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.

Ultimate Guitar
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"

"Black Metal"
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"

"Symbols of Bloodswords:
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"

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)

 Bb5-9add-5 (not sure about the name)

 C7add-5 (not sure about the name)

 Emin-5/C# (not sure about the name)
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, though it is mostly speaking about english black metal (and it's calling CoF black).
Magog "Follow Me"

Dark Funeral "Satanic Blood" (the whole song)!

Dark Funeral "My Dark Desires"


Darkthrone "Transilvanian Hunger"

105 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    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!)
    i like it, it doesn't **** about with stupis names and shit, and it introduced me to some cool riffs
    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?
    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\,,/
    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.
    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.
    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
    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.
    Jeff Manthei
    schecterboy3000 wrote: who the f*** listens to black metal??
    whats wrong with Black Metal?
    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---
    Writing an article about Black Metal and only mentioning Bathory, truly a disgrace..
    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.
    thanks man. i learnt some shit from it. I had nfi how to play any black metal, but after playing some of those tabs i have an idea. cheers
    kidwithaguitar about we all be nice to each other lol jk black metal is.....well there isnt a good way to describe black metal other than using basic classical styles in a really low tuning to give an evil sound now stop reading and go play your damn guitar
    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
    virtualreality wrote: 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
    mt thoughts exactly
    ^ If i have some grammar erros I dont beg your pardon Im PORTUGUESE ahahaa
    even the dark metal guitar needs to have scales to make that riffs with that progression so evil if some one knows how ****ing tell im driving crazy cause i dont know how
    yeah not many places to teach you black metal guitar, but don't listen to these a-holes on this stupid site. I agree with one of the guys though, this article may have been rushed, you know hyou can do better!!
    Angel Of Sin
    Use real scales and shit so you are a good guitarist, look at the difference between Emperor and Darkthrone. Use that stuff if you want to do leads or if you are using keyboards, coz you need to know what key the song is in if you are going to incorporate that stuff in your music.
    Angel Of Sin
    disasterlife wrote: even the dark metal guitar needs to have scales to make that riffs with that progression so evil if some one knows how ****ing tell im driving crazy cause i dont know how
    Try using diminished scales and minors that might help.
    you want to know how to play black metal? there's no rules!!! play whatever you want to... and - dont't forgrget to use P.M. and tremolo picking... now you know how to play it! just one more tip: make it evil!!!
    Black metal is ****ing awesome and I liked learning some of these riffs that I didn't know... however I have to agree that the article didn't seem very coherent.
    wow you people are so critical i minght post a lesson on how to be nice
    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.
    thnks i never quite understud what tremelo picking was but now i sort ov do i will search for more lessons on that thnks for that....
    Good article, but you should've mentioned how to get the right tones. Such as high highs, low lows, and for me I cut the mids because I also play thrash metal and I just increase the bass frequency on my amp.
    I can tell these are all kids who don't know what they're talking about! Otherwise they wouldnt waste their time criticizing this thread! Instead they would talk more on the black metal subject at hand and add some information. Add to this thread what you know, if you really know anything, which is highly unlikely. Fuck what a bunch of chumps!
    Anyone with half a brain can pick these out for themselves. Better songs to learn black metal on is gorgoroth and summoning for examples...especially summoning. They are perticularly slow paced and easy to read. Try "Like Some Snow-White Marble Eyes" There is a rhythm section that may be a little difficult but if you're trying to get into black metal, you should already know a few metallica/slayer songs. I say this because those to bands are famous for downstrokes(Metallica) and trem picking(Slayer) a lot of their songs.
    Good attempt at the lessson, I could not do better. But I think tremelo picking is best described as alternate picking with no accents. Your upstrokes and downstrokes should be as equal in intensity as possible. Even at a slower pace, the equal strokes will give off the effect of sounding faster. You still play the number of notes in the song though. Instead of writing them all out though, you use the tremolo symbol to specify how the notes should be played. For example (4/4 measure), you can have quarter notes and write over them three slashes ///, which will mean tremolo pick note rhythm. I have not found a good explaintion, so what I wrote is my conclusion.
    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.
    i was looking for "evil chords" i'm exploring my own experimenting with devil's triangles and dissonances, but this definitely helped me get an idea yeah, wtf guys if you are so good at it publish a better article
    Fantastic, this really is helpful. All of you who've slagged this guy off, don't forget this is a beginners lesson! And clearly English isn't his first language, so I think a few spelling and grammar errors can be forgiven.
    MC Lukesta
    I actually found this lesson quite useful, since I'm writing a progressive thrash piece with black elements. Good lesson, man!
    I don't even think liking Black metal is a deciding factor on whether this is a good lesson. You could like Aborigine music and still know this is a poorly executed lesson. I'm not even trying to be offensive, it's just not good.
    This is great.Except some gorgoroth chords would make this better.HAIL NORWEGIAN BLACK METAL
    Really good article overall, though like you said it does have a few holes in it. I noticed you didn't touch on overall guitar tones used in black metal, something that easily makes up half of the genre. LOW lows, HIGH highs, and REVERB out the ass on rhythm parts... solid tremolo picking with a slight delay and plenty-0-reverb will tear the faces off of any crowd. Black metal also depends on layering octaves to achieve an atmospheric, sometimes droning effect. That evil tone wouldnt sound half as good if it weren't so thick and juicy most of the time! (darkthrone excluded...) But great article good sir, and I look forward to the next!
    instead of trashing the lesson pick something useful out of this :\ every BM fan wants the riff of their band in eg. *tabs gorgoroth* idiot: baah!! infernus is a poser, hail king ov hell "etc etc but... Idiot: YOU SUCK!! hahahahah!!! rather pick a pointer and make something out of it, i made a nice riff after reading this, i had always wondered why BM guitars sound that way (i'm a self taught n00b) and now i know and can do something. :peace:
    Everyone has there own opinion on music I think your lesson wasnt bad could use more theoretical explanation thou but nice
    I see there is an arguement about this. The original black metal was Bathory and Venom, shortly followed Celtic Frost. And no, Dimmu isn't true black metal, but they don't suck.