Top 10 Hardest Metallica Songs to Play on the Guitar

Sometimes it takes more effort than playing Nothing Else Matters.

Ultimate Guitar
Top 10 Hardest Metallica Songs to Play on the Guitar

Metallica is a great band for beginners. They have slow ballads like Nothing Else Matters and heavier songs like For Whom the Bell Tolls and Enter Sandman that are very easy to play. However, they also have songs that can be a challenge for more advanced players. Here are Top 10 Hardest Songs by Metallica.

Honorable mentions

  • The Day That Never Comes
  • Whiplash
  • Spit Out The Bone

10. The Frayed Ends of Sanity

The name suits this song well. The main difficulty of this song lies in the riff under the solo. It is pretty difficult to nail at first because of its irregular rhythm.

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9. Damage. Inc

A song with a quite a complicated solo, and while it's certainly easier than solo in Ride the Lightning, it can still make you sweat a little.

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8. Disposable Heroes

This one has so much downpicking it will make your wrist hurt. Playing it at full speed takes some practice.

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7. Master of Puppets

Playing this famous riff with downpicking may prove to be really tiresome for a non-trained hand plus the song contains solos that are quite fast and intricate.

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6. Creeping Death

“Creeping Death was one of the first songs responsible for the musical growth of the band, I think,” reflects Kirk Hammett. “It was one of the first songs written for Ride The Lightning and it was a clear step in the right direction. It was as heavy as anything on Kill ‘Em All but on a technical level, we had put that much more into the writing and arrangement and we made it more demanding for ourselves, and it set the stage for the rest of the album.”

A blistering guitar solo and about four minutes into the song, the chanting of ‘Die! Die! Die!’ makes ‘Creeping Death’ a song Metallica fans will always bang their heads to.

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5. Ride the Lightning

This may not look too hard but that is until you get to solo. Not only it's pretty hard to play, but it's also quite long so it may take a while for you to learn it.

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4. Battery

Triplets can be a bitch. Playing the same E Palm-muted Triplets and Power Chords can be even more bitch. Battery is probably the hardest rhythm guitar song to play. Trying to mumble the lyrics yet alone singing while playing it, may prove to be harder than you think.

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3. Blackened

The hardest thing about this one is the timing of its 30s main riff, but after you get the main riff down, there's a silver lining, it's really smooth sailing up to the solo.

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2. Fight Fire With Fire

This song is complicated for all instruments, mostly because it's hella fast. Solos are quite advanced as well. A reasonable challenge for amateur guitarists.

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1. Dyers Eve

This one has it all. Ferocious Metallica tunes, the intro with constant picking, advanced fingering, alternate picking between 2 and 3 frets on the A string and a big mix of power chords and wacky stops here and there in the riffs. A clear winner here. Metallica have never played it live without screwing up a whole load of times. Well, if the guys can't even play it, it surely has to be the hardest one.

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Think some songs are harder? Share your entries in the comment section below.

