Thrash Metal Guitar Playing

author: Dio10101 date: 04/02/2010 category: the guide to
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Thrash Metal. A fast and furious form of music that emphases fast and loud drums, speeding guitars and shouted vocals(but not in all instances). Thrash's heart and soul lies in the riffs, or the rhythm guitar playing(though solos are important too). All thrash players have to at least know some of these techniques, whether they be lead or rhythm players. I will use popular thrash songs and bands to explain these techniques. And by the way, I am aware Pantera isn't really a thrash band. 1. The Metallica Gallop
 Fast Q=190
  PM--------|         PM------------|
  S S E S S E E +E  E E   S S E S S E E E E E
|-----------------------|---------------------|
|-----------------------|---------------------|
|-----------------------|---------------------|
|-------------8-(8)-7---|-------------5-5-4-5-|
|-------------8-(8)-7---|-------------7-7-6-7-|
|-0-0-0-0-0-0-6-(6)-5-0-|-0-0-0-0-0-0---------|
 
  PM--------|         PM       PM
  S S E S S E E +E  E E   Q  E E Q  E E
|-----------------------|---------------|
|-----------------------|---------------|
|-----------------------|---------------|
|-------------8-(8)-7---|-4--5---5--6---|
|-------------8-(8)-7---|-4--5---5--6---|
|-0-0-0-0-0-0-6-(6)-5-0-|-2--3-0-3--4-0-|
This is the thrashy riff in Battery by Metallica. This riff is why I refer to it as the Metallica Gallop. The counting on a full measure of metallica gallops. 1-and-a 2-and-a 3-and-a 4-and-a The way I find the picking sequence easiest would Be(the count is in parenthesis): (1)Down-(And)Down-(A)Up (2)Down-(And)Down-(A)Up That is a typical trick used in thrash guitar playing. It's an essential part of any thrashers arsenal. 2. Slayer Gallop
e-----------------------------------------------------------------
b-----------------------------------------------------------------
g-----------------------------------------------------------------
d-----------------------------------------------------------------
a-----------------------------------------------------------------
e-0-0--0--0-0--0--0-0--0--0-0--0--0-0--0--0-0--0--0-0--0--0-0--0--
 
e-----------------------------------------------------------------
b-----------------------------------------------------------------
g-----------------------------------------------------------------
d---------------------------------------------3--2----------------
a------------------------------------------4--------3--2----------
e-0-0--0--0-0--0--0-0--0--0-0--0--0--2--4-------------------------
This is the galloping part of Raining Blood by Slayer. The counting on a full measure of slayer gallops would be 1-e-and 2-e-and 3-e-and 4-e-and. The way I find picking the easiest is: (1)Down-(E)Up-(And)Down (2)Down-(E)Up-(And)Down 3. Straight Ahead Chugging
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|----------------------------------------------------------------------|
|----------------------------------------------------------------------|
|-----------------5/7---8\7--5/7------------------5/7---5/7------------|
|-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-3/5-0-6\5--3/5--0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-3/5-0-3/5------------|
This is the verse riff from Master Of Puppets by Metallica. I had to modify the riff(By putting palm muted E's under some of the chord changes), but now it is a pretty much straight ahead chug. Start with it doing alternate picking, then apply the next topic(Down picking) to it once you're comfortable. I think the picking and counting are basic enough for me not to need to say more than that its all eighth notes. If you need reference for this song, its on youtube, just Search Master Of Puppets by Metallica. 4. Down Picking
|--------------------------------------------------------------------|
|--------------------------------------------------------------------|
|--------------------7---6---5---------------------------------------|
|--------------------7---6---5---------------------------------------|
|-----7-----6--------5---4---3---------------------------------------|
|-0-0---0-0---0-0---------------------0-0-7-0-0-6-0-0-5-0-4-0-3-0-2--| 
 
|--------------------------------------------------------------------|
|--------------------------------------------------------------------|
|--------------------------------------------------------------------|
|--------------------------------------------------------------------|
|-----2-----3-----4-----3-----2-2-----2-----3------5\4---5\4---5\4---|
|-0-1---0-1---0-1---0-1---0-1-----0-1---0-1---0-0--3\2-0-3\2-0-3\2---|
 
