Heavy F--ing Metal. Part Two

Getting into some basic scales and theory, because even for metal, it's important to know some basic theory.

22
Hello, and thanks for coming to this, my second 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. For this lesson in particular, it's pretty weighty as far as the theory goes. It'll get better, and much more metal, all in due time. I promise. Also, I know a lot of schools of thought would consider teaching the pentatonic scale first, because of its open ended-ness, and ability to be applied quickly and easily. However, since the pentatonic scale is derived from the Major scale, and the Major Scale is derived from the Chromatic... I think it's important to realize HOW the pentatonic scale is created. I'm teaching it in the order that I was, because I realize why this method is so damn effective. Just bear with me. Also, this lesson is a LOT longer than the last one. A whole lot. Don't be afraid to stop, take a break and play something else for a while. Just make sure you do get back on it. PART TRES: The Chromatic Scale, and Some Other Fundamentals Scales! They are your melodic building blocks, they are your keys to soloing, they are everything and anything, and they are f--king important! A lot of metal guitarists don't want to learn ANY theory, but they don't understand just how useful it is. As you learn your scales up and down, diagonally and thoroughly, you'll realize just how often your scales are referred to by your favorite guitarists for licks, riffs, and tricks and other stuff. But before that, we need to practice the skills necessary to play them. This is an exercise, and it's definitely a good idea to play it every day before you warm up, until you can develop a warm-up exercise of your own that's both effective and fun to play. If this example is tough on your fingers, there will be an alternative exercise a bit down, after I explain the most fundamental fundamentals of fundamental theory.
E-------------------------------------------------------
B-------------------------------------------------------
G-------------------------2-----------------------------
D-----------------3-4-5-6---6-5-4-3---------------------
A---------4-5-6-7-------------------7-6-5-4-------------
E-5-6-7-8-----------------------------------8-7-6-5-----
There are four things you MUST, MUST, MUST keep in mind when playing this, and any new scale you learn. 1. Take it slow. There's a quote my teacher had me write down however long ago, and it went something along the lines of "Speed is the by-product of technique." Don't be in too much of a hurry to play ridiculously fast, because you can't just force yourself to be fast. It comes only with time and practice. 2. Alternate your picking. If you ever, even for a moment realize that you're not alternate picking, stop yourself, start over, and play the scale again with alternate picking. This is the only way you will ever have a chance of picking like, say, Rusty Cooley (the god of alt. picking, IMO). 3. Play in time. Use a metronome or a drum machine if you've got one. 4. Use all your fingers. You can get away, with most scales, with only using three fingers (Michael Keene of The Faceless, an amazing band that I totally recommend to anyone who likes death metal, almost NEVER uses his little finger), but for all intents and purposes, it's a good idea to use all your fingers. Moving on. This scale we just played is called the "Chromatic Scale." It is comprised of EVERY NOTE AVAILABLE. All 12 notes in the musical alphabet. These are, starting on A, like we did just now:
A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G G# A
  Bb     Db   Eb     Gb   Ab
Accidentals: A sharp (#) raises a note by one half step, or one fret. A flat (b) lowers a note by one half step, or one fret. Logic: If a "half step" is one fret, then two frets is a... ... that's right, a "whole step." "Half steps" can also be called "semitones," and "whole steps" can just be "steps." Notice that beneath every sharp note, there was a flat note written beneath it. These are called 'enharmonic' notes. They are notes that have different names, but the SAME pitch. If you raise 'A' by one half step, you get 'A#'. If you lower 'B' by one half step, you get 'Bb.' Play this out on your guitar. A# and Bb BOTH fall on the sixth fret of the low E string, or the first fret of the A string. That is what an enharmonic tone is. Remember that for later, it will be important. Also, there are TWO natural half steps in the chromatic. The two natural half steps, are notes that are only a half step apart, but have no accidental note in between them. These two natural half steps are B to C AND E to F This does NOT mean that there's no such thing as 'Fb' or 'E#' or 'B#' or 'Cb.' This is also important for later. Just keep it in mind. As promised, here is the original chromatic scale exercise that MY teacher presented me with. Where there is an 'S' in between two notes, that means to move your hand up the neck to reach the next group of notes. The numbers above the staff refer to your fingers, '4' being your pinky, and '1' being your index.
                                  4       1
E-----------------------------------------------------------7-8-9-10-
B--------------------------------------------------7-8-9-10----------
G-------------------------5-6-7-8s9-8-7-6s7-8-9-10-------------------
D-----------------5-6-7-8--------------------------------------------
A---------5-6-7-8----------------------------------------------------
E-5-6-7-8------------------------------------------------------------
 
continued.
   4                                      1        4    
Es11-10-9-8-------------------------------------------------------------
B-----------11-10-9-8---------------------------------------------------
G---------------------11-10-9-8-----------------------------------------
D-------------------------------11-10-9-8s7-8-9-10s9-8-7-6--------------
A----------------------------------------------------------9-8-7-6------
E------------------------------------------------------------------9-8--
 
