The Origins of Harmonized Guitar Leads

Inspired by another thread about the origin of double tracked rhythm guitars I’m starting this thread to discuss the history and myriad genres which often feature harmonized lead guitar playing.

Obviously the genres to come to mind with this are southern rock, heavy metal, and melodic death and melodic black metal.

Feel free to add favorite songs of yours that use this style in lead guitar melody part writing.

The earliest I know in a rock context is “And Your Bird Can Sing” off The Beatles Revolver (1966) George Harrison and Paul McCartney pulled this one off on their Epiphone Casinos and it has a lot of the elements that would make this style of playing memorable, scalar runs, bending into notes, etc.

I could go with a number of The Allman Brothers Band songs but “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” off Idlewild South (1970) takes the cake for me not only one of my favorite rock instrumentals but Duane Allman and Dickey Betts at arguably their finest before Duane was gone far too soon.

Classic era Alice Cooper here
Alice Cooper “Billion Dollar Babies” off Billion Dollar Babies (1973)

Anyone that’s put up with my rambling on this forum will know I am the chief Michael Schenker shill here.
UFO “Doctor, Doctor” off Phenomenon (1974). It’s worth noting that Iron Maiden heavily uses this song as intro music so it no doubt was an influence into a style of playing they are near synonymous with.

Brian May is known for his overdubbing mastery and this is to me one of his finest still.
Queen “Brighton Rock” from Sheer Heart Attack (1974)

The band that introduced the imperative need to have two lead players in a metal band. I can’t imagine how many heard that intro and never looked back set in their musical path afterwards.
Judas Priest “Victim of Changes” from Sad Wings of Destiny (1976)

What can I say about this song? The best has already been said and it’s true.
Thin Lizzy “The Boys are Back in Town” from Jailbreak (1976)

If '77 is the year punk broke is '76 the year dual lead guitar harmonies broke?
Now I vastly prefer the early period of the Eagles career with Bernie Leadon’s lead playing and the more country-rock affectations before Joe Walsh joined but there is no denying how epic the guitar part writing in this is despite it being horrendously overplayed on rock radio.
Eagles “Hotel California” off Hotel California (1976)

You knew it was coming from the man who basically crystalized the sound of layered heavy guitars in the late 70s and had recording engineers the world over scrambling to figure out how he made this album by himself essentially in his basement with equipment that he made and ushered in an era of polished hard rock for about a decade to come.
Boston “Peace of Mind” off of Boston (1976)

Molly Hatchet imo has always been the most “metallic” of the 70s southern rock groups. The harmonies in here are tight.
Molly Hatchet “Flirtin’ With Disaster” off of Flirtin’ With Disaster (1979)

And we end with the band that is the reason entire subgenres of metal use this technique. Iron Maiden. I could have gone with the various licks in “Phantom of the Opera” but this fast run in this song is it the harbinger of what was to come. They topped themselves many times over when it came to this technique and spawned legions of acolytes.
Iron Maiden “Running Free” off Iron Maiden (1980)

I’ll end with Maiden for the history bit but I’ll probably come back and add later favorites especially from later extreme metal.

Great thread! Meant to reply to you in the other one about the Beatles but I’ll do it here.

WAY before the age of information a friend and I were talking about that and he actually mentioned that beatles tune as the first he’d ever heard. So I’ve known about that for quite some time.

An honorable mention I don’t see above is this

Wikipedia says it was recorded in '69

Bonus points for me because it’s about “My Precious” lol!!! I had no idea who Gollum was when I first heard this tune from my dad’s vinyl collection


Is this a history or just your favorite songs that have them?

I’m thinking Mr Les Paul is worth investigating…


Yes he was awesome.

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A little of both. I stuck with 60s-70s for the first post I’ll add 80s later and then 90s-present will become mostly favorites and such

I ask because if favorites, this thread would go on forever. If historical that too is difficult because I’m sure they existed pre recorded history. Even in recorded history you would have to do some digging.

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I’m reviving this thread In Memory of Dickey Betts.


Comprehensive, but most of the bands mentioned in the original post here, particularly Judas Priest, were heavily inspired by Wishbone Ash’s pioneering use of guitarmony:

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Yep, and the Argus album cover by the legendary Hipgnosis art collective supposedly inspired the design of Darth Vader’s helmet in Star Wars.

Just thought of another one. Clearly not pioneers but here’s one from '74

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Yngwie during blindfold listening test - Guitar World 1994


MALMSTEEN: I like it. Very inventive twin-lead guitar in the beginning. It’s very musical, and on pitch. What they’re doing, they’re doing right. Although it doesn’t sound technical or wild, the guitarists are playing perfectly in tune. A lot of people don’t realize that guitar playing is very much like singing or playing any of the glissando-type instruments – you have to do it in tune.

GW: That was the Allman Brothers.

MALMSTEEN: I thought I’d heard it before! Back in the Seventies, I saw Dickey Betts playing a live show on TV, via satellite from the Rock Palace in Hamburg, and remember being impressed by the fact that he was playing clean and very much on pitch.

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Not pioneers by any stretch, but Radiohead are modern masters of this, with almost all of their guitar songs since the OK Computer era (and some before) having multiple melodic parts stacked in harmony or counterpoint rather than just chords plus a riff and/or solo. The two canonical examples are Let Down and Weird Fishes / Arpeggi, which have stacked guitars playing arpeggios in polymeter throughout (I must confess they don’t djent very hard, though). Another personal favorite is Bodysnatchers, where there’s a harmony lead accompanying the main riff in the first half, and harmony E-Bow legato parts in the second half.

Is that the sorta infamous Yngwie interview? Lol

It’s funny he would praise “Jessica” cause the first time I heard “Black Star” I thought it was like baroque medieval “Jessica” with the harmonized melody hook.


Yes: that was one of the more positive things he said. He also said Jeff Beck was out of tune (which I don’t think is wrong in a way), kirk hammet is awful (but metallica is great and may have been influenced by him) and Joe Satriani was boring. He was more complimentary to Steve Vai and Petrucci.

Later, I recall Joe Satriani, who usually said things like thank god for yngwie, was critical about Yngwie’s live concerto orchestra recording, and I always thought that was revenge for his blindfold test comments lol.

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His commentary on Pearl Jam is my favorite from that :rofl:

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that’s a good one …I don’t want to comment on that song anymore.

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If I’d have read that when it came out, I might gotten pissed off, but learning more about YJM from this site, I kinda get it now. He’s not really wrong about a lot of it lol