This article is about how to play firm and heavy metal rhythm guitar riffs. By referring to 'metal', we immediately get associated to palm muting, kickass slow riffs with rests, fast picking and heavy-sounding chords, right?
That's exactly what we'll talk about here. Besides all the stuff here, I prepared several metal drumtracks downloadable at my website. I'm sure you'll find them useful and fun to jam along. They are based on the most often used, basic drummings in metal music.
I'm going to begin with only 1 note (and that would be the 'E' note of 6th string) riffs. Let's see what rhythmizations can we do with it, what palm muting options do we have, and how do we make all of that to sound badass. First, just play the sixteenth notes in whatever tempo you feel comfortable, only with downstrokes, without palm muting. You have to be ABSOLUTELY SURE that you're not out of tempo when playing this. Use metronome or drumtracks or hit the rythm with your foot. Rhythm playing has to be firm, solid, tight, strong and however you feel like calling it. And it definitely has to be in time. :)
Now, add the palm muting. Make sure you also mute the strings you're note playing, because they can produce much unwanted noise. Try muting it even harder, by moving the picking arm a bit away from the guitar while pushing it's weight on the strings. You will probably hear how the sound now has a bit more bass. This is a great thing on slower riffs with chords, which we'll go through later on. Now try playing those 16ths openly, and then add the palm muting. This change must be flawless.
Now I've got a cool little exercise. Try adding a rest (or rests) in your 16th note sequence. Here are some examples:
When you execute those rests, use 2nd and 3rd finger of your fretting hand to damp the strings at rests. This way you don't have the bass sound on the rests, though, this is the matter of taste. Make at least 10 more, and loop them. Feel free to use any time signature you want. Try to combine your licks later on. You might come up with some really groovy riffs, or even song ideas! Now try playing all of this only with upstrokes. I suggest you go for it with tempo around 90 bpms. Next thing you could do is add the 5th and an octave to those E's, so you get power chords. You can maybe flatten the 5th, so you get the really harsh E(5-) chord. Add the open G string to that chord, so you get the Edim chord. It's sound is perfect for crankin' your amp to 11 in 5am and waking up your girlfriend, especially if you don't want to see her sleeping over at your place anymore! :)
Let's play with note lenghts a bit. If you use 32ths and 8ths in the riffs, you get a plenty of new options. 32ths usually build the tension and 8ths lower it, so always tend to have a balance between the both. Let's just experiment for now.
You should create at least 20 of your riffs. Right now. Take 5 of those that are best.
How do you know if they're best? Very easily. They make you headbang!
We'll make them more colorfull by adding more notes. Use phrygian scale for now (though, you can use variety of others), to keep that heaviness. It goes like this:
I demonstrated only 2 positions of that scale. One is starting from low open E string, and other from E note on 5th string. They're the ones that are the easiest to implement. First 3 notes of this scale actually sound badassiest. Apply them in your riffs. Here are some of my ideas:
Another cool thing you can do is use the phrygian scale from E note on 6th string, on 12th fret, and then combine it with open E notes.
That's the scale, now let's go for some riffs!
I'm sure you get the point. Anyway, that's it for now. Experiment with those ideas a lot, and absolutely positive that you're gonna end up with dozens of cool riffs. I'm going to talk about this subject on few next articles, so stay tuned! And keep your heads bangin'! ;)
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