      1
A-------      
E-7-6s5-  AND REPEAT
That's about as much chromatic scale as I can handle. Now we get to the musical stuff. Take a break, and study what you've learned. Message me if you have questions. I really hope I explained that all well enough. PART FOUR(not because I don't know 'quatro,' but it was getting kind of dumb for me to be using Spanish, which I know little to nothing of): The MAJOR SCALE! INDEED! Now that we understand the chromatic scale, we have come to the true building block of music. The Major Scale. This scale is where EVERYTHING else stems from. Chords, melodies, the majority of other scales... This is the object from which you'll really learn to make MUSIC. Before continuing, go and find a way to memorize your fretboard. If someone asks you to play a 'D flat' note, you should have it memorized so that you can play any Db on the neck in less than 5 seconds. In fact, you should be able to do that with any note of the chromatic scale. The Major Scale is constructed of seven repeating notes, taken from the chromatic scale. I'm going to use the G Major scale for ALL of our early examples, because it's one of the most commonly used scales in all of music. The scale itself is as follows.
D-------------4-5-4-------------
A-------3-5-7-------7-5-3-------
E-3-5-7-------------------7-5-3-
It's hard to believe at first that the majority of music is based on this, isn't it? Here it is across all six strings.
  1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 2 1 2 4 1 2 4 2 1 4 2 1 4 2 4 2 1 4 2 1 4 2 1
 
E-----------------------------3-5-7-5-3-------------------------------
B-----------------------3-5-7-----------7-5-3-------------------------
G-------------------4-5-----------------------5-4---------------------
D-------------4-5-7-------------------------------7-5-4---------------
A-------3-5-7-------------------------------------------7-5-3---------
E-3-5-7-------------------------------------------------------7-5-3---
That was called a 'position' scale, because it utilizes all the notes in the scale across one position. Your hand shouldn't have moved up the neck at all, only across the strings. Next up is my personal favorite. Three notes per string. I'm only notating the fingerings that are different from the position scale.
                    1 2 4 1 3 4 1 3 4 3 1 4 3 1 4 2 1                    

E-------------------------------5-7-8-7-5-------------------------------
B-------------------------5-7-8-----------8-7-5-------------------------
G-------------------4-5-7-----------------------7-5-4-------------------
D-------------4-5-7-----------------------------------7-5-4-------------
A-------3-5-7-----------------------------------------------7-5-3-------
E-3-5-7-----------------------------------------------------------7-5-3-
It's still hard to believe that this is where the majority of music is derived from. It gets interesting though, when you do this. Start your three note per string scale, but on the SECOND note of the scale.
E--------------------------------7-8-10--- Play it descending, too 
B-------------------------7-8-10---------- (descending=backwards)
G-------------------5-7-9----------------- Learn it as a position scale,
D-------------5-7-9----------------------- as well.
A-------5-7-8-----------------------------
E-5-7-8-----------------------------------
This sounds a bit different than the first scale, doesn't it? What if you tried from the third note of the scale? Or the fourth? Or the fifth? Etc. Etc... As long as you use the same 7 notes that were in the original G Major Scale, you are still in the key of G Major!!! For reference, here are the notes in G Major.
G A  B   C  D E  F#  G
1 2  3   4  5 6  7   8(1)
I ii iii IV V vi vii I
These are called MODES! They have Greek names! If you're interested, here they are for the scale degrees, I(Ionian), ii(Dorian) iii(Phrygian) IV (Lydian) V (Mixolydian) vi (Aeolian) vii (Locrian) I (Ionian) etc. Here they are as three-note-per-string patterns. The first two have already been covered. Play all of these both ascending and descending, and as position scales. All examples are in standard tuning.
Phrygian
-------------------------------------8-10-12----
-----------------------------8-10-12------------
----------------------7-9-11--------------------
---------------7-9-10---------------------------
--------7-9-10----------------------------------
-7-8-10-----------------------------------------
 
Lydian
------------------------------------------10-12-14--
---------------------------------10-12-13-----------
-------------------------9-11-12--------------------
-----------------9-10-12----------------------------
---------9-10-12------------------------------------
-8-10-12--------------------------------------------
 
