Beginners Guide To Playing Black Metal

This lesson is here just because there are no black metal guitar tutorials anywhere on the unholy network called the Internet.

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Myself I am not the best black metal guitarist, and suppose I never will be, I don't know a lot about the style either, I mean, things like history and stuff, but I can give you a good start. We'll start out with Venom. Venom Venom, the band that is said to have brought the expression black metal into being by naming a song "Black Metal," is one of the most important bands in the history of black metal. They were one of the first bands to bring the real evil into the metal genre. They did this, using a lot of already used, common metal techniques, as with most other old school black betal bands (Merciful Fate, Bathory etc). Venom's music sounded a lot like thrash though, and they are sometimes accused of starting that scene to, together with Metallica and Slayer of course. I'll give you two riffs from their early history:
"Welcome to hell"
|---------------------------------------|
|---------------------------------------|
|--------5-------5------5--------5---7^-|
|--------5-------5------5--------5---7^-|
|-0--0-----0--0---0--0----0--0----------|
|---------------------------------------|


"Black Metal"
|---------------------------------------|
|---------------------------------------|
|-5-------4--------3------------------9-|
|-5-------4--------3------5--2-------9--|
|-3--0"---2--0"---1--0"--5--2-------7---|
|--------------------------3--0--0"-----|
Note that " means tremolo picking (in case you don't know what tremolo picking is, we'll discuss that later), or here, just to repeat the note for a while. Do also note that Venom always use the guitars tuned down one and a half step (C#, F#, B, E, G#, C#). Look at the first one. Is it evil? No it isn't. It's still traditional metal. The other one? Is that evil? Well, today it isn't, but back then I guess it was. And the lyrics on that song. And the drill in the beginning. That is/was evil. Wish I could write something more educational here, but I think the riffs actually should be enough. Let's go on to the next book in our darker and darker bible. Mayhem If you asked anyone who listens to black metal to mention two bands, he/she would probably mention Venom and Mayhem. That's why I'll do that to. Mayhem were the one band who started what is often called the second wave of black metal -- a wave of really evil bands in the early '90s of which most were from Norway (and they say that Norway has the highest living standard in the world). I won't go into their story, it's to easy to find, like, everywhere, but I'll introduce a very useful (and sometimes overused) technicue, called tremolo picking and give you some Mayhem riffs. So, tremolo picking. That means, to repeat the same note (fast) for a while, often just to change it and play a new one for a while. This technique is often used on the banjo in Irish folkmusic, but I have no idea how it came into black metal from there. I guess It's just a coincidence. If you want to call yourself a black metal guitarist, you should practise this technique a lot. And, remember, a slower but tight tremolo picked riff sounds faster then a fast and uneven one. Never do it too fast, unless your practising were noone can hear you! Perhaps it should be mentioned than, when tremolopicking a whole chord, not all strings have to be tremolopicked. Just do it to the one where the root of the chord is located.
"De Mysteries Dom Sathanas"
|----------------------------------|
|----------------------------------|
|----------------------------------|
|--------9"--10"--9"-10"--9"-------|
|-----7"------------------------7"-|
|-0"-------------------------------|


"Symbols of Bloodswords:
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------|
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------|
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------|
|--------------2"---3"--------2"--------2"----------------2"--1"----------|
|--------------------------------------------------------2"---------------|
|-0"---1"-0"----------2"--3"-------0"---------0"---3"-------------4"---0"-|
Burzum Burzum sometimes uses another way to play black metal, wich I have chosen to call strange chords. I'll discuss some good-to-use chords in the next chapter, but in this one I will give you, guess. But just one this time!
"Nakkel Til Dar"
|--------------------------------|
|------------------------0-----0-|
|---0-9-0----0-9-0---5-5---7-7---|
|--8------8-8------8-6---6-8---8-|
|-7--------7---------7-----9-----|
|--------------------------------|

Scales 'n' Stuff

Most black metal songs don't follow any particular scales. And if they do, they really don't follow the major scale. Either use a minor or harmonic minor. Or, one of these (*** is chort for "I don't have a clue what it is called"):
***: E F G G# Bb C# D 

