Heavy F--ing Metal. Part 3

author: guitar_jew date: 12/14/2009 category: guitar styles
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Hello, and thanks for coming to this, my third article on anything, ever. I'm going to teach you how to play metal that can, and WILL get people moshing. This lesson encompasses ALL styles of extreme metal, and I know that a lot of people don't like all of them. Deathcore, Nu metal and metalcore in particular have received venom. Keep that sh*t to yourself, and respect that this lesson is for ALL styles of metal. I ask now that you do two things. 1. Respect my tastes, and the tastes of other people who read and comment on this, and 2. Have fun, and skip the parts you're simply not interested in. These lessons, to describe them as generally as possible, are a sort of a master class on everything I know relating to metal, starting from the most basic of basics to the complexities of what scales work over what chords. I'd like to state now that in this lesson, I will also clear up my mistakes on modes from last time, without getting into too much theory. The new theory stuff I want to come next, so I can alternate between rhythm ideas and lead ideas. These lessons make HEAVY use of guitar tablature, or tab. If you don't know how to read tab, go and google it. They probably have a lesson on that up on here, somewhere, too. If you don't know, go learn that first, then come back here. This is the one where the rhythm techniques come in. Everything from pinch harmonics, to tremolo picking to alternate tunings, etc. This is the one where it starts to get METAL. Part Five: Alternate Tunings and Their Uses. I explained drop tuning in the very first column. Direct yourself there to familiarize yourself with it. Next we're going to cover 'alternate standard' tunings. These are tunings where you simply tune all the strings down the same amount. The first one we're going to try is 'Eb' standard. A lot of early thrash (Slayer primarily. I don't know if Anthrax ever used it) and some death metal bands used this tuning (Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel come to mind, and I'm sure plenty others did, too.), but it was also popular among some less angry bands (Guns N' Roses, Van Halen). Simply tune all your strings down one half step so your tuner reads one of the following: Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Eb OR D# G# C# F# A# D# If you'll recall the enharmonic concept, you should realize that these are basically the same notes. Some songs in Eb include 'Raining Blood,' 'Sweet Child O' Mine,' 'Hammer Smashed Face,' and even some more recent bands like Puddle of Mudd's 'She Hates Me.' Now try drop tuning. You end up with 'C#' or 'Db' on the lowest string, making this 'Drop C#.' I've almost never heard this tuning referred to as 'Drop Db,' although it would technically be correct. Some bands that use this tuning include some mid-late 90s Slayer, 'The Sickness' era Disturbed, and some Seether. From standard, take your guitar down a whole step, and you get 'D Standard' or 'D Tuning.' I think the two bands most famous for this tuning are Pantera, primarily, and most of Children of Bodom's catalogue. Drop tune from there and you get the very common metalcore tuning 'Drop C.' This is home field for many of metal's most popular acts right now. Killswitch Engage, As I Lay Dying, Trivium, Saosin, recent Children of Bodom, and my personal favorite band EVER, The Faceless (starring the pinky-less playing of Michael Keene.). Just listen to Pestilence off of Akeldama, and tell me that isn't badass. Opinions aside, this tuning became known for the 'chugging' quality it produces when the low C power chord is palm muted. You can continue this pattern of standard and drop tunings as low as you want. On a six string guitar, if you plan on going any lower than C, I recommend getting thicker strings, for tunings like C# Standard(Behemoth's tuning)/Drop B(I Killed the Prom Queen, Bring Me the Horizon), C Standard (Dethklok's tuning of choice)/Drop Bb-A# (Job For a Cowboy) or B Standard/Drop A, common in deathcore. (Think Despised Icon and Suicide Silence, although the latter uses seven strings). Nile uses extremely thick strings to accomodate their taste for six stringed- Drop A. Once you have a better knowledge of theory and chords and