Basics Of Black Metal

author: Morgal date: 04/23/2009 category: music styles
rating: 9.4 / votes: 34 
Hi readers! I wrote this article because I would like to help for beginners who already know the basic metal music techniques but want to learn the basics of black metal guitar playing. I playing black metal music for years and I have realized many things about this style of guitar playing. My lesson is about the 2nd generation of black metal (it's the 90s).I don't like the early black metal music (except Bathory by Quorthon). I think the early "black metal" music is rather heavy metal music with dark lyrics than black metal. The 2nd generation of black metal has begun with bands like Darkthrone, Mayhem, Burzum etc. To play in this style I recommend tune your guitar to standard tuning. The black metal guitar playing is mainly based on tremolo picking. It's very important technique. The most beginner guitar player cannot perform this correctly. In black metal you have to follow the blast drum beat with tremolo picking. The key to master this technique is: you have to do the up and down strokes ONLY with your wrist. Never use your arm, only the wrist moving. To play accurate with this technique, you have to stay your wrist somewhere. I tries many variations, but I think the best for me is when I play on the E-A-D string my wrist stay on the thinner strings ( G-H-E), when I play on the G-H-E strings my wrist stay on the thicker strings (E-A-D). Black metal songs' tempo is from 140bpm (Mayhem, Nargaroth, Gorgoroth) up to 200+bpm (Satyricon, Dark Funeral, Dimmu Borgir). First time practice with slower songs here comes two details of famous songs from Darkthrone and Mayhem. (Play these riffs with tremolo picking at 140bpm(16ths)) Darkthrone - Transylvanian Hunger's first riff:
E|-------------------------|
H|-------------------------|
G|-------------------------|
D|--12-10-9-10--10-9-10-9--|
A|--0--0--0-0---7--7-7--7--|
E|-------------------------|

Mayhem - Deathcrush's second riff:

E|-------------------------|
H|-------------------------|
G|-------------------------|
D|-------------------------|
A|--------------5-3--------|
E|--5-6-5-6-5-6------------|
(Play these riffs with tremolo picking at 140bpm(16ths)) Sometimes black metal guitarist use only simple fifths like in this song: Darkthrone - Under A Funeral Moon's opening riff:
E|-----------|
H|-----------|
G|-----------|
D|----8-9-8--|
A|--2-6-7-6--|
E|--0--------|
(Play this riff with tremolo picking at 140bpm(16ths)) In black metal music, guitarists sometimes use chords like in these songs. Bathory - It's A Fine Day To Die's intro (R.I.P Quorthon)
E|--------------------------------------| 
H|--------------------------------------|
G|------0--------0--------0--------0----|
D|----1---1----1---1----3---3----3---3--| ->
A|--3--------3--------3--------3--------|
E|--------------------------------------|

E|--------------------------------------| 
H|--------------------------------------|
G|------0--------0--------0--------0----|
D|----1---1----1---1----0---0----3---3--| etc...
A|--3--------3--------3--------3--------|
E|--------------------------------------|
Play this riff at 120bpm(8ths)) It's all based on C minor. In black metal music the most used mode is the minor, harmonic minor. The songs based on this two scales, because they sounds moody, dark and atmospheric. When you build your own song try to keep your riffs in minor mode. Sometimes you should use disharmonious notes in your song (for example as Mayhem did it). I show you tremolo picking and some basic riff, but it's not over. Fifths, power chords and moody melodies...now I'm gonna show you some chord variation that very useful to master your melodies and harmonies in your song. All example based on A note.
Extended Fifth (Base note + 8 half notes)
A|--8--|
E|--5--|

Fifth (Base note + 7 half notes)
A|--7--|
E|--5--|

Extended Fourth (Base note + 6 half notes)
A|--6--|
E|--5--|

Fourth (Base note + 5 half notes)
A|--5--|
E|--5--|

Major Third (Base note + 4 half notes)
A|--4--|
E|--5--|

Minor Third (Base note + 3 half notes)
A|--3--|
E|--5--|
Try this chord variations with other base notes. I'm from Hungary, so this song is from a Hungarian black metal band called Tymah (also Tuman). Listen to. Listen the song to figure out the rhythm... Tymah - Transylvanian Dreams' main riff:
E|------------------------------|
H|------------------------------|
G|------------------------------|
D|--9-10-7-9-10-7--7-8-5-7-8-5--|
A|--7-7--7-7-7--7--5-5-5-5-5-5--|
E|------------------------------|
(Play this riff with 140bpm tremolo picking) I hope I showed you some basic to play black metal. Finally I would like to write some lines about gear. As I said I recommend Standard tuning for your guitar, the "lower tunings" gives you brutal sound that perfect for death metal or grind but not for black metal. I think the melodies very important in black metal. My amp setup Gain:5 Bass:5 Mid:7 High:10, I rarely use palm muting in my music so the bass is on low. And in the and... Always make such music as your personality. It's authenticating your music...
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