Mixolydian
----------------------------------------------12-14-15---
-------------------------------------12-13-15------------
----------------------------11-12-14---------------------
-------------------10-12-14------------------------------
----------10-12-14---------------------------------------
-10-12-14------------------------------------------------
 
Aeolian
----------------------------------------------14-15-17----
-------------------------------------13-15-17-------------
----------------------------12-14-16----------------------
-------------------12-14-16-------------------------------
----------12-14-15----------------------------------------
-12-14-15-------------------------------------------------
 
Locrian
----------------------------------------------15-17-19-----
-------------------------------------15-17-19--------------
----------------------------14-16-17-----------------------
-------------------14-16-17--------------------------------
----------14-15-17-----------------------------------------
-14-15-17--------------------------------------------------
MEMORIZE THE F--K OUT OF THE MODES. This is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. DO IT. It is one of the most important thing you need to know as far as soloing, and playing in any key you want to, ever, is to know your modes all over the fretboard. It also helps to realize where above and below the 12th fret you can play your modes. You can play the Ionian in G Major starting at the 3rd fret OR the 15th fret, because any note 12 frets higher is an OCTAVE up! So a G at the 3rd fret is a G at the 15th fret as well, and this applies to ALL SIX STRINGS! For the record, remember this: The mode that starts on the sixth note of the Major scale (The Aeolian Mode, E when playing in G Major) is the MINOR scale. Remember this. The next column about metal lead playing will expand on the Minor scale, in a VERY metal way. PART FIVE: The Pentatonic Scale! This part is going to be short. I'm going to explain how the Pentatonic Scale is formed, where you can use it, and detail all the modes. The very first scale that most guitarists learn is the Pentatonic Minor scale at the fifth fret.
E---------------------5-8--------- And descending, as well. 
B-----------------5-8-------------
G-------------5-7-----------------
D---------5-7---------------------
A-----5-7-------------------------
E-5-8-----------------------------
I did NOT teach this scale first, because even though it's basically the easiest to use, I wanted the reader to understand WHY the Pentatonic scale is the Pentatonic Scale. As its name implies, the Pentatonic Scale has FIVE notes. This is two less than the normal, seven note Major. This is important, because you can get any pentatonic scale by simply NOT PLAYING two notes from Major. The scale above is attained by removing the fourth note of the Major Scale and the seventh note of the Major Scale. For now, stick to A minor pentatonic (above) and E minor pentatonic, the other very VERY frequently used pentatonic scale. (below)
E-------------------------------12-15-
B-------------------------12-15-------
G-------------------12-14-------------
D-------------12-14-------------------
A-------12-14-------------------------
E-12-15-------------------------------
Also, figure out your Pentatonic modes, and memorize the f--k out of them. It's not as hard as with the major scale, because for now, we only have two notes per string. In closing, I present you with the most metal version of the pentatonic scale EVER. The Blues Scale! Now you may be wondering, what in the F--K does the blues have to do with metal? Play this scale and find out. In A minor:
E-------------------------5-8- And descending, as well.
B---------------------5-8-----
G---------------5-7-8---------
D-----------5-7---------------
A-----5-6-7-------------------
E-5-8-------------------------
 
E minor:
 
E-------------------------------------12-15--------- And descending,
B-------------------------------12-15--------------- as well.
G----------------------12-14-15---------------------
D----------------12-14------------------------------
A-------12-13-14------------------------------------
E-12-15---------------------------------------------
 
If the scale itself doesn't sound very metal, tell me if this DOES sound metal.
 
Eb------------------------------------------------------
Bb------------------------------------------------------
Gb------------------------------------------------------
Db-------------------------------------------12---------
Ab-------------12----12----13----12----13h14------------
Eb-12-15-12-15----15----15----15----15------------------
Anyone who doesn't recognize this upon playing this hasn't heard of one of the GREATEST metal bands of all time, and one of the greatest theory-less guitarists of all time. Dimebag Darrell. Pantera. Go listen, NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW if you haven't heard. That's it for today. Next up is some more difficult rhythm playing, with some rhythm techniques and the beginnings of chords. For help in applying these scales into your playing, I recommend the lesson here on UG,"Improvisation And Phrasing Techniques: Make The Fretboard Smaller To Improve Your Phrasing." It's under the 'guitar techniques' section. And there are any number of other lessons throughout UG and the Internet. Thanks for reading, I hope you learned a lot. Next up is some more metal rhythm ideas.

