#1
Sorry if there is a sticky someplace, somewhere that completely explains this, or an article or column that someone can lead me to that explains this, but alas...

I play Heavy Metal. I come on these sites and read theory to try and write a good metal song.

I know:
The Major and Minor scales.
Chord Construction.
Rhythms.

With me so far? Ok.

I try looking for chord progression information, particularly pertaining to Heavy Metal, but that is not all. I can find no information that gives you any clue on how to write things like single note-rhythm songs. (Example: Dead Skin Mask by Slayer, 5 Minutes Alone by Pantera, Megadeth, etc etc.)

Nowhere in any of these songs do I see cowboy chord or even barre chord C Major, C Minor, E major, E Minor chords (Chords as they are basically taught) that jumps out at me and says "Hey look, that is an E Minor chord" or anything remotely of that nature.

It all seems random. I guess I'm saying I'm not gonna crank the gain up to 11 and play cowboy chords and I can't find any reference material that is beyond power chords then jump to sweep arpeggios but completely avoids the "how the melody is constructed" part.


I'm sorry if this sounds really n00bish, but I've lurked on these forums long enough I feel safe in asking for help now. If there is a column or lesson I could be linked to that might sufficiently explain this I'd appreciate it. Or any help at all.

Thank you
People call me Rex.
I have a passion for almost all music. (No Rap or Hip-hop)
I play the Guitar, Bass, Percussion, Violin, and Piano.
#2
typically the notes will be taken from chords and the whole chord will be constructed by different parts of the band.

for example the guitar might have a lick that plays the notes EEDEEBEEDEEBDB the bass maight play something that goes EEGGEEGGEEGG and the vocalist may sing a melody that goes EBEG now if we took each of those notes together we would get E B G & D this is an Emin7 chord, but instead of the guitar playing the whole thing, the entire band is implying it.

I'm not sure how everyone else does this but when I decide to write riffs like this I take a few power chords and run through them till I find a progression I like. then I figure out what key and extend the chords to 7ths and then deconstruct the chords. now I know which notes will still imply the chord I want in each bar. then I play around with it till I find something I that stands out to me.... I hope that helps! and if you don't understand something I said just ask and I'll do my best to try to explain it....
Quote by Dirk Gently
Some pieces are only meant to be played by people with six fingers on their fretting hand. Sorry.
#3
Even if there are no chords played, a chord structure is always implied by the melody. Try to figure out where the song resolves to, and the scale which is used for the riffs and it should point you in the right direction.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#4
Playing heavy metal gives you a lot of freedom. Here, the riff is king. It's harmony, melody and rhythm all in one.

Power chords have harmonic content but they're not constrained by it. You can imply chord changes and at the same time you can have melody. Melodically, the more unrestrained the better: chromaticism is common.

Coming up with a riff is a major step in constructing a metal song. You don't need theory to come up with a riff. You can use trial and error in note choice - after all, there are only 12 notes in the chromatic scale. Try them all and see which one sounds best to you.

Experiment with variations in rhythm. Evolve the riff. Keep the bits you like, change the parts you don't.

Theory might help you to tie riffs together elegantly to make a song or to give you a vocal melody or solo, but riffs are about feel and imagination.
#5
Thank you all for your replies. I knew I made a good choice asking for help here!
People call me Rex.
I have a passion for almost all music. (No Rap or Hip-hop)
I play the Guitar, Bass, Percussion, Violin, and Piano.
#6
Quote by Razor Rex
Sorry if there is a sticky someplace, somewhere that completely explains this, or an article or column that someone can lead me to that explains this, but alas...

I play Heavy Metal. I come on these sites and read theory to try and write a good metal song.

I know:
The Major and Minor scales.
Chord Construction.
Rhythms.

With me so far? Ok.

I try looking for chord progression information, particularly pertaining to Heavy Metal, but that is not all. I can find no information that gives you any clue on how to write things like single note-rhythm songs. (Example: Dead Skin Mask by Slayer, 5 Minutes Alone by Pantera, Megadeth, etc etc.)

Nowhere in any of these songs do I see cowboy chord or even barre chord C Major, C Minor, E major, E Minor chords (Chords as they are basically taught) that jumps out at me and says "Hey look, that is an E Minor chord" or anything remotely of that nature.

It all seems random. I guess I'm saying I'm not gonna crank the gain up to 11 and play cowboy chords and I can't find any reference material that is beyond power chords then jump to sweep arpeggios but completely avoids the "how the melody is constructed" part.


I'm sorry if this sounds really n00bish, but I've lurked on these forums long enough I feel safe in asking for help now. If there is a column or lesson I could be linked to that might sufficiently explain this I'd appreciate it. Or any help at all.

Thank you


Keep in mind that in alot of ways "metal" is very "anti-establishment" so to speak. It's not the best place to find clear cut examples of what you're learning about in theory.
Bach and Mozart wouldn't be a bad place to look though. Or contemporary pop/rock.
shred is gaudy music
Last edited by GuitarMunky at Apr 26, 2011,
#7
Well, there are some chords used in some metal music, like diminished and augmented, and power chords. Also, melodic and harmonic minor scales are used very frequently. But I think for the type of music that you are thinking of, mostly a use of palm muting and minor and chromatic harmonies are used. Especially in slayer, they palm mute and use a metal gallop rhythm which is 16 on the floor, and some of those sixteenth notes then are not palm muted but actual notes.