115 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Dyers Eve is not the hardest once you get the feel. I think Blackened should be number 1 followed by Creeping Death in terms of the down strokes and holding the right rhythm. And the Creeping Death solo is one of the most difficult Metallica solos I've learned compared to the rest. It was when I stopped reading tab and trained my ear did I finally nail that solo. The Ride the Lightening tab book is loaded with mistakes.  
    I have that book, and yeah, I've made my own adjustments to the tabs. I think Ktulu is loaded with mistakes.
    Flying Afros
    That might be the first tab book I ever bought, and turns out it does indeed kinda suck.
    It helped me learn the songs, and how to play guitar at all for that matter. Just gotta take it with a grain of salt.
    Yeah it's great to get an idea of where you should be, but as you progress as a guitarist it's like, what the hell is this? But the ...And Justice For All book is horrid for its interpretation on Blackened. 
    I don't remember how off it was for the main part, but I'm pretty sure they did weird stuff in the bridge part. I think they threw in a 5/4 that doesn't exist.
    There are no triplets in the main riff in Battery..
    what are you talking about? that whole riff is composed of triplets 2------------8-8-7-------------- 0-000-000-6-6-5-0-000-000-
    Musicologist here; a gallop is NOT the same as a triplet. 'Triplet' (in music theory) is also not an umbrella term under which you can hang any rhythmic grouping of three notes. A triplet is a very specific group of three equally spaced notes. There are indeed no triplets in the main riff to Battery. 
    GALLOPS ARE NOT TRIPLETS JESUS CHRIST NO WONDER PEOPLE WILL NEVER LEARN THE DIFFERENCE IF THE ARTICLE WRITERS HERE EVEN CAN'T BATTERY = 1 E AND A           2 E AND A         3 E AND A .....                  0-0-0     REST      0-0-0     REST   0-0-0     REST TRIPLETS = 1 2 3  1 2 3  1 2 3  1 2 3                    0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0
    You need to calm your tits. Just to clarify : a triplet is three notes evenly spaced over one beat (eighth note triplets) (or over half a beat - 16th note triplets or even over 2 beat - quarter note triplets, etc.), so each of these notes is equally long.  A gallop, though is usually an eighth note followed by two sixteenth notes. The first note being twice as long as each of the two following notes.
    Gallops consist of triplets, you even proved it in your comment. Geezus, why is it always the bloody metal heads that are  the elitist muso's?
    This is literally wrong, and if you couldn't tell by the presence of a 16th rest note how that is different from straight 8th notes being played at a constant pace in groups of three over the same beat then perhaps you should learn more about music instead of calling the people that do "elitist"
    Ok, I stand corrected. Even pulled out the MoP guitar tab book to look at the notation. If you really believe what you said about people not learning things then maybe in future don't speak so self-righteously and people like myself won't just assume you're elitist and actually listen to you. 
    For me, it's Blackened, because of the timing, and Disposable, because of the speed. The riffs are pretty simple, but the whole song is a masterclass in right hand stamina. Also, the bridge riff in Damage Inc. is really tough.
    Hand stamina? Some of you weirdos need to spend a summer doing manual labor or just hit the weights once in awhile. If playing guitar hurts your wrist/hands thats just sad
    "Hit the gym" macho bullshit doesn´t apply to guitar.
    Look at what happened to George Lynch. He got all buff and has since stated that it actually negatively affected his guitar playing.
    Down strokes continuously at a fast pace is hard for anyone and very very few guitarists I have ever met even bother to down stroke any of these songs. Even James cheats in live shows on Creeping Death. Watch some footage from 1985 and you can see James alternate picking during the verses. I'm in pretty good shape and the first run through on MOP before the chorus is like an up hill battle. It takes the entire first run through for my wrists to be warmed up and to be even tighter the next two rounds, but no matter how many times I've played that song, the opening straight until the first chorus is trying. Don't pretend it's not unless you want to admit that you cheat and alternate pick these songs. 
    Tell em' dude.  People make it sound like Het never used alternate picking ever - cmon.  Impossible.  Dudes wrist is either made of steel at this point or he is one downstroke away from retirement.  
    Why the hell would you downpick everything? Yeah, you do it for sound reasons, I know. That doesn't change the fact that it's hell on your wrist.  Alternate picking this shit isn't cheating. I'll admit I do it, and I can play the songs because of that. It makes these songs actually playable with good technique. Even then, something like Disposable Heroes that already uses alternate picking is an endurance. 
    I've recently got really into Metallica and have been learning a whole bunch of their songs. The hardest one I've come by so far is Battery. I have a whole new respect for Hetfield - amazing vocals and incredible guitar playing simultaneously is unbelievably impressive.
    Fight Fire with Fire at 80's live bpm. 
    I don't know if this is weird, but the thing I always had trouble with in FFWF wasn't the speed. It was the bars. I always counted 1 2 3 4 wrong, because my brain always tells me that the power chords in the main riff are on the 1, 3, 1, 2, 3. Which is wrong.
    Dude. I start out the song and I hear the down beat but then I get lost in the beginning rhythm and everything shifts back. When they play it live, I can hear Lars only hit the down beats and it sounds right. But listing to the studio song fucks with my ears!