such, try 'Open' tunings as well. They're tunings that make all the open strings ring out a certain chord. For example, I sometimes (rarely) use open Cm, to get a dark, minor sound. Part Six: Rhythm, Time Signatures, and Some Rhythm Techniques All musicians need, need, NEED, a good sense of rhythm. This section is going to teach you on time signatures and rhythms outside of your typical straight eighths. The most basic of all beats is the quarter note. You can hold a note for two quarter notes to get a half note, and you can hold a note for four quarter notes to get, *GASP* a whole note. This is elementary knowledge that even many non-musicians understand. You can also divide the quarter note into faster beats, starting with eighths (two 'beats,' so to speak per quarter note), then sixteenths (four 'beats,' so to speak per quarter note), and thirty-second and sixty-fourth notes. Those last two are extremely rare, and are very rarely seen. Even more complicated and annoying, sometimes, are dotted notes. A note with a dot next to it means that the note has the value of the note itself, plus ONE HALF of the note. So a 'dotted' quarter note is equal to one quarter note and one eighth note. A dotted eighth note is equal to an eighth note and a sixteenth. This applies with ALL note values. For an extremely in-depth look at rhythm and meter, more deep than I think is necessary as of right now, direct yourself to a website called musictheory.net. They have lessons that are primarily rooted in classical theory, but the rhythm/meter lessons are applicable to what you're learning, or should be learning, anyway. Practice straight rhythms, (quarters, halfs, wholes, eighths and sixteenths) with a metronome DAILY until you have it completely, 666 percent down. (See, I told you it'd get metal as f*ck this time. :P) This next rhythm is an extremely common one in metal, its most famous example being 'Raining Blood.' I'm talking about the gallop. Rhythm Legend: Q- Quarter note H- Half note W- Whole note E- Eighth note S- Sixteenth T- Thirty-second X- Sixty-fourth A dot after any letter indicating rhythm indicates a 'dotted' note. For example: Q. = Dotted quarter note. Start slow, and practice to build up speed. Remember, "Speed is a byproduct of technique."
This is a gallop. When playing it correctly, you should get a galloping feel (durr). I want to clear up one misunderstanding that is so common in metal. THESE ARE NOT TRIPLETS. These are equivalent to one quarter note. They are NOT triplets. Triplets are different. A triplet is when you divide one beat note into three smaller subdivisions, versus the standard two. So when you play three notes per quarter note, that is called an eighth note triplet. When you play three notes per eighth note, that is a sixteenth note triplet. Listen to 'Again We Rise' by Lamb of God to get a good idea of a triplet feel. Literally ALL the rhythm parts are triplet eighths. As with all new rhythm ideas, start out slow until you can do them fast. Now for some rhythm techniques. First up: Tremolo Picking. Alternate pick the same note, over and over and over again. It doesn't sound exciting in text, but try it. Build up speed until you get some ludicrous speed with that. Try the opening riff to 'Wasted Years' by Iron Maiden to practice it at first, and then try a riff that crosses strings, like Better Metal Snake by Dethklok, or even more difficult, the arpeggios (more on those in the next one of these on lead playing) in Christgrinding Avenue by Behemoth. Even I have trouble with that one. With practice, you should learn to do it without any noticeable noise, other than the notes you're picking. Cross Picking. I don't know if this is the actual name for this technique, but it seems accurate. This technique is most common in metalcore, and actually comprises the vast majority of it. This technique is when you alternate your notes between two strings, usually the sixth and fifth strings, in Drop C, or some other drop tuning. For example: from 'Nothing Left'- As I Lay Dying
PM    .   .   .   .   .     .   .   .   .   .
Once the basic technique is down, try moving the note on the fifth or fourth string. from 'Say Goodbye' - I Killed the Prom Queen
B ---------------3---2---0-2-3-----------------
B -0---0---0---0---0---0-----------------------
PM .   .   .   .   .   .