I think something that might help you get a better understanding of how metal works is to learn some covers of slayer, tool, and pantera songs. Very frequently there will be a chord, but it is not played as a cowboy chord it is played as a riff, with palm muting and/or brutal rhythms breaking the chord apart and playing the individual notes or different parts of the chord seperately. Another thing that will help is learning the inversions of chords so that you can stay on one chord while you explore the neck.

Like I said, the most common "chords" in metal music are power chords, minor, and augmented chords. Melodic minor as a scale is very creepy so metal uses it a bunch as well. In doom or stoner metal, lots of blues-type things are used to new brutal ways, like Boris or The Sword. But like the other guy said, the riff is king so creating a riff can help you make a metal song easier. The harmonization of these melodies often forms some kind of chordal structure but usually is not anything like the cowboy chords.

Try palm muting and using a metal gallop rhythm, then using pinch harmonics, and you will see that this technique is used a lot too. Hope this helps
"Things seem pretty crummy, but if they could carry us away with them, we'd die of poetry. In a way, that wouldn't be bad." -Louis-Ferdinand Celine
#9
Quote by Keth
What is a cowboy chord exactly? |:
Also, apart from Cynic and Portal I've never heard augmented or diminished chords that much in metal.


"Cowboy" is a slang term for open first-position chords, the voicings of C, G, A, etc. that everyone knows. The name is in reference to their widespread use in country/folk music. Also, the diminished chord in particular can be found alllll over metal. Lots of progressive metal bands use augmented chords as well.
Get baked, study theory.

Quote by :-D
Why are you bringing Cm into this?
#11
Quote by Keth
Ah okay, never knew that!
Could you name a few bands that use augmented and diminished chords actively, I'm curious to hear them.


Blotted Science (and depending on how lax your definition of "metal" is, Spastic Ink), Gorguts, Voivod, VUVR, Ulcerate, Sepultura, Septic Flesh, Coroner, The Chasm... maybe Enslaved.

I'm not completely sure about these; some of them I haven't listened to in months. But if memory serves me right these bands have used some augmented/diminished chords. Though then again maybe not in every single tune but in a few perhaps.

Also some of them may only use whole tone/octatonic scales and augmented/diminished arpeggios and not the chords harmonically, but you catch my drift.
Last edited by Sóknardalr at Apr 26, 2011,
#12
Ah yeah, I do see Blotted, Gorguts, Vuvr (is it with capital letters? :O ) and Ulcerate using those chords (though I wouldn't be able to name a tune from the top of my head right now), I totally forgot about those, cheers.
#13
Jeff Loomis from Nevermore wanks on the diminished scale all day long as well. They don't always use diminished chords in the harmony, but he often outlines it, at the very least.
Get baked, study theory.

Quote by :-D
Why are you bringing Cm into this?
#14
Heavy Metal riffing is not about theory at all. You play and play and play until you notice you are falling into a pattern. If people like it, it's good. If not, there is nothing that more distortion can't fix.
#15
Quote by Keth
Ah yeah, I do see Blotted, Gorguts, Vuvr (is it with capital letters? :O ) and Ulcerate using those chords (though I wouldn't be able to name a tune from the top of my head right now), I totally forgot about those, cheers.


I guess not, but I remember reading the band name was an acronym in the original language so it seems fitting.

I checked M-A just now and the full band name is "Vyzkumny ustav vodnich radosti" (Czech).
#17
Take all the traditional theory you know, then do everything you can to avoid it. Crank up the gain, add some open E chugging, and look up the word "gutteral" for your singer. You're now the next big thing in metal.

But seriously, I've found that branching out from diatonic scales helps a lot. I've been using 8- and 10-tone scales (with passing tones, so it's essentially chromatic ) in some of my music, and the result sounds pretty heavy. Try this out: if you want to sound kind of eastern in your playing (actually translates to metal pretty well), use a scale that has a minor 2nd, a major 3rd, and a major 7th. It's fun.
#18
Quote by AlanHB
Even if there are no chords played, a chord structure is always implied by the melody. Try to figure out where the song resolves to, and the scale which is used for the riffs and it should point you in the right direction.


I like this reply best, for example. Im pretty sure dead skin mask are all notes of the harmonic minor scale. Anything minor is usually dark and well suited for metal. Also read up on the Phrygian mode I think alot of metal guitarists use it.

IMO i would say alot of good metal bands use scales and power chords opposed to chord progressions. Most chord progressions in metal are used for backing riffs to a solo.
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#19
Quote by Instrumetal
Jeff Loomis from Nevermore wanks on the diminished scale all day long as well. They don't always use diminished chords in the harmony, but he often outlines it, at the very least.



Dont you mean Ex Nevermore? His new band is gonna destroy
Reverbnation.com/offthewitness
#20
Quote by Keth
Ah cheers, never knew that. Great band.


Yep indeed. It's a shame they only made one album. And yet their "status" on M-A is Active so perhaps they will release another one in the near future.
#21
If there would be a secret progression for metal you wouldnt have such masses of different bands.
Do you wanna copy slayer or do you wanna be you,...

Think more dissonant. Think unconventional: The reason why there is no answer....


And you are on a tab-site here. watch them!!!!!!!!!!
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IF YOU READ 'H' I MEAN 'B'

GERMAN H = AMERICAN B

#22
TS, can you find the key of any other song? Like pop songs?
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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