Metal Guitar

In this lesson I'll be guiding you through the fundamentals of metal rhythm playing. This lesson has been designed for the beginner guitarist who is new to metal playing and technique.

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In this lesson I'll be guiding you through the fundamentals of metal rhythm playing. This lesson has been designed for the beginner guitarist who is new to metal playing and technique.

Let's start with a chord commonly associated with metal guitar playing. Without question the most common chord by a long shot: The powerchord.

e-------------
B-------------
G-------------
D-----9-------
A-----7-------
E-------------
That simple shape can be moved anywhere on the guitar (apart from the G string, it's beyond the scope of this lesson to say why, sorry). For metal it will be used almost solely on the E and A strings.

Their use are vast, powerchords (or 5th chords are they are also known as) are used in pretty much every style of playing. Here are just two examples of powerchords at work.

e------------------------------------------
B------------------------------------------
G------------------------------------------
D----7--7/9-9--12\11-12\11-12\11--7-7/9-9--
A-9--5--5/7-7--10\9--10\9--10\9---5-5/7-7--
E-7----------------------------------------
Iron Man by Black Sabbath.
e------------------------------------------------------------------------
B------------------------------------------------------------------------
G------------------------------------------------------------------------
D--------------------------3---------------------------------3-----------
A-------5-------7-------5--1--4--------5-------7-------5-----1--4--3-----
E-0-0-0-3-0-0-0-5-0-0-0-3-----2--0-0-0-3-0-0-0-5-0-0-0-3-0-0----2--1-----
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Metallica

Down picking vs. alternate picking

To be a versatile rhythm player it will come as no shock when I say you will have to be well skilled in both down and alternate picking. Both have their strong and weak points and both can bring their own sound to the same piece of music.

Down picking gives you more attack, use it when you want your rhythm playing to sound at its heaviest. Practice it a lot and you can get it impressively fast (the master of puppets riffing is all down picked) but no matter what it will always be slower and harder to play at fast speeds than alternate picking.

What you lose in attack and heaviness with alternate picking you gain speed and the ability to do quick bursts of notes to add interest. Alternate picking also sounds less rigid and more flowing than only down picks.

/ and \ = slide

Here's a little example (albeit, very generic). Try this using down picks for the open strings then try it again using alternate picking, hear the difference in the two and try to incorporate a bit of both in your own playing.

e-----------------------------------------------------------
B-----------------------------------------------------------
G-----------------------------------------------------------
D--------------9-------------7-------------9-------------9--
A--------------7-------------5-------------8-------------7--
E--0--0--0--0----0--0--0--0----0--0--0--0----0--0--0--0-----
The trademark chugging' metal rhythm is achieved by repeated playing the low E string using down picking, which sounds simple enough, but with a lot of distortion and volume this can easily get messy, that's where the next metal technique comes in to play: Palm Muting.

Palm Muting is a technique where you mute with your picking hand by resting it on the bridge, slightly on your strings, creating a muted effect. I recommend you check out videos of great metal rhythm players such as James Hetfield, Scott Ian, whoever you are into, they all do it. Look at their picking hand and notice how they play. There is no getting around it, everyone in metal needs to be able to palm mute proficiently.

This dampening of the strings enables you to control the distortion easier. At first it is best to do it just with the open E string, making sure you are keeping a steady beat (using a metronome will help). When you have mastered it find some songs to try it out on. Here's another section from for whom the bell tolls' by Metallica (this is quite a good song to learn for beginners).

PM------------------------------------|
 
e:------------------------------------|
B:------------------------------------|
G:------------------------------------|
D:----------------------------------4-|
A:-2-5-4-3--2-5-4-3--2-5-4-3--2-5-4-2-|
E:-0-3-2-1--0-3-2-1--0-3-2-1--0-3-2---|
With what you have learned so far: Powerchords, open e riffing and palm muting, you could easily make a start on writing your own riffs. But let's delve a bit deeper....

I recommend if you don't already know the notes along the E and A strings you start to learn them, it will make writing your own and understanding other peoples music easier in the long run. Start by remembering the notes on the frets with dots, and then learn the ones in between.

Now we are going to look at some intervals that sound good in a metal context. I'm not going into the theory behind it in this lesson as it's not necessary. All I'll say is this; the intervals that sound best in metal are the minor, perfect and diminished intervals. Intervals come in two forms; Melodic where the two notes are played separately and Harmonic where the two notes are played together.

e-------------------
B-------------------
G-------------------
D-----9--------7----
A-----7--------7----
E-------------------
Perfect 5th

We have already looked at the perfect fifth interval it's the powerchord shape. The perfect 4th is being used more frequently but is still quite rare, it is easy to play and can add a new sound if used in conjunction with the perfect 5th.

Perfect 4th

e-------------------

Minor intervals can be a welcome change from constant powerchord riffing. The minor 6th interval resolves nicely to a perfect 5th and is used often in metal. The minor 3rd is an important interval is used frequently regardless of genre.

B-------------------
G-------------------
D-----10-------5----
A-----7--------7----
E-------------------
Minor 6th

Minor 3rd

e------------------
B------------------
G------------------
D------8-----------
A---7--------7--8--
E------------------
Diminished 5th Minor 2nd

The diminished 5th intervals is an acquired taste and very dramatic so use it with some caution. The minor 2nd is very difficult to play harmonically so it is used almost exclusively as a melodic interval. It is easy enough just move up or down by a fret.

Perhaps the best example of the diminished 5th interval is in the classic self titled song by Black Sabbath.

e---------------------------------------------------------
B---------------------------------------------------------
G---------------------------------------------------------
D---------5---------------------------------5-------------
A----5---------4h5p4h5p4h5p4h5p4------5-------------4-----
E----3--------------------------------3-------------------
h = Hammer on

p = Pull off

Give that last note on the fourth fret a good bend up and down.

That marks the end of the beginner section. I will leave you with song that incorporates all that we have been through so far. Have fun.

Pantera - Cowboys from Hell (intro and verse riffs)

PM----------------------------------------|
e-------------------------------------------------|
B-------------------------------------------------|
G-------------------------------------------------|
D--------------------------------------------12---|
A--------------12----12----13----12----13h14------|
E--12-15-12-15----15----15----15----15------------|x3
 
PM-------------------------------------|
e---------------------------------------------|
B---------------------------------------------|
G---------------------------------------------|
D---------------------------------------------|
A--------------12----12----13-12-10-----------|
E--12-15-12-15----15----15----------12--------|
 
PM--------------------|
e---------------------------------|
B---------------------------------|
G---------------------------------|
D-------------------------------0-|
A-------------------------0h1h2---|
E-0-0---0---0---0---0---0---------|
Metal Rhythm by Chris Hayes www.eventstudiosnottingham.co.uk

2 comments sorted by best / new / date

    evilotto77
    So the fact that power chords change slightly on the G-string is 'too high a scope for this lesson', yet "Diminished 5th Minor 2nd" is fine... come on