    It kinda feels like changing between downbeats and upbeats, right? Or I don't know what exactly it is, but there is SOMETHING about it. I'm glad I'm not the only one getting fucked by this song
    It's also because the vocals are matched to the accents, and not the main count of the song. Great song, but kills my brain. Fun fact, Flea said it's his favorite Metallica song. Who would've thought?
    Kiwi Man
    YES! I have the same issue although I think I eventually got my head around it and it doesn't bother me as much now. Now I have a similar problem for Blackened for the first two repetitions of the main riff after the solo. I think it's actually the same as the rest of the song, but the drumming makes it sound like it is half a beat different.
    Oh god, I forgot abut the post solo riff from Blackened. I think the tab book has the first two times written the same as the next two times, but it always sounds like the note is on the downbeat, when it's really on the upbeat.
    No mention of the classical intro?  Probably because Metallica recorded it 1x correctly and you and I have heard same recording for 30 years...haha.  
    There's no way Dyers Eve is harder than Blackened on guitar.
    I feel like it should be stated that Dyers Eve is much harder on bass though, for certain. While the guitar solo to Blackened will fuck you up, trying to get through Dyers Eve on bass without your arm falling off is an impressive feat. 
    Master of Puppets is hard because of the micro-timing thing.
    Micro-timing? What?
    You know, Micro Timing!  Or alternatively, everyone who perpetuates this myth are just people who are reading into Lars being off just a bit too much.
    You don't know about the mystical "micro-timing deviations"??!!
    Is that like relative leading tones that make you think you're resolving a series of 17th notes to a G sharp flat root chord?
    Close, but it's actually about a UG article posted a while ago. It was written by this dude who un-ironically went to great scientific lengths to over-explain the odd timing in the verses of Master Of Puppets. Instead of just saying it has a 5/8 bar (or whatever it is), he showed that each time, it's off by fractions of seconds. It was a really dumb and pointless article, meant to prove that Metallica doesn't really play in super strict rhythm.
    Metallica wasn;t aware of that micro timing thing. they don;t know a thing in musical theory (maybe they did know a little). They just make music  what ever comes out to there mind. If you watch how they make DM and hardwired., then That's it. They are not Dream Theater who can write notes,bars and etc..
    Is there really "alternate picking between 2 and 3 frets on the A string" in dyers eve main riff? Also battery is not that hard to sing and play simultaneously as sad but true for instance.
    Badass UltraMan
    This is true! People always seem to be taken aback when I say I find songs like Battery and Holy Wars to be pretty easy to sing while playing. It's the simple songs like I Disappear that cause me endless trouble because there are fewer notes to play and my pick hand tries to follow my voice like a lackwit dullard.
    Props to you, man! (Seriously!) I was so proud of myself after just learning the verse riff to Holy Wars on guitar, and then I thought about Dave singing over it. Brutal! Gotta have 2 separate brains to tackle that.
    My style, practice the rhythm section while humming the tune. Then later memorized the lyrics.
    I remember years ago seeing a AJFA tab book and they tabbed it out like 23232323 etc...I thought "WTF are they talking about!?" but yes, it is true.
    It's not, the book is definitely wrong, if you slow down the riff to 50% on YouTube or even slower on another program you can hear it's just the second fret being alternate picked. However the palm muting is laid down so hard that the note bends slightly sharp almost from C from B, which is probably what confused the person that transcribed it in the tab book. It's almost B and almost C, so they probably figured the notes were alternating super fast, but thanks to modern slow down technology you can hear for yourself that's not the case. Anyone interested go ahead and try the riff just holding down the 2nd fret, and palm mute so hard that you actually bend the string sharp, and youll say holy shit it sounds like Dyers Eve!
    I don't know, I slowed it down on youtube and it sounds to me like alternating B C notes. I also looked up some tutorials on youtube - some people play it on one note, others alternate.  Weird.
    Yeah, the super fast picking in the riff is down on the 2nd fret, up on the 3rd, played incredibly quickly and cleanly.
    They definitely don't play it that way live
    Also, afaik it's common misconseption based probably on tab books
    I'm of the opinion that these songs vary from person to person as to hardest... Dyer's Eve is fast, but once you get a feel for it it's not that hard. Master of Puppets was harder, but Creeping Death beats Master of Pupppets to me, that chugging E riff that runs throughout the song is tricky to play fast alternate picking or not. Master was the hardest for me a long time ago, now I find it easy and 9/10 times it's the other guys playing it screwing up because of the timing on that second group of chords after chugging the E5 on the verses as the last chord ends on 3 and picks up.   I don't find Frayed Ends of Sanity hard at all - somehow I just sort of "got" that one right off the bat, maybe because my own sanity is a bit frayed.  That one is some of the best fun I've had with a Jag-Stang on EMG's through a gained to hell and back amp.
    2. Master and 1. Blackened
    MoP isn't that hard to play at all. Even the solo is moderate difficulty, it sounds difficult because it's fast, but technique wise there's not a whole lot going on (not that that's a bad thing)
    Pretty good list but I agree that MoP isn't that difficult. It's the first Metallica song I learned how to play and currently the only one I can play with the solos lol. I'm trying to learn that Creeping Death solo but my hands just keep disintegrating...