|--------------------------------------------------------------------|
|--------------------------------------------------------------------|
|-------------------------------------------------------------4------|
|-------------------------------------------------------------4------|
|-----2-----3-----4-----3-----2-2-----2-----3-----4-----3-----2------|
|-0-1---0-1---0-1---0-1---0-1-----0-1---0-1---0-1---0-1---0-1--------|
These are two down picking exercises that are very difficult. They are also from the song Master Of Puppets By Metallica. Start with them as slow as you need to, and keep working up the speed, but no cheating and using alternate. 5. Getting Stamina Stamina is basically energy of the ability to do things for sustained periods of time. Thrash riffs can be tiring on the right arm(assuming that you play right handed), so practicing these sorts of techniques everyday is a major focal point to getting comfortable with them, and being able to play them for elongated periods of time. 6. Power Chords
|-------------------------|
|-------------------------|
|-------------------------|
|-4~---5~-----------------|
|-2~---3~-----4/5----5----|
|-----------0-2/3--0-3----|
             *      *
|--------------------|
|--------------------|
|-4~---5~------------|
|-4~---5~------------|
|-2~---3~---------2--|
|-----------0-2-3-0--|
This example is from the intro to Mechanix By Megadeth.Power Chords are easily the most used guitar chord, but still are very useful. The easiest way to play them is to use your pointer finger to fret the lowest note, then your ring to fret the next note, and then the pinky to fret the highest note. Being able to move power chords around fast(such as in the master of puppets verse riff I showed you earlier) is a very useful skill, and is used by many thrash bands. 7. Deth Major Chord
e|---------------------------------------|
B|---------------------------------------|
G|------------4---3----------------------|
D|------------5---4----------------------|
A|-5-6-7--------0---0--5-6-7------5--6-5-|
E|-------000-----------------0000-6--7-6-|
 
e|------------------------------------------|
B|------------------------------------------|
G|------------------------------------------|
D|-----------5---4--------------------------|
A|-5-6-7-----7---6----5-6-7-------------1-2-|
E|-------000---0---0---------0000-2~--0-2-3-|
    
e|-------------------------------|
B|-------------------------------|
G|-------------------------------|
D|-------------------------------|
A|-4-----4----2-4-5-----5--4-2---|
E|-5-0-0-5--0-3-5-6-0-0-6--5-3-5-|
 
e|------------------------------------|
B|------------------------------------|
G|------------------------------------|
D|------------------------------------|
A|----------5--4-2-------------8--7-5-|
E|-3p0-0000-6--5-3-5--3p0-0000-6--5-3-|
This is from Holy Wars... The Punishment Due by Megadeth. The Deth chord is the first chord you see in the riff. The easiest way to finger this chord is to finger the low note with your index finger, and finger the next one with your middle finger. This is a good chord to use when you wanna go off the beaten path. 8. Diad (Dime Chord)
E||-----------------|-----------------||------------------||
B||-----------------|-----------------||------------------||
G||-----------------|-----------------||------------------||
D||-1/2-1/2---22211-|-1/2-1-----------||-1/2-1------------||
A||-2/3-2/3---33322-|-2/3-2-0---------||-2/3-2-0---222-20-||
E||-----------------|-------2---------||-------2---333-32-||
This is the first distorted riff in The Sleep by Pantera.This is a chord shape that works best in conjunction with the Deth chord(based on my experimentation). This riff doesn't have the fully fretted form of it, but it has the same intervals. For the fully fretted form, you would use your ring finger to fret the low note, and your index to fret the higher note. 9. Vibrato Vibrato is when you basically shake the string while you sustain it. It adds life to the note, and also improves sustain. This is especially important during solos. 10. Tremolo Picking
e-----------------------------------------------------------------
b-----------------------------------------------------------------
g-----------------------------------------------------------------
d-----------------------------------------------------------------
a-----------------------------------------------------------------
e-0-0-0-0-1-1-7-7-6-6-6-3-3-3-3-3-0-0-0-0-1-1-7-7-6-6-6-3-3-3-3-3-
 
e-----------------------------------------------------------------
b-----------------------------------------------------------------
g-----------------------------------------------------------------
d-----------------------------------------------------------------
a-----------------------------------------------------------------
e-4-4-4-4-4-4-8-8-7-7-7-7-7-7-8-8-4-4-4-4-4-4-8-8-7-7-7-7-7-7-8-8-
 
e-----------------------------------------------------------------
b-----------------------------------------------------------------
g-----------------------------------------------------------------
d-----------------------------------------------------------------
a-----------------------------------------------------------------
e-0-0-0-0-1-1-7-7-6-6-6-3-3-3-3-3-0-0-0-0-1-1-7-7-6-6-6-3-3-3-3-3-
 