***: E F G# A C C#

Dim: E G A# C#
If you're interested in that strange chords-style I mentioned, here are some good ones (remember that they must be perfectly fitted together if you want tem to sound evil):
 Bbmin-5 (not sure about the name)
|-0-|
|-2-|
|-3-|
|-3-|
|-1-|
|---|

 Bb5-9add-5 (not sure about the name)
|-0-|
|-0-|
|-3-|
|-3-|
|-1-|
|---|

 C7add-5 (not sure about the name)
|-0-|
|-0-|
|-0-|
|-4-|
|-3-|
|---|

 Emin-5/C# (not sure about the name)
|-0-|
|-0-|
|-3-|
|-5-|
|-4-|
|---|
Now, you should be able to find your own evil chords. Pick them with much distortion and you will hold the powers of hell in your fingertops! Avoid using jazzysounding combinations by the way. I'm sure Lucifer doesn't pay attention to big bands. To hear some good combinations of strange chords, listen to Hrafn or Burzum. Do also listen to Ozzy Osbourne's "Diary Of A Madman," though it's not black metal.

Mixed Licks

I'm gonna end this lesson with some riffs and licks of a bunch of different black metal bands. Although there is much missing in this tutorial, I hope you have learned something. If you want to learn about the history of black metal, it seems to be a good one at http://www.historyofblackmetal.com/, though it is mostly speaking about english black metal (and it's calling CoF black).
Magog "Follow Me"
|---------------2h3-------------------------------|
|----4h5-------------------4h5--------------------|
|---------4h5-------4h5--------4h5--------5--5--5-|
|-2-----------2----------2-----------(2)--5--5--5-|
|-2-----------2----------2-----------(2)--3--3--3-|
|-0-----------0----------0-----------(0)----------|


Dark Funeral "Satanic Blood" (the whole song)!
|------------|
|------------| 
|------------|
|-9"---------| 
|-7"--8"-9"--|
|-----6"-7"--|


Dark Funeral "My Dark Desires"

|------------------------------------------------------------------------|
|------------------------------------------------------------------------|
|------------------------------------------------------------------------|
|-9"--8"-------8"--9"--8"-------8"---------------------------------------|
|---------10"--------------10"------10"--9"---------9"--10"--9"-------9"-|
|-----------------------------------------------11"---------------11"----|
 

Darkthrone "Transilvanian Hunger"
|--------------------------------------------------|
|--------------------------------------------------|
|--------------------------------------------------|
|-12"---10"-----9"----10"---10"----9"----10"----9"-|
|-0"----0"-----0"----0"-----7"-----7"----7"-----7"-|
|--------------------------------------------------|