Apply this to any scale or mode you like to create your own riffs. Staccato. The name is Italian, I believe, but don't quote me on that. The technique itself is simply muting the note with either the right hand or the left hand, or both. Upon contact with the string, the sound of whatever note you were playing should be COMPLETELY gone. If you get a slight bell-like tone, move the hand you're muting with down the string until no sound is made when you hit the string. This is useful for accenting strong rhythms, like the one that opens 'Duality' by Slipknot. Pinch Harmonics. These have been really common in many forms of metal recently, including death metal, metalcore, deathcore, blackened death metal, etc. Basically, you hold the pick in a fashion so that when you do a downstroke with the pick, you can force your thumb to hit the string immediately after the pick. It's hard to explain with just words. Try it at the third fret of the G string. That is quite possibly the easiest pinch harmonic on the entire fretboard. Once you achieve the harmonic, most players bend the note up a step. You know you've done a pinch harmonic correctly when you get sort of a 'squealing' sound. Practice the pinch harmonic in some riffs. Here's the opening line to 'The Price of Beauty' by Suicide Silence. The asterisk represents the pinch harmonic. Remember to bend it up after you hit the harmonic.
  (3) (3)
A --------------------- --------------
E ---------3*-2-1-0-3-2 1-2-1-0-------
A -111-111----2-1-0-3-2 1-2-1-0-------
And there are any number of other songs that utilize the pinch harmonic. There's no real easy way to explain the pinch harmonic in just text. Economy Picking This is an advanced right hand technique that facilitates harder tremolo and alternate picking lines to be played faster. I personally don't have the ability to use this techique consciously (although I have caught myself doing it efficiently on accident sometimes. Go figure.), but in it's simplest form, you are simply alternate picking, but when crossing strings, you do something like this. 'V' = downstroke '^' = upstroke because I don't know how to put the actual downstroke symbol into text.
  V ^ V V ^ V V ^
When playing the third note of the E or A string in this example, you should have just picked a downstroke. So to get to the next string easier, the technique is simply to do another downstroke, instead of crossing the string to facilitate an upstroke. This is the best I can explain it, and again, this is a really up-there right hand technique. Barre Chords These don't have anything to do with rhythm, but they'll start to add color to your playing. A barre chord is a chord where you press down on multiple strings on the same fret with just one finger. Barre chords commonly have their root on the sixth or fifth string. The most commonly used barre chord shapes are shown below. Just like with power chords, you can move these all the way up the neck. I would suggest playing these through the clean channel first, or with very low distortion. It's a good idea, because it will allow you to hear the 'colors' of the different chords without having to strain your ear through the distortion. These are the most common, and easiest barre chord shapes. All six string examples are 'A' chords, for example, 'A Major.' Six-string shapes
  Major  Minor Major7 Minor7 Dominant or "Major minor" 7
To grip these chords properly, The first finger should be fretting the fifth fret across ALL the strings! The six string Major 7 shape is tricky. I personally grip the 'power chord' part of the chord with my pinky, and squeeze my second and third fingers in to fret the fourth and third strings. I doubt that it's actually physically possible to do it any other way. However, I'm getting off topic. Now for the five string shapes. Again, these can be moved all the way up the neck. All five string examples are 'D' chords.
  Major Minor Major7 Minor7 Dominant/Major minor7
For the five string major shape, it is common to use the third or fourth finger to bar the seventh fret, but only just enough to get the fourth, third, and second strings. Some artists just fret the seventh fret and ignore the A on the top string. It's all a matter of preference. In Closing: I must apologize for the mistake I made on modes last time. What I showed were positions, not modes. It is still a good idea to memorize the scale degree mode names, so that if you are asked to play the 'Dorian mode in the key of A' for whatever reason, you can play it, knowing that it starts on B. I want to establish one thing: Modes are the only aspect of theory I have yet to misunderstand as I did. I'm aware of the details of chord construction, diatonic chords, and modal playing, etc. etc. I'm not going to give a college course on theory, just enough to teach people how to apply it in a metal context. Next up, more advanced lead stuff. Diatonic Arpeggios! Sweep picking! Alternate picking ideas! The other forms of the minor scale! WHOO! Again, I apologize for the hiccup on modes, and thanks for reading.
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