e-----------------------------------------------------------------
b-----------------------------------------------------------------
g-----------------------------------------------------------------
d-----------------------------------------------------------------
a-----------------------------------------------------------------
e-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-
This is the riff under the whammy barring and madness at the end of Raining Blood by Slayer. Tremolo picking is basically when you take a string, or strings, and just pick about as fast as you can, to try and just make it sound like buzzing. I don't know if this part is actually tremolo picked, but it can be easily done that way. If you have trouble with it at first, then just try on one string and eventually keep working it. This can also be done on higher strings(or the same low ones) during solos. 11. Hick(1/4 step) Bends(Got the term from Dimebag Darrell
|----------------------------------------------------------------------------
|----------------------------------------------------------------------------
|----------------------------------------------------------------------------
|----------------------------------------------------------------------------
|---------------------------------------7p5----7-----5b----------------------
|--0--0--0--0--0--0--0--0--0--0--0--0--------7-----7----7--6--5---3--5--3----
 
|----------------------------------------------------------------------------
|----------------------------------------------------------------------------
|----------------------------------------------------------------------------
|-----------------------------------------5b-----------------5b--------------
|--------------------------------7p5------------7p5---7p5-----------7p5------
|--0----0----0----0----0----0----------7-------------------7-----------------
This is the chugging riff from Revolution is My Name By Pantera. The little 'b' stands for where you would put the hick bend. Doing a hick bend is basically pulling on the string just so that it goes a 1/4 step or so, it will give similar sound(as long as you dont hit 1/2 step). 12. 6/8 Time
|----------------------------------------------------------------------------
|----------------------------------------------------------------------------
|----------------------------------------------------------------------------
|----------------------------------------------------------------------------
|---------------------------------------7p5----7-----5b----------------------
|--0--0--0--0--0--0--0--0--0--0--0--0--------7-----7----7--6--5---3--5--3----
 
|----------------------------------------------------------------------------
|----------------------------------------------------------------------------
|----------------------------------------------------------------------------
|-----------------------------------------5b-----------------5b--------------
|--------------------------------7p5------------7p5---7p5-----------7p5------
|--0----0----0----0----0----0----------7-------------------7-----------------
You may notice this is the same example I used before. I'm using it because it can be interpreted as 6/8 time, which is basically triplet time. In 6/8 there are six eight notes(or two sets of triplets) to a measure(as opposed to 8 eight notes, which is 4/4), and provides a feel similar to this song, and some Lamb Of God songs. 13. Scales There are plenty of places on this site to learn a lot of scales. The ones i recommend to learn are Pentatonic/Blues(pay special attention to the 4th note in the blues scale), natural minor, Harmonic Minor(Natural minor with a raised 7th tone), The phrygian mode, the whole tone scale and the diminished scale. Remember to mix and match these scales, to get a variety of interesting sounds when you write riffs. I cannot stress the mix and match point enough, because it helps make thrash riffs sound diverse. 14. Hammer On's and Pull Off's
|-----------------------|
|-----------------------|
|-----------------------|
|-------------0---------|
|-5/7--5/7--------2p0--2|
|--------------------3-0|
First off, I apologize for needing to butcher the tab for I'm Broken By Pantera(it was in drop D, but the actual thing is in standard tuning). This riff utilizes the pull off and the hammer ons. The dash stands for a hammer on, and the p stands for a pull off. To do a hammer on you have a note ringing and then put another finger on a fret above the one thats ringing, without picking it. A pull off is when you have a note ringing and you pull your finger off to hit a note behind it without picking the note. 15. Pick Scrape In this technique, you simply take your pick and scrape it on the strings, usually going down the neck(though not always). 16. Alternate tunings Thrash bands use a number of different tunings. Some of the major kinds are Drop tuning(which i absolutely detest due to the fact its a cheaters tuning), in which you take a standard tuning, such as E, and drop the lowest string down a whole tone. That makes it possible to just slap your fingers across the first three strings and play a power chord. Another is standard tuning. Which is the most normal tuning(EADGBE) you can also drop the strings to other tunings such as Eb standard, D Standard, D# standard and so on and so forth. 17. Whammy Tricks(Locking Trem players only) Some thrash bands(notably Pantera) use whammy tricks to spice up solos. A very simple trick is the dive bomb. To do a dive bomb, just hit a note(fretted or open) and just depress the bar, and eventually let it back up. Another trick is a harmonic scream. First you hit a harmonic, and then you just move the bar around until you get the desired pitch(or effect). Those are the big ones, and I don't want to turn this into a whammy bar lesson(though I do encourage you to try and hit more then one harmonic at once and then mess around with the bar). 18. Building Speed Speed is the essence of thrash metal. To gain speed, first find how fast you can go(using a metronome) without being sloppy, and gradually increase the speed as you get your playing clean at each speed. This is what to do for rhythm and solos. This is also relevant outside of Thrash metal. These are the essentials of Thrash Metal guitar playing. Thanks for reading.
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