Metallica: 'Blackened' Guitar Solo Lesson with Chris Zoupa

Hey guys. Check out my step by step article and tutorial on the amazing solo to "Blackened" by Metallica.

Ultimate Guitar
Standard tuning: E A D G B E

Difficulty Level: Advanced

I always thought that "One" was the only decent song on "...And Justice for All" and I'm not a huge fan of that song either. How I've gone all these years overlooking the song "Blackened," especially due to how win the solo is... I'll never know. As usual we'll break the solo down into all problematic sections and I'll leave a link to my YouTube lesson and a tab at the bottom of the article. 

Section 1 Tips

In this section we have James and Kirk playing a harmonised solo around "E" minor/"E" Aeolian. Let's have a look at the basic scale shape Kirk uses in this section. (See diagram below)

One really important thing to keep in mind is that the time signature jumps from a 6/4 bar to a 7/4 bar. (See excerpt below)

This really messed me up while I was learning it and it really confused some of my students too. In the end I kind of think of it as 2 groups of 6 beats then a sneaky extra beat on every second bar. Keep listening to the song as you practice this section so that the odd time signature becomes something familiar and less "foreign" to the ears.

Section 3 Tips

This section starts of with a pretty cool ascending run mixing a bit of legato with basic semiquaver shredding. The scale Kirk uses over this run is essentially a "F#" Dominant Phrygian starting from a "B" note on the 5th string. (See scale below)

Once you get comfortable with this shape try dealing with the actual run itself. Pay close attention to the legato notes on the semiquaver triplets. (See excerpt below)

The other challenging phrase from this section is the tapping lick. The thing that threw me the most was the initial triplet emphasis of the taps. Let's concentrate on just our tapping hand emphasis first. (See diagram below)

You'll notice that the first bar the taps are in quavered triplets, then in the second bar the emphasis/feel changes to straight quavers. It does seem a bit strange to practice just the tapping hand, but when you get this pulse correct your fretting will most likely sync up with it. Let's take a look at the full phrase with both hands in action! (See excerpt below)

Take it slowly and be weary of the pulse and feel changes. Also keep in mind that it's played pretty fast so practice with patience.

Section 4 Tips

This section starts with some pretty cool bends and we're working around an F# dominant Phrygian scale on the first 3 strings. (See excerpt below)

You'll notice this phrase has a subtle exotic undertone. You can hear a lot more of the Dominant Phrygian characteristics in this phrase than the other Dominant Phrygian phrase in section 3.

This section ends on a repetitive pull off lick on the first 2 strings. (See excerpt below)

It's quite simple really. It's a little stretchier than a regular pentatonic but I think the phrasing is pretty standard blues pulloffs. It's a 3 note lick played exactly the same 9 times in a row. Try play it along with the song as Kirk's phrasing and emphasis might not make sense straight away.

Section 5 Tips

This section works with a repetitive descending semiquaver riff. I think it's easier to digest if you think of it in 4 note groupings (4 semiquaver chunks). (See excerpt below)

It's pretty predictable and consistent. The only thing I found odd was that the key signature changes from "E" Aeolian to "E" Dorian towards the end of the run as we have a "C" on 20th fret and "C#" on 9th of the 1st string. When you play it as fast as Kirk it doesn't actually sound like a massive or questionable modulation. If you play it slowly your ear may think you're playing tricks on it if you're "modally sensitive."

Section 7 Tips

This section has some pretty cool licks and rocky slides but there was one phrase in particular I wanted to focus on. The cool thing about is it mixes shredding with moments of legato. (See excerpt below)

Don't rush this. You don't want to over pick or over legato this passage. The 1st and 3rd beat of the bar is where the cool pulse of the legato lifts this phrase. This idea of mixing techniques and emphasis is something that I personally implement into my own solo writing and improvisation. It's well worth trying to incorporate into your lead playing arsenal!

Section 8 Tips

The final section we deal with some lightning fast pulloffs all taking place on the 3rd/"G" string. Conceptually this section seems easy, but I actually found it to be the most challenging to get up to speed. (See excerpt below)

As you can see we're working with semiquavers played completely with legato. This is so tricky as the BPM of the song is already stupidly fast and then to legato in sixteenths is madness. If you can get your hands on some software to slow this section down (like Audacity) and build up your speed, I would strongly suggest you do so. Oh and have fun with that final whammy-harmonic-dive bomb... You've earned it! 

Have fun with this one guys. It's tricky but it's a delicious banquet of win.

Download tab here.

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By Chris Zoupa

20 comments sorted by best / new / date

    wow, a solo of this caliber requires some serious warm up, I suggest these exercises
    Awesome as always Chris! Love this solo, whats worse though is the bit after the solo with the riff playing 1 note behind the beat, making it virtually impossible to play. It was probably a studio trick, as Metallica leaves out the last part of the solo and that part.
    Badass UltraMan
    No studio trickery there at all, they play it live here in this clip
    You just have to ignore the drums for the first two bars and you will hear that the guitar flow is completely normal. Once you learn to do that you will find it much easier to master
    The nice thing about the song is that if you can downpick nearly everything you can avoid tricking yourself with the time signatures or where the beat falls, but I agree it's still weird.
    Definitely not impossible but it is very tricky. It's probably one of my favorite parts and I personally think it's pure genius. The easiest way to do it is to ignore is kind of ignore the drums after the first two times. If you can get past the first half a second or so after it changes it should be pretty easy if you know what it's supposed to sound like. It's all in your mind.
    Hahahah, I remmember having problems with that part xD It was long ago though, but it's not a trick, and its possible. I downpick the whole part. For me it feels like 2 different riffs in there. But just downpick it slowly till you get it and than speed up.
    That beat shift with between the riff and the drums is so ingrained that I actually can't play the song in my head without it. So no, studio trickery is not necessary. But if I had to guess, I'd say it was originally included because Lars came out of the solo an eighth note late. And if I remember correctly, they do play that part live - I think they remove part of the slow solo section.
    You clearly have never heard of bands like Dream Theater. They do stuff like (and more complicated than) this all the time.
    This is the song that inspired me to pick up the guitar in the first place! Rock on Chris.
    You really don't like ...And Justice for All? To each their own, I guess, but I'd love to see a lesson of The Shortest Straw solo. It's one of the most underrated Metallica solos in my opinion (by the way, this lesson was amazing \m/ )
    Damn... I love that solo but it's way too hard for me, i can play the Blackened Solo almost perfect but the Shortests Straw solo is on another level, atleast for me.
    Completely agree, The Shortest Straw is amazing! You'll probably get a lot of wah haters on the 2nd solo bit xD and yea to each their own haha but for me ...And Justice For All is probably my favourite Metallica nowadays!
    The explanation of the theory sucks... Just because he throws a C# doesn 't mean the Key changes to E dorian!!!
    Yes vote me down, I am 100% wrong just because I argued with the author of this articles. Well the explanation of the explanation of thetheory does suck, either voting me down or not.
    Great lesson, thanks. Would also like to see more Justice for all solos though