#1
Okay so I always come up with these fast paced riffs for songs that use chord progressions and single notes, your typical thrash riff. I've researched different scales and all that, going to look into harmonic and pentatonic minor scales. But, here's what gets me: the key of the song. What does this mean exactly and does the tuning I'm playing in affect it? There's always comments about how solos should be built over the key and I just end up wondering how the hell I'm supposed to even figure it out. Any explanations about determining the key would be much appreciated!
#2
Firstly, Harmonic minor and 'Pentatonic Minor' are two widely different things.

If you want to know what to play without having had even played it yet it is essential that you have a basic understanding of basic major and minor harmony.

When you are talking about solos being built over a key, a more foundational way to look at it is that every note you play in a solo is harmonizing with the chord or notes being played under it to some degree.

My reccomendation, sign up to Jamplay.com watch David Wallimans series on music theory and that will give you the basics, then you can begin to look into Jazz theory to learn more about exotic scales like harmonic minor.

Here is a sample of David Wallimans jamplay series
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mocwBBYL2Q
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#3
To figure out the key you need to find the tonic, which is the chord/note that feels like home. Many times in thrash metal you have riffs that chug/tremolo pick on an open string. Many times that's also your key.

If there's a chord progression behind the solo, you just need to listen to it and figure out the home chord. Many times it's the first chord, sometimes it's not.

The tuning you are in of course matters because it changes the notes you are playing. For example if you tune to D, your 2nd fret is the same pitch as the open string in standard tuning. But tuning doesn't really determine which key you are in. You can play in any key, no matter what tuning you are using.


Now, let's try to figure out the tonic. Play C major - F major - G major. Now, does it feel complete? Does it feel like it wants to go somewhere?

Now add a C major chord to the end. It should feel complete. C major is your tonic which means it's your key. You just played a I-IV-V-I progression in C major.


OK, let's take some thrash metal examples...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEQnzs8wl6E

The outro riff is Bm-A-G-A progression. Can you find the key? Which of the chords sounds like home? What about the intro? It's Bm-A-Bm-A/C#. Which of the chords sounds like home?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnKhsTXoKCI

Notice the chugs on the low E string between the power chords in the intro. That's really common in thrash metal and that's usually your key in thrash songs.


@Drapte:

Yeah, what you said is good advice. But the thing is, TS asked about thrash metal soloing. Many times there are no clear chord progressions behind thrash solos. So following chord changes is not really a thing people usually do in thrash metal. But yeah, it depends.

I don't think jazzy stuff will help TS, it may just confuse him.


If you listen to guitarists like Kirk Hammett and Dave Mustaine, they usually use the pentatonic scale. But then there are guitarists like Marty Friedman who play more melodic stuff. I would suggest learning other people's solos, preferably by ear.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Dec 20, 2014,
#4
First thing I'll say to you is stop writing. Stop making 'riffs' and trying to write songs. The first thing you need to do is determine the key of the song, what key you want to write in. As you don't know what that is, you need to stay away from songwriting for now, because writing a song without knowing what a key is is like a 3 month old baby trying to go for a hike. It's just not gonna happen. As mentioned, your key is the note that the piece resolves to, and to get better at identifying this, you need to study common diatonic chord progressions, such as vi IV I V, I V vi IV, etc. Once you can identify those, you will be able to see when bands are deviating from standard chord progressions and using non diatonic chords. When you can identify what scales your using for your 'Thrash riff', it's just a matter of playing that scale in your solo.

Do not fall into this trap of using exotic scales when you know nothing about them. Regardless of how 'hurr, pop is bad lols' the Metal world seems to be, every piece you come across will either be using the minor scale or the major scale, there's nothing arcane about it, it's just how you use those scales. Learn a major and minor scale in the key your guitar is tuned to (D standard = D Major/Minor, for example), and try making riffs using that scale. As soon as you understand the basics and how to create music in key, you'll understand how to go outside the key, that is, if you want to, I find that as a professional composer, I rarely need to.
#5
Quote by MaggaraMarine

OK, let's take some thrash metal examples...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEQnzs8wl6E

The outro riff is Bm-A-G-A progression. Can you find the key? Which of the chords sounds like home? What about the intro? It's Bm-A-Bm-A/C#. Which of the chords sounds like home?


So the A would be the key in the outro and Bm would be the key for the intro?
#6
I've been listening for thrash metal for about 7 years now so I have definitely heard the solos constantly. Gary Holt is by far my favorite thrash guitarist, what scales does he use? It doesn't sound pentatonic, and no I'm not trying to copy off him just because he's my favorite I am just curious
#7
Quote by PiercedBand
So the A would be the key in the outro and Bm would be the key for the intro?

No. Bm is the key in both the intro and the outro.

Think it this way. Loop the outro progression and then end it with an A chord. It sounds a bit incomplete, doesn't it? Now play the Bm chord. That should sound like a stable chord to end the song with. If you try playing A or G in the end, it may sound pretty good. Sometimes you are after that sound. But it kind of leaves the ending open - it sounds incomplete (but as I said, sometimes you want that). But if you play a Bm chord in the end, it should sound complete.

Quote by PiercedBand
I've been listening for thrash metal for about 7 years now so I have definitely heard the solos constantly. Gary Holt is by far my favorite thrash guitarist, what scales does he use? It doesn't sound pentatonic, and no I'm not trying to copy off him just because he's my favorite I am just curious

First I would just learn to play his solos. You don't need to know anything about scales to play other people's solos. You may figure that out later. Because the thing is, the scale doesn't make a solo sound a certain way. You can make the same scale sound really different. Otherwise pentatonic scale wouldn't be so popular. You can do lots of stuff with just five notes.

I think if you start with scales, you may just end up playing the scales up and down. But if you first learn a bunch of other people's solos, you first learn to play solos and then learn the theory behind them. Practice first, then theory. That way you'll also understand how people use the scales and don't just end up playing scales randomly up and down.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Dec 20, 2014,