105 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    johnmalkin
    wow your a cool guy. Don't listen to the guys on here who try to bring you down (theres a hell of a lot of them). The article was ok, but I kind of get the feeling it was done in a rush. Next time, write it out, then leave it to sit for a couple of days and then read it. Does it sound good? Informative? Then if it doesn't, redo it. Remember, these articles are on here forever, so whats a few days difference going to do?
    UraniYum
    i like it, it doesn't **** about with stupis names and shit, and it introduced me to some cool riffs
    Forged-Alliance
    well hey guys...this article is definately lacking in specifics, and it has some erronously used terminology... but to the guy two posts above me...Black Sabbath may have black in there name but they aren't Black Metal. I admit though it's semi relevant because they did have a part in influencing the start of the genre, however from what I gather and hear Black Metal only really borrowed much more from the aesthetic and imagery than anything else. And I have to give the author kudos for at least sticking to Black Metal...except Venom, but that's understandable. I also have a note on the instrumentation in Black Metal...I can assure you that most certifiable Black Metal bands wouldn't be using lots of music theory, they pride themselves on being anti-organizational and against the mainstream and therefore take pride in their "unrefined" musical composition. From the typically horrible sounding production to the sometimes ultra-repatitive composition, typical Black Metal* stays away from whats considered "oorrect" by the outside commuities of the world. This due mainly to the fact that authentic (see *)Black Metal bands would consider their music career more of a means to an idealisitic end than a musical one. * A typical Black Metal band (Gorgoroth, Buzrum, Emperor and Mayhem,Darkthrone...etc.) in the case of my discussion would be a foreign (usually Norweigan, and mostly always European) Black Metal bands whose memebers practice actual devil worship or at the very least misanthropy. However more and more, Black Metal bands are popping up that have nothing to do with the Black Metal ideal and simply enjoy the music, but these bands are (usually) fairly easy to pick out because more often than not the production on their music will sound noticably better than the aforementioned style of Black Metal. (hell, there are even alot of Christian unBlack Metal bands coming out of Russia borrowing the musical style but glorifying god instead of vowing to destroy him!)
    clown624715308
    ok this wasnt the greatest lesson ever posted but thats no reason to bite the kids head off. i've been a playing black metal and almost every other kind of metal for about 4 years, and i have to admit that for a a metal lesson that was pretty good...\,,/ rock on metal dude\,,/
    Instrumetal
    Burzum sometimes uses another way to play black metal, wich I have chosen to call strange chords.[/ quote] lol. [quote]Most black metal songs don't follow any particular scales.
    rofl.
    Now, you should be able to find your own evil chords. Pick them with much distortion and you will hold the powers of hell in your fingertops! Avoid using jazzysounding combinations by the way. I'm sure Lucifer doesn't pay attention to big bands.
    lmao. wow, I don't even like Black Metal and I know not to take this seriously. Seriously man get your facts straight. "Evil Chords"? Tremolo picking on almost every riff? K, it needs to be said, but really fast riffs based on single note picking does not mean its tremolo picking. Search an article on it if you must, I'm not explaining it. And evil chords? Give me a break. Not jazzy? One of Black Sabbath's eeriest songs "Planet Caravan" is completely jazzy. You seem to be the type to be reading these, not writing them.
    lymanvann
    wow, planet caravan is their most eerie song? you obviously dont know shit about metal or anything heavy in general. And why the hell is everyone giving this guy shit about his article?? All you douchebags complaining about it couldnt do any better. Waaaah your lesson doesnt have a point. So what if he doesnt have supporting details for the thesis of his fucking lesson. Waaah there were some spelling errors, it ruined everything. Why dont yall stop bitchin like you know something, this guy is trying to spread some appreciation for black metal and lil bitches want to knit-pick and try to find a reason to not like it. By the way queer, by "evil chords" he meant diminished, dissonant chords. You think planet caravan is evil and black metal then you are retarded and pathetic. You dont like black metal, you dont know shit about it, then shut the fuck up. go listen to disturbed or metallica or whatever butt-plug music you like. It's easy to talk shit and find fault in something YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT WHEN YOU'RE ANONYMOUS AND HIDING BEHIND YOUR LITTLE FUCKING COMPUTER. Fucking dork go choke on your dad's dick. Know something about black metal before you criticize someones shit. Pussy
    RobG&D
    I agree ^ I haven't seen any other articles on black metal techniques, so it was something else. Just keep working on it, a bit more elaboration and i should be pretty good.
    hdf
    Writing an article about Black Metal and only mentioning Bathory, truly a disgrace..
    blackmeadow
    iam in a black metal band this stuff is alot of ways we play one thing to play black metal you forgot playing power chords 9- 10---- 7---
    Jeff Manthei
    schecterboy3000 wrote: who the f*** listens to black metal??
    whats wrong with Black Metal?
    FLESH_INTO_GEAR
    Terrible article. Way too vague, spelling mistakes and you lack the knowledge needed of this area of metal to create a good enough article about it.
    Nhex
    I hate one thing in english language native people youre not the kings of the world so if someone has some difficult to spell to speak and things like that you donte have to take that person down man its so good to at least know something from at least 2 languages and by the way I bet the guy who made this article will make some sequels too keep it going