49 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    link no1
    webbtje wrote: OK, seriously, in what way is this article related to metal? It's a bunch of scales. I mean no offense by this, but how's this relevant to metal?
    really...do some homework then answer your own question retard
    emr_steelmech
    ok, ZeGuitarist's column is f***ing brilliant. Thanks myshadow & colohue. Seems like the author of this column understands how to make the shapes of the modes but is a little misinformed beyond that. ...I think
    moocowII
    Aside from "I already knew all this" and " most of this is wrong" which are completely contradictory posts- the exercises are great. Thanks! I, for one, didn't already know this, or know that they are wrong, but certainly benefited from the contribution as an amateur and hobby level player
    blizzboy
    I've found your article quite helpful, aside from the few mistakes. The Dorian scale is off on one note. It shows to play a F on the A string, when it should be an F#. Still don't know how to apply the modes, but I can play them! Haha. Now, to find a lesson to teach me how to use it...
    guitar_jew
    webbtje wrote: OK, seriously, in what way is this article related to metal? It's a bunch of scales. I mean no offense by this, but how's this relevant to metal?
    Because scales are your melodic building blocks. 90% of metalcore, if not more is derived from the major scale. Most early metal was derived from the pentatonic scale. And because the 'darker' scales, namely harmonic minor is derived from major. Hungarian minor is derived from harmonic minor. And ideas from the harmonic scale comprise the diminished and augmented scales. Everything, even metal, is derived from the major scale, whether directly or indirectly.
    guitar_jew
    Myshadow46_2 wrote: Erm, you've named a number of shapes across the fretboard as Modes. Now, if you play them separately, then you are playing that mode from it's root note. However if you are playing over a G major progression using those shapes then you are playing in G major whichever shape you are using. I think that using the 5 major scale shapes would have been a better than naming modes, basically because beginners will learn these shapes and think they are playing modally just by changing shapes. They'll also think that G major is the same as A dorian, B phrygian etc. etc. when that is far from the truth.
    Shoot! I'm terribly sorry about that. It was something like 2:30 in the morning when I began writing this part. Is there a way to go edit it or something, even though it's already up??
    panterafever
    webbtje wrote: OK, seriously, in what way is this article related to metal? It's a bunch of scales. I mean no offense by this, but how's this relevant to metal?--- actually just about everything can be realated to metal..classical music, rock, blues, jazz.etc. its just the way you apply the principles of what you learn
    wesselbindt
    I don't see how this article relates to metal. Apart from the fact that you mentioned Pantera in the end, there is no connection. OK article though.
    rsatrinations
    pretty sure the third pentatonic is [-----5--7--] [-----4--7-----] [-----5--8-----] [---- -5--7-----] [-----5--7-----] [--5--7-----]
    Oxidation_Shed
    I know you are correct Colohue, but you don't have to sound so arse-y about it. I know he's wrong but this guy is trying to help. I remember first delving into heavy metal guitar and it was daunting, it would've been lovely to have a guide like this, I know it needs to be corrected but you have an "m" in a wee red box next to your name so you're supposed to be helpful - and not rude.
    DogStew
    wait so if i'm standard tuned,and playing the major scale i.e. on the fifth fret, it means i'm playing the a major scale correct?
    Metal-McTwist
    If his "Mode theory" or whatever you wish to call it is incorrect, can someone direct me to where I can find a good article on it? Bon Viacco.
    Anders88
    there's a good article called the modes in order of descending brightness on here that i found helpfull i knew u meant positions as opposed to modes its still a top article anyway, i never knew the blues scale or the minor pentatonic before, very cool shit looking forward to reading the next
    hollywise14
    hollywise14 wrote: Rock on dude! Another great metal post.
    Whoops, wrong smiley. Sorry!
    Fisheth24
    Thanks for finally getting my backside into gear and making me learn new scales that aren't the minor pentatonic. Cheers man.
    w0LFg@ng
    If all you gots so many complaints why dont you do a fkin tutorial on heavy metal. stop with the douchebaggery and stfu. haters
    Colohue
    MyShadow here is spot on. The thread and articles he posted are the work of real theory experts, and I have had many discussions on the subject with ZeGuitarist while he was writing it. blink_fan, that's what you want to be reading. The scale lettering might be the same as the minor scale, but a mode must be played modally around a consistent tonal centre.
    23dannybhoy23
    Ah UG, probably the only site were we get highly informative articles entitled "Heavy Fuckin Metal" :p:
    Myshadow46_2
    Erm, you've named a number of shapes across the fretboard as Modes. Now, if you play them separately, then you are playing that mode from it's root note. However if you are playing over a G major progression using those shapes then you are playing in G major whichever shape you are using. I think that using the 5 major scale shapes would have been a better than naming modes, basically because beginners will learn these shapes and think they are playing modally just by changing shapes. They'll also think that G major is the same as A dorian, B phrygian etc. etc. when that is far from the truth.