    creeping death is not harder to play than that!!!
    Considering the fact that James plays the main riff downpicked for a good 6 minutes, it can be pretty tiring. That and its solo is way more difficult than MoP imho.
    When will people learn. Sixteenth-sixteenth-eighth rhythms are NOT triplets!
    Kiwi Man
    And eighth-sixteenth-sixteenth rhythms aren't sixteenth-sixteenth-eighth rhythms either!
    I'd personally put Through The Never in the list. If played correctly with the relentless down picking, the main intro riff can be a right pain.
    Master of Puppets' interlude before the solo is pretty easy. And beautiful. I love it.
    Not THAT easy - some tricking pull-offs in there - but such a fun part to get to.  Get a looper.  So much fun - 
    Dyers Eve is way harder than MOP.  Hardwired is way faster than anyone thinks it is.  Orion rhythm in the beginning is tough to get to sound just right....My Apocalypse is no joke either.  
    I'd probably add Metal Militia and Motorbreath as honorable mentions. There are a lot of inflictions and details that make them stick out a bit from the rest. My $0.02.
    The post chorus riff in Motorbreath is so freakin hard to play cleanly. Kirk barely does it himself.
    I knew the comment section would be full of the most pretentious comments. "I can do this" and "this means this"... well good for you, seeing as you've had like 30 years to practice.
    There are certain parts of other songs that are difficult to nail at the proper pace and to pull them off so that they sound accurate to the recording is no easy task. One of the top of my head is the end of the main solo for Battery, the descending lick right in the last few seconds of it can be really hard to nail properly if you don't have your guitar set up just right. I can think of a few others, there's some tapping-pull offs briefly in the solo for Blackened that are also tricky. The main thing I found with learning to play Metallica accurately is to listen to the source material over and over again carefully or if you have stuff like accurate guitarpro tabs for their music, to slow down sections of their solos and listen to them while silently practicing on your unplugged guitar for a bit. Patience is key I find with learning any intricate guitar songs, as well as having a proper guitar for the task. There's no old Metallica solos that sound accurate and right if you're playing them on your beginner epiphone with the little frets and tuners that don't stay put.  Metallica solos are best learned in little sections at a time, listen to them and listen to where they can be broken off into little sections, learn and practice each one with patience, eventually you'll get it. 
    Why is everyone saying Blackened is so hard? I don't get it. If you can downpick Master of Puppets then you can downpick Blackened. And the rhythm isn't that weird that it makes the song much more difficult. This list looks pretty correct to me.
    Cool article. Bummer that newer tunes weren't take into account.. Moth into flame is, imo, a very fun song to play with some tricky timmings on some parts
    When i started playing guitar i was a hardcore metallica fan, i learned all songs from kill em all to black album.  For me some of the really fast alternate picking riffs are still the hardest, i find it a lot easier to play down picking and galloping tighter than alternate picking. Battery, creeping, mop, disposable were really easy for me to learn. However songs like hit the lights, whiplash and trapped under ice kept me struggling.
    I have no trouble with the downpicking in "Puppets," but the main riff to "Creeping Death" makes my right hand cramp up like a bitch before the verse hits.
    It takes a while to get used to, but I've found that it's easier if you hold the pick like Hetfield does, using his thumb and both his index and middle finger. Also, you're instinctively gonna tighten up your wrist, but you need to fight it, and play it a little loose.
    I honesty don't think MoP is a hard song to play on guitar, once you get the rhythm down it's fairly easy as both solos aren't particularly difficult. I would have put The Frayed Ends of Sanity way further up and replaced MoP with Leper Messiah or something. 
    "The Thing That Should Not Be" isn't that hard to play but has a tricky time signature.
    The Frayed Ends solo rhythm is way easier than the riff preceding the solo. That part always fucks with me. And Fight Fire is one song I still can't play on this list.
    Don't think Ride the Lightning has any business being on this list. Solo just seems intimidating, really not that bad once you practice a bit. To me, Metallica's shorter fast thrash songs are the hardest ie Dyers Eve, Battery, Damage Inc... Don't think Ive ever played one of those all the way through. The rest of em really depend mostly on getting the main riffs down. I forgot how many awesome riffs/songs 80's Metallica had lol
    For me, I am physically unable to sing and play Creeping Death at the same time. My band has done Master, Sandman, No Leaf Clover, FWTBT, and Hit the Lights live at various shows and all of them are 10 times easier. Had to drop Creeping from the setlist because it was impossible. Still is to this day
    Spit out the Bone as a honourable mention? I'm not that great at playing but I don't find that too hard
    Creeping Death is one of the first ones I learned. Granted I never even attempted the solo's but aside from that it's a pretty easy song imo
    Master of pupppets or maybe creeping death is toughest stamina wise. Frayed solo backing rhythm is very tricky IF YOU PLAY IT CORRECTLY. 
    St.Anger has some tricky stuff as well. I find it harder to downstroke without palm-muting and there's alot of that on that album. Solo wise I think "Trapped under ice" must be really hard. I don't do solos (becuse my fingers are fat and slow) but that's what I imagine. Drums wise everything on "Justice" I guess... Bass has to be anything from Cliffs time in the band.