    CaptainOfSmug
    Dude, this is a fairly decent article. Being as I am in a black metal band. People wanting scales and such? Black metal does not exist on scales it's basically getting a solid, "grim" tone. Also, it's what sounds good. It mainly uses tremolo pick and has broken up chords to give another evil tone. Overall it was fairly good, but I would try and get a bit more indepth next time.
    damm_punks
    schecterboy3000 : who the f*** listens to black metal??
    Probably most of the people lloking at this lesson idiot good lesson showed some chords n that
    FinMayhem
    That was great lesson. Oh and you schecterboy3000 I listen Black Metal \,,/
    Woooguitar
    hahahahhaha the article is helpful and i definetly like black metal and stuff. but truth be told, i was having more fun reading the comments than playing the riffs =]
    luisd
    i dont know anything about this stuff...but thanks for informing dumb pips like me
    MetalMikeGuitar
    It was an ok article, you should have included bands like Mercyful Fate, Celtic Frost, and Bathory. You should delete this article and create a whole new one, because if you don't I will.
    Horvat
    Not a very good article at all. Very rushed and uninformed. You simply stuck some riff examples in there and called it a day. I don't know how some of you can call that a proper lesson. There was no elaboration present in it. While you did mention some black metal bands, you only vaguely talked about how they play. This lesson needs more substance I am afraid. (PS: those strange chords you talk about are called dissonant chords )
    Severed Carcass
    This is a very inaccurate article! One is because im a black metal fan and i know for a fact that this article was written in ignorance. Learn up on black metal before you write an article!
    skater762
    i Didnt read it but i liked playing the fiffs and stuff.... screw all you guy that said it sucked go catch yourself on fire, that was a freaking cool!!
    lamb-of-god-666
    Also I've been playing for a long time and if you are a beginner don't listen to this. It's no good.
    virtualreality
    im new to guitar and this was just like a major lesson although i could only play the easy tabs being new anything i can play makes me feel better i think ill get into black metal cant thank you enough
    Insanity207
    umm, black metal hmmm dont listen to much of it but i did get the riffs really wuick and the information i thought was just thrown in there i agree with most of the users that there should have been more time in this. over all its for people learning and there wasnt much info about the names, but not trying to dis or put it down because maybe this will introduce me to black metal so thnx and Rock On!!!! \,,/
    MetalJohnny
    Well... To answer what kind of scales you didn't know was called: The first one is a Septatonic/Heptatonic (Varies in countries; for me it's called septatonic) scale, and the last one is a hexatonic scale
    The Warpig
    I am not into Black Metal but I found the article informative. Sure grammar and spelling and all that stuff would have been better given some more attention. The most important thing is that ZynasOrcah had a go. All you arses who are bagging him out, have YOU posted an article. Has YOUR article received all positive comments. No? Well shut up then.
    kevinm4435
    If you need a guide to play black metal you're either ignorant or simply trying to hard to meet aesthetic expectations of the genre.
    Silent_Scream1
    Where's Old Man's Child, Dimmu Borgir, Emperor, Immortal, and all the other good black metal bands? On top of that this lesson was wack. Didnt help one bit. You have no basic knowledge to black metal what so ever.
    LeO76767
    hwi sis not good at all !!! ye didnt even mention powerchords! LOL!!! what a ****ing dumb***
    damian0666
    I play in a Black Metal band and I wouldn't call this a good article, but trying teach something even though he does not know much about it. By all means kudos for trying, but an article about black metal is terrible without mentioning anything about bands like Gorgoroth, Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth and so on. You should give more examples of melodies too, which is where bands like Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth come in, some good song examples are Nymphetamine (CoF)and Vredesbyrd and A Succubus in Rapture (Dimmu). Gorgoroth and Satyricon have good examples of how in black metal riffs, solos etc don't need to be this big challenging thing to sound awesome, just short, sweet and repeatable, aswell as being able to conform to the next part of the song while maintaining the ability to keep fans interested in the music. You state that you don't know much about the black metal sub-genre, that should be a pointer to not trying to give a lesson about it, I'm not trying to be mean, but I believe more people could learn more from just going out and listening to some black metal bands than they could from reading the article.
    Lord_Mortirion
    Im writing an article Mr Warpig, just making sure its correct... I might actually get the bloody thing finished soon.
    Lord_Mortirion
    How long have you been playing black metal??? or guitar for that matter??? kudos for trying, but you should at least know what your jibberjabbering on about before you submit articles...
    VelvetAlley411
    Its not to bad of a lesson.You must know a little about the genre to mention Venom.Try to be more indepth next time and in less of a rush
    slipknutt
    slipknutt wrote: If you think you can do better than this, then do it. Otherwise STFU and move on. If you're not into black metal then why are you even reading this? If you want a lesson that covers every band in the genre, keep dreaming or write it yourself. What the hell is wrong with people?
    slipknutt
    If you think you can do better than this then do it. Otherwise STFU and move on. If you're not into black metal then why are you even reading this? If you want a lesson that covers every band in the genre, keep dreaming or write it yourself. What the hell is wrong with people?