Write Songs, But How

Hello, this is my first lesson in which I will give you tips for writing diverse metal genres.

Ultimate Guitar
In this lesson, I will talk about songwriting. I will go from Power Metal to Mathcore, going thru Grunge and Death Metal. To go to a certain style of metal, press Ctrl+F and write the musical style you want. This lesson is more like a tips compilation, but it can help you a lot. It did help me to write my songs. Let's start by Power Metal. Power Metal is a unique form of music. The goal of music is of course to embody an emotion in sound. But Power Metal invokes the feeling of something epic, fantastic and a great adventure. It is said to be one of the most difficult forms of metal to write. Power metal should be epic, this is one of the characteristics that sets it from many other metal genres. However, this does not mean it has to be complex and fast, many power metal songs can be very simple, like a 4 power-chords progression. Here's an example: Blind Guardian: Mirror Mirror
A common element of power metal is the fast, intense drumming. You will want a drummer with two bass drums or a double bass pedal, and to use these quite frequently. However some great, epic sounding contrasts can be made by changing to a slow, half time drum beat in certain sections. You will probably find yourself writing songs between 150 and 200 bpm, so you will need a drummer who can keep up. Guitars are very important, too. Playing a power chord, then picking the root note palm muted is very common. Use major and minor scales, depending on whether you want your song to be happy or not, however a minor scale song can still sound cheerful and uplifting in sections if you use the right chords. For a pre-chorus, going up or down a third can sound very epic, and builds up nicely to the chorus being on the root note. Key changes can sometimes be found in the final choruses of some songs, where the entire chorus is moved up a tone. Lead Guitar is usually fast and shreddy, minor and harmonic minor scales are great to use, some modes such as phrygian and dorian can also be useful. Guitar harmonies are very common too, with third and octave harmonies being the most common, quartal (fourth) harmonies are not as common. Sweep picking, tapping and fast alternate picking are commonly used for solos, but don't think you can just play fast and people will enjoy it, you need to make your solo melodic too, bends add an extra degree of emotion when used properly. What Power Metal guitarists also often do, is tuning their guitars/bass one half step, to go a little downer on the notes, but still they have good high notes. Power Metal often have keyboardist. So, if you have one, make sure that he can solo or go pretty fast on the keyboard. That's it for Power Metal! Next is Grunge. Grunge is a sub genre of rock. Grunge songs are usually based on the power-chords of I, bIII,IV, bVI and bVII (In the key of E these are the power chords based on the following frets : 0,3,5,8,10) The Chord of V is a big no-no! Although major/minor chords are sometimes used in grunge it is better to just use power-chords if you're just starting out. Another feature of grunge is unexpected modulations to the parallel major. Basically at the end of a verse/chorus if you have the chords I or IV sing the major third above them. This is not essential but if you do it properly it will sound really cool. Use lots of power chords; they are the heart of most Grunge songs. You should also have a great bassist behind you. He/she should be able to play simple bass lines that are kind of funky and simple. When the solo comes around, it should be easy, yet it should sound heavy and complicated. A perfect example of this is Kurt Cobain's solo in Smells like Teen Spirit. There was not a lot about grunge, but thats what I have to say about it. Next is the mighty Black Metal (even tough I don't like it, I have to please everyone :P) Take inspiration from some of the greatest Black Metal bands around like IMMORTAL, Burzum, DarkThrone, Dimmu Borgir, Mayhem, Gorgoroth, emperor,you can even look back on some of the bands that got most of it all started like Venom, Bathory, Slayer, and Black Sabbath. Often, Black Metal riffs are fast-strummed deformed chords. Exemple: Instead of THIS, you could use THIS or THIS.
Or also, you could write a single note progression that you like and tremolo-picking them. Exemple: Tempo:180
