Heavy F--ing Metal. Part One

From your first power chord death metal to metalcore to nu metal to deathcore to whatever other brand of heavy music you want to know the ins and outs of.

Ultimate Guitar
Hello, and thanks for coming to this, my first 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. 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.

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.

Part Uno: The Very, VERY Basics

So, to get started, let's tune up. Cliched as fuck, I know, but whatever. Just to get us started, we will be using Standard tuning. I'll get into alternate tunings later.

Standard tuning from the lowest string (the thickest, and closest to you) to highest (the thinnest, and closest to the ground) is E, A, D, G, B, E. So your lowest string should be an E, your fifth string an A, fourth a D, and so on and so forth.

Once you are in tune, play this, using your first finger on the 2nd fret of the A string. Also, try to 'cover' the other strings with your first finger. Don't fret the other strings, but cover them up so that they don't make any noise when you hit the chord.


This is called a 'power chord.' It can also be played like this on 3 strings, using your second finger to hit the 2nd fret on the D string. Again, cover the other strings.


Next, try it up a string set. Here, I'll notate all the open power chords on all six strings.


Now, it's time to actually start fretting some more. Take the same power chord SHAPE, but fret both strings, like so:


I've seen two methods of fretting these. The one I was originally taught, was to fret the sixth string with my first finger, and the fifth string with my third finger. That worked for a while, but I quickly realized that I personally could not move that shape very fast. The way I play these, is with my first and FOURTH fingers. It makes moving the shape up the neck and across the strings a lot easier for me, personally. Experiment with both until you find the method that suits you.

However, when you are playing these chords across three strings, it's almost universally accepted to use the first, third AND fourth fingers to fret the three stringed power chords. Either way, it is important to use the first finger to cover the other strings, so you can go and do the whole

Fretting both strings, the shape for the power chords is the same as it was open, but with some minor differences in fretting.


The beauty of these 'power chords' is this: YOU CAN MOVE THEM ALL THE WAY UP THE NECK! As long as you keep the same fret spacing, you could play your chords all the way up the neck.

Also, try these out with PALM MUTING. Palm muting, is very metal. I don't think I'd be lying if I said that at least, AT LEAST, half of every second of metal you've ever listened to was palm muted. So what is palm muting? Well, take your palm, and place it on the bridge of the guitar. Now, slide it up a bit so that you're kind of 'choking' the notes, but not so much that you can't tell what note you're even playing. I can't explain it very well, but hopefully my explanation was sufficient. Moving on.

Don't underestimate the chords on the 'D' string! A lot of players try and hit all their power chords on just the E and A strings, however, reaching to the D string can make some bits a lot easier. For example:


These two chords are the EXACT SAME! There is a tab here on UG for 'Christgrinding Avenue' by Behemoth, and in the tab (ignore the alternate tuning), it reads:

E ------------------------------------------------
B ------9----5-8-5-8----9-------------------------

I personally find it to be a lot easier to play this riff like so:

E ------4------3---3---4---------------------
B ------2----5-1-5-1---2----4----4-5-4-5-----

Again, it's all a matter of personal preference.

Also, try experimenting with octaves. They are very similar to the power chords, except...


NOTE: The 'x' simply means to hit that string without fretting it. Since basically all metal players play with a pick, this is basically unavoidable unless you've studied advanced right hand technique.

Octaves, too can be moved anywhere up the neck.

When you are first learning guitar, punk music is a good place to start practicing power chords. Green Day has almost universally used ONLY power chords throughout their entire career, save for some barre chords and open chords. The Sex Pistols, the Ramones, all kinds of punk bands.

For the hell of it, here's the riff to Blitzkrieg Bop.


That's it. Really.

Also, a lot of '80s metal (The Scorpions, Poison, etc.) had their rhythms and riffs comprised solely of power chords.

And here is a riff that EVERYONE wants to know.

E-------------------------------------- -------------
B-------------------------------------- -------------
A-9-5-5/7-7-10\9--10\9--10-9--5-5/7-7-- -------------
E-7------------------------------------ -------------

Iron Man, and almost all of Black Sabbath's songs are comprised primarily of power chords. So they're also a good metal band to look into as far as getting started learning stuff.

Bonus: Drop Tuning

A whole bunch of recent guitarists (myself included) have been using something called 'drop' tuning. What this means is to tune your sixth string down one half step, so that you can do this:


And you have a power chord.


And you have a power chord.


AND YOU HAVE A POWER CHORD! Now, when in any drop tuning, it's important to keep in mind that the other strings still maintain their power chord shapes. For now, stick to Drop D tuning (DADGBE). A lot of bands use this tuning, most notably recently, I would say Lamb of God. They have used Drop D for literally the entirety of their career. Avenged Sevenfold also has used Drop D frequently, except in ONE case. And there are a plethora of other artists. Tom Morello's used it, Marilyn Manson's used it... the lists are endless.

And that's just Drop D. There's a plethora of lower tunings. I'm going to get into alternate tunings in more detail later. Not on this lesson, but probably the next one.

Before continuing on, though, get back up to standard tuning.

Part Dos: Other Intervals

This section is where the theory comes in, although very, very lightly. These other intervals will add a sense of melody to your rhythm playing, so that you're not just stuck to power chords and octaves.

The first thing we're going to cover are perfect fourths, otherwise known as "double stops." A double stop is this.


Yep. That's it. Anywhere on the neck. If you want to get a perfect fourth on the G and B strings, however, you don't do a double stop, you do this.


And you move that shape up the neck. All the other strings, you just do what you did for the E and A strings.

