m.47.
    • m.57-58 should be played the same as m.49-50.
    • m.60 should be an E5 power chord at the 7th fret.
    • m.62: this should be a whole note A2 chord, not a “B” note. It is shown correctly in the Handwritten score.
  • m.63, 65, 67: the “B” whole notes are incorrect. These should be whole note chords (A2 at m.63 & 67, A2/G at m.65). They are shown correctly as chords in the Handwritten score.
  • m.69: the G2 chord is incorrect. It should be A2/G. This is shown incorrectly in all versions of the score.
  • m.71-77: play 1/8-note rhythm as shown using the obvious power chord voicings (no 3rds).
  • m.78: play a ringing E5 power chord at the 7th fret.
  • m.79-94: second chorus. This should be played more or less as written. Again there are some transcription errors and sloppiness:
    • m.89-90: should be played the same as m.81-82.
    • m.92: should be a ringing E5 chord at the 7th fret, not a “B” note. This is shown correctly in the Handwritten score.
  • m.95-102: play as written.
  • m.111-126: play low-voiced power chords.
  • m.127-144: third chorus. More errors:
    • m.137-138: play the same as m.129-130.
    • m.140 and m.144: these should be ringing “F” power chords, not “B” notes. These are shown correctly in the Handwritten score.
  • m.145-152: outro section. At m.145, the score says “solo till end”, but I can’t hear any solo on the cast recording and it makes little sense to be soloing at this point. I recommend playing straight 1/8-note rhythm.

Frankly, this number is the worst transcription in the book, as it is for Guitar 1, and could do with being reworked.

RENT School Edition - Seattle Children's Theatre, 2018

Your Eyes
Image courtesy of Seattle Children’s Theatre & ©2018 Eva Blanchard

#41: Your Eyes
Instrument: acoustic guitar.
Tone: clean, no effects.

Technique: the first section of this number (m.1-18) is meant to be played by the on-stage guitar, but Guitar 2 should be ready to play it if the actor is unable to, because these measures are marked as rest in the Guitar 1 book. The score has only slash marks and indicates arpeggios. However, the School Edition has the part written out in full (note that the School Edition has 2 additional measures in the intro section). The arpeggios should be the obvious low voicings for the chords given. From m.19 onwards, play exactly as written. Both Guitar 1 and 2 play to m.37.

#43: Exit Music (“I’ll Cover You”)
Instrument: electric guitar, bridge (in single coil mode) and middle pickups (Position 4).
Tone: clean with compressor throughout.

This is an extended reprise of #19: “I’ll Cover You”, with a solo for everyone. Guitar 2 has the lead from m.21-33. See notes on #19: “I’ll Cover You” in my Detailed Notes on the Guitar 1 Book for tips on rhythm and technique. Much as I love this song, it’s makes for a slightly anti-climactic curtain call. Most productions I have worked on have used either #43: “Finale B”, starting at m.54 (i.e. the loud bit!), or the last part of #38: “What You Own”.

LINKS – ON THIS SITE
RENT – A Perspective On An Iconic Musical
Playing RENT – Guitar 1 and Guitar 2 (includes full details of equipment used and setup)
RENT – Detailed Notes On The Guitar 1 Book
RENT Combined Guitar Book details – measure-by-measure details of how to prepare a combined book
List of differences between RENT and RENT School Edition (focuses on Guitar books)

LINKS – EXTERNAL
RENT – Wikipedia page
RENT – Original Broadway Cast Recording
RENT – Licensing Information (MTI)
RENT School Edition – Licensing Information (MTI)
Seattle Children’s Theatre

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Josh Freilich #

    In the Guitar 2 chair, the “solo till end” moment of “What You Own” doesn’t necessarily have to be like hard rock soloing, maybe some “The Edge” style jangly/ringing notes on the higher register? Does that work?

    Like

    November 6, 2019
    • Hi Josh, this is an odd one, because I find it hard to hear any soloing for G2 under the prominent G1 rhythm part on the original recording. But since G1 is so rhythmic at the end there’s no reason why a G2 solo wouldn’t work. As for style I reckon something ringing would sound good – as long as your Music Director likes it!

      Like

      November 5, 2019

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