Next, Brutal Death Metal. I don't have a lot to say, even tough I love brutal death metal. All I have to say i for the riffing: listen to Cannibal Corpse, Nile, Dying Fetus, Deicide, Etc. and look to the tabs for your favorite songs of each. You will see how their songs are made: fast tremolo-picking, and fast chord switching, dropped guitars and so on. Try to imitate a little their style, and you will be on. I know it's not much, but it's what I have to say about it. Death Metal. For a riff, pull a riff using root notes from a power chord with a very weak arpeggio. (ex; E string, 5-5-5-5-5-5-5-8-8-8-7-7-7-7-7-5-5-5-5 etc). If you're into tech death, look up Decapitated, Necrophagist or Beneath the Massacre for references. Have a good guitar/bass/drum setup. For a guitar, a good ole' Marshall tube amp with an Ibanez tube screamer will make great sound, of course, put it at: 10 gain, 10 treble, 2.5 bass(or for a tighter rhythm sound turn it up) , 0 middle, you figure the rest out. For bass, find out how to make a clean noise some what heavy, without using distortion. Drums should consist of a standard set, with another pedal or bass drum, a china, a crash, up to one or two more toms, a one more cymbal, and if you wanna mix it up, put in jingles, hand-bells or maybe a cowbell. Clean is good. Adding a clean intro that grows is a great addition to Death Metal. Listen to Lack of Comprehension by Death as a reference. Remind to have high bass frequencies with the clean sound to make it seem heavier. LEADS! Most Death Metal bands from 97-now have dropped leads. Old-schoolers are still experienced in the art. Take Trey Azagthoth or Jack Owen for example. If you want a dynamic lead system, try using blues minor arpeggiations, neoclassical arpeggios, sweeping, tremolo sweeps, and tapping. These are great, two string tapping is highly recommended for skilled guitarists. Chuck Schuldiner (Death) shows this in the intro to 'The Philosopher.' Another exceptional lead guitarist in a metal band is Emil Werstler from DAATH, and Tosin Abasi from Animals As Leaders/Born Of Osiris-both VERY unique guitarists. Try experimenting with time changes, and writing in unusual time signatures like 13/16, and 7/8 - these can make for very interesting and entertaining riffs, as well as add to the overall complexity of the music. Don't get distracted by high-speed intensely technical leads and riffs. Slow, doomy, sludgy riffs and solos are just as awesome. 'Festering in the Crypt' by Cannibal Corpse is an example. So thats it for the lesson...Wait what? I've forgotten Mathcore? Then, read on! Mathcore is also very random,which is an acquired taste. There are very few Mathcore bands, but the number is steadily rising. The songs don't need to have melody. They don't have to rhyme. It involves screaming, face melting guitar solos, and rapid drumming... but most importantly, odd time signatures. Start off with playing anything. At all. Try to avoid scales, or it will make you sound too ordinary. Use alternate picking if you must, but avoid it if you can because it takes away from the shredding sound. Record what you've played. It can be on different strings. It just has to sound heavy and random. Now, play it amplified or distorted. Does it sound heavy? If it sounds like it would be played on an acoustic, then you may have to look from scales, but heavy customize them so you keep the "sound", but lose the rhythm. Understand Odd Time Signatures Odd meters, such as 7/8, are the backbone of Mathcore. If you do not understand how time signatures work, find out before getting into this style of music (The top number designates how many beats there are, the bottom number designates which note gets the beat. If this doesn't clarify well enough, go find a dedicated answer). Use Those Odd Time Signatures Pick a time and just come up with something that fits the meter. For example, say you want to write a riff in 13/16. You can cram 13 16th notes together to make it flow, or perhaps you can take a standard 4/4 riff and remove 3 16ths (So the riff would cycle on the e of 4). Use a vast array of odd meters to acquire that 'complex' mathcore sound. So now, thats the REAL end of this lesson. Thanks for reading, and comment!

3 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I gotta say your idea of grunge is horrible, since it seems that the only grunge you know is nirvana... yes nirvana uses alot of power chords, but I guess you should listen to a few of the other grunge giants like Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, or Pearl Jam... all four of these bands use full triads pretty regularly, STP-Plush uses almost all full chords, Would by Alice in chains uses all full triads in the chorus and at the end of the song they also use full chords... Look I'm not trying to rip into you, but I happen to play alot of grunge and your section was quite misinformed and I'm a firm believer of not trying to teach people about something you don't actually understand. also in the black metal section, im not sure what you mean by deformed chords you show an example of an E5 then you show an E5(#5) which the entire band probably implies an Eaug chord.then you show a chord that has the notes F A E this is basically jusf an Fmajor7 without the 5, which is probably either being hit by the vocalist or the bassist.... none of these really seem 'deformed' to me.... finally i'm not big into mathcore, but I know I was incredibly confused when I finished reading your description of it.... my biggest suggestion would be to work each of these into their own lesson instead of trying to cram them all into one, this would let you show more examples of each and give a list of bands that you can listen to to hear the qualities of the genre.
    Reading this after a few years, this article is extremely stupid and I wonder why the hell I wrote this.