Major 3rds. These aren't as easy as the double stops, but they're important, nonetheless.

This is a major 3rd on the A string.


Again, you can move these all up the neck except in the case of the G and B strings, which form a major 3rd when you do a double stop. Like so:


All other strings use the first shape for the major 3rd.

Minor 3rds. These are metal as mother fuck. On the E string,


Once more, they are different on the third and second strings.


I don't know of any riffs that consist solely of these other intervals, so I went and wrote one in the key of G for you to mess around with.

PM ....... .......

The intro to "Go Into The Water" by Dethklok is a great riff to practice both power chords and your other intervals.

If I receive requests and comments and such, then I will write and post part two of this here lesson thingy. The Major Scale is next. Have fun, kiddies, and thanks for reading this. Have fun, and rock on.

33 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Cool stuff, thought the attitude is hit and miss. I'm standing by for the advanced stuff.
    Eb 2 Bb 2 2 2 2 0 2 x4 F 2 2 2 2 2 x4 4 444 C 0 000 0 000 0 000 0 000 3 333 ... ... ... ... ... ...
    I don't know if it was mentioned yet but when you were talking about drop D you said to take the low E and drop it a half step. I think you meant a whole step.
    Great lesson but drop tuning is where you time your 6th string down one whole step. Great lesson though
    ok Heavy metal music is starting to get on my nerves have u people seen the amount of metal lessons there are?? hell metals is TONES better than rap but really in my opinion metal isn't really very influential to very serious guitar players. but all well thats just my opinion so if u disagree dont mean comments about it thank you.
    great article, but you will not be able to do spider chords if you use your 1st & 4th fingers for powers chords
    the verses of hanger 18 by megadeth i think is all major 3rds and minor thirds so u could have used that as an example
    This post was amazing man. Anyone who disagrees should give up heavy metal right now. |
    cgmetallica1981 wrote: Great, but Iron man is really player like this: A|--9--12-12/12-14--17/16-17/16-17/16--12-12/14-14--| E|--7--10-10/12-12--15/14-15/14-15/14--10-10/12-12--| Tha t's exactly how Tony Iommi plays it.
    No it's not. It is played the way he said it was, and it is followed by this. E|7-----| A|-5-5/7-7-10p9-10p9-10p9-5-5/7-7-| E veryone try the two riffs and then post on which is the CORRECT one.
    Just a note on the palm muting: If you really want to see if your doing it correctly, here's what you have to do: Set yourself up to palm mute and then place your figer on the first fret of the top string. Pick the string and slide your finger up to the seventh fret. If you can hear the slide as if normal, then you've got it. If not, then re position your hand and try again. With a little experimentation, anyone can figure it out.
    Chong1347 wrote: hey man im so glad someone is doin shit like this... i cant wait till you posted some sweep arpegio scales
    I know aint it awesome??? haha
    btw also some songs will have this B|-o G|----9 D|----9 A|o---7 what is the o supose to mean?
    typically, if you see that at the beginning and end of a line of tabs, it means repeat the tab that is inbetween the set of o's, if that makes sense.
    I've been wanting to play a lot of power metal bands-such as Hammerfall, Gamma Ray,Blind Guardian, Primal Fear-and most songs will have this D|-----9-----5 A|-----9-----5 e|-----7-----3 (Example ) D|-----4x A|-----4x E|-----2x E|-----3h2p----5p3h and I think with these lessons you posted will give me a great help working on these tabs-thanks
    hey man im so glad someone is doin shit like this... i cant wait till you posted some sweep arpegio scales
    Great start, im sure a beginner would learn alot, and wouldnt get scared at the word theory. Im looking foward to more.
    Is that meant to be the tab for "Go Into the Water"? Because it is in the key of C(of you could use drop C and everything will just sound two octaves higher) and first guitar plays Eb I 2 I Bb 2 2 2 2 I 0 I I 2 Ix4 F 2 2 2 2 I 2 I x4 I 4 444 I C 0 000 0 000 0 000 0 000 I 3 333 I I ... I ... ... ... ... ...
    link no1
    EdguyRule_22 wrote: Recent guitarists use drop D??? The Beatles used drop D....
    yea, but nobody used drop d as much as they do now compare how many 60's bands use drop d to 2000's bands
    i thought every band on earth uses dropped d, and just lower variations on dropped tunings. you mean a whole step, not a half from E to D. a half step would be Eb or D# also, go into the water sounds ass backwards. not only do i know the song, ive covered it on guitar, *insert link to go into the water" now. i bet if i actually payed attention to the theory parts i'd learn something. good lesson i guess. OFF TO PART 2!
    Good lesson man, I liked it. Taught me about the other power chords. I was wondering about those, and I knew those notes sounded so harmonical. Lol. Learn something everyday. And even if they don't have fun reading it, they should; they just might ****ing learn something. And the more they learn and use the information, the 'smarter' they are, and will become. Too bad everyone doesn't want to be smart though, eh. Some people are perfectly fine with themselves being scum. I'll stay on topic though. GREAT LESSON. Beginners, remember this stuff, ya herd?
    Great for ant beginner, interested in metal or not. every guitarist should know about power chords and drop C and D tuning. looking foreward to more advanced lessons.
    Great, but Iron man is really player like this: A|--9--12-12/12-14--17/16-17/16-17/16--12-12/14-14--| E|--7--10-10/12-12--15/14-15/14-15/14--10-10/12-12--| Tha t's exactly how Tony Iommi plays it.
    This lesson is really sweet, I cant wait for another one of your lessons bro. 9/10