    v2a2n2g2
    lol i found the guitar hero controller on the front page so ironic lol
    Zeppelin Addict
    i like how you urge the importance of the blues and pentatonic scale and the reference using cowboys was great, but you should also make it clear that it is how you utilize these notes in these scales to sound a certain way. i see you have this in parts so keep that in mind.. not a bad job though i do agree with Myshadow46_2 with regards to your use of modes.. other wise keep rockin! \m/
    leonk70
    im was in school whilst reading this but im sure when i get home i will practice these and im sure they will help a lot.
    militantRocker
    I already knew this stuff, but it is really important stuff for beginners to learn. I didn't learn this until I'd been playing for a year, it helps immensely. Looking forward to the next installment.
    webbtje
    OK, seriously, in what way is this article related to metal? It's a bunch of scales. I mean no offense by this, but how's this relevant to metal?
    Xiepie
    I think you made a mistake on your E minor scale On the A string, the 13the fret, an A sharp is not in the Eminor Scale i thought, i thought the only sharp in it was F sharp, or am I wrong? Isnt this it? E-----12-14-15--- B-----12-13-15----- G-----12-14----- D-----12-14-16----- A-----12-14-15----- E-12-15-----
    SanJose
    Xiepie wrote: I think you made a mistake on your E minor scale On the A string, the 13the fret, an A sharp is not in the Eminor Scale i thought, i thought the only sharp in it was F sharp, or am I wrong? Isnt this it?
    You're right, there's just one sharp note in E minor (and G major), and that's F sharp. Seems like a very useful article! I'll look more into it as soon as I'm more awake, ahah. Bookmarked.
    cgmetallica1981
    23dannybhoy23 wrote: Ah UG, probably the only site were we get highly informative articles entitled "Heavy Fuckin Metal" :p:
    With a picture of a Guitar Hero controller.
    Myshadow46_2
    emr_steelmech wrote: Colohue m : Every single thing that this article says about modes is wrong. damn...and it all seemed so straightforward that I wondered why I had never learned modes before. Though I imagine its not too much more complex is it?
    The author has described modes as 7 patterns\positions\shapes on the fretboard. Those aren't what modes are. Check: Mode sticky http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/sho... t=1042392 Ultimate Guide to Guitar. Diatonic mode theory http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/sho... the_ultimate_guide_to_guitar_chapter_iv_1_scales_-_diatonic_ modes_in_theory.html Ultimate Guide to Guitar. Diatonic mode practice http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/sho... o/the_ultimate_guide_to_guitar_chapter_iv_2_scales_-_diatoni c_modes_in_practice.html If you'd like to understand modes a little bit more. You'll need to have at least the major scale, intervals and chord construction down before I suggest delving into modes.
    blink_fan
    Colohue m : Every single thing that this article says about modes is wrong.
    this bit is right haha. Seriously though, good article, but you needed to go more depth into modes for people who don't already understand them and how to apply them.
    blink_fan
    Colohue m : Every single thing that this article says about modes is wrong. [quote]The mode that starts on the sixth note of the Major scale (The Aeolian Mode, E when playing in G Major) is the MINOR scale.
    this bit is right haha. Seriously though, good article, but you needed to go more depth into modes for people who don't already understand them and how to apply them.[/quote] sorry for the double post
    Colohue
    Not true. Saying that the Aeolian mode and the minor scale are the same is missing the most basic principle of modal play. Aeolian is modal, the minor scale is not.
    blink_fan
    you obviously have a better understanding of theory than I do Colohue, can you explain this to me more? I always thought the Aeolian mode was another name for the minor scale and they were enharmonically identical. Major with a b3,b6 and b7?
    hildesaw
    I think you dug yourself into a bigger hole than you want to be in when trying to do what you are doing. I respect the attempt, but now you might as well go on to cover all of chord theory, so people know how play a minor chord, because it is used in metal, as well as every other genre, same with the scales. You just bit off a little more than you could chew, and essentially got some information wrong. Just try to narrow down on something specific to metal next time.
    Lord_Vhailor
    I think you made a mistake on your E minor scale On the A string, the 13the fret, an A sharp is not in the Eminor Scale i thought, i thought the only sharp in it was F sharp, or am I wrong? Isnt this it?
    Read this part of the article once egain. He says about E-minor Blues Scale, and A# fits into it (as a so-called "blue note").
    emr_steelmech
    Colohue m : Every single thing that this article says about modes is wrong.
    damn...and it all seemed so straightforward that I wondered why I had never learned modes before. Though I imagine its not too much more complex is it?
    094568029434geo
    this is just an advert for simple modes and the minor pentatonic, it has nothing to do with metal or approach to metal authenticity.