The Guide To Writing Technical Death Metal

This lesson will give you an in-depth look at the techniques and origins of the genre technical death metal. It also gives tips and general guidelines for writing technical death metal.

1
You're probably thinking right now, "Great. Some random kid is writing generic wrong things about metal." Well, think different. It all pretty much started with the band "Death". Chuck Schuldiner unique vocals and complex guitar rhythms were bringing a new genre to the table. His lyrics were focused on gore and rather violent themes. A lot of Tech-death bands today still do this, but some bands like Obscura prefer to stick to cosmic themes. I personally prefer the cosmic stuff, but that's me. To learn more about Chuck Schuldiner and his involvement with the origin of Tech-death, look him up and you'll find a plethora of information. Things you should know: Basic chord knowledge (how to form triads, interval values(minor second, minor third, etc.)) Intermediate music theory knowledge Tunings I find the most common one is D standard.(D G C F A D) Some bands use Drop C. (C G C F A D) B Standard or a seven String. (B E A D G B) And tons more. NOTE: Technical death metal has a lot of common with progressive music and jazz. You will often find things like this:
      Am     Asus2 Am      Asus2   Cm           Csus2       Cm         Csus2
D|--------------------------------------------------------------------------|
A|--------------------------------------------------------------------------|
F|--------------------------------------------------------------------------|
C|-------12-----11-----12-----11---------15----------14----------15-------14|
G|------9--9--9---9--9---9--9---9-----12----12----12----12----12----12---12-|
D|----7-----7------7------7------7-10----------10----------10----------10---|
Things like this are melody based off of a chord. It's pretty much arpeggios of the chords listed. This is one fundamental aspect of tech-death. I will go into detail later. Techniques 1. Alternate Picking: Alternate picking is when you constantly stick to an up-down-up-down motion with your pick. It's useful for fast parts in these songs. Lack of Comprehension-Death (Thanks to Stefanos Danakos)
Play Riff x 2 times
d)|----------------------------------|-------------------------|
A)|----------------------------------|-------------------------|
F)|----------------------------------|-------------------------|
C)|----------------------------------|------------------2------|Both Gtrs.
G)|--4-------------------------------|---------4--5--2--0------|
D)|--2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-|-2-2-2-2-2--3--0---------|
 
---------------------------------|---------------------------------|
---------------------------------|---------------------------------|
---------------------------------|---------------------------------|
---------------------------------|---------------------------------| 
-2-------------------------------|-5-------------------------------|
-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-|-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-|
Alternate Picking is used here. I thought it would be a good example because the song is pretty fast paced. Often, bands play a power chord (for example C5) and continue to rapidly alternate pick the root. Many songs use alternate pickings. I'd suggest looking up videos of people demonstrating it if you want more info. 2. Palm-Muting: You probably know what palm-muting is. If not, palm-muting is when you play a note while you picking hands lays lightly on the bridge, thus muting the sound and giving a muffled feel. There are countless examples to choose from. Pretty much any song has it. 3. Legato: Legato is Italian for "smooth." In the music world, it means to play something smoothly. On guitar, you hammer and pull-off each note you play. I tend to pick the first note to give me better sustain when I start. The formatting for tabs in this sucks. So look for Solo Kummerer in this tab: 4. Tapping: Tapping is hard to do at first, but once you can do it it opens up a large world of possibilities. For examples with tapping in them, try "Anticosmic Overload"-Obscura, 8-finger tapping exercises, sweep tapping exercises, and tons more of exercises and lessons found on UG. 5. Sweep Picking: Oh boy. This is one of the most used and abused techniques in all of metal. It is very difficult grasp the concept of and even me who has practiced it for three years still struggles with them. The best way to explain it is you are playing an arpeggio of some sort in a manner that each note is heard separate from another. You playing a chord, but each note is individual. You pick in the direction you are moving. It's odd to explain but you'll see soon. If you refer to my riff up above, you'll notice the Am Asus2 Am Asus2 thing. If I wanted to put a lead over that rhythm, I'd arpeggiate those chords and sweep pick them over the rhythm. It'd look like this:
      Am                               Asus2
D|-----10--14--10--------------10--14--9--14--9------------9--14-|
A|-----------------12------12-------------------12------12-------|
F|---------------------11---------------------------11-----------|
C|---------------------------------------------------------------|
G|---------------------------------------------------------------|
D|---------------------------------------------------------------|
       Am                               Asus2
D|-----10--14--10--------------10--14--9--14--9------------9--14-|
A|-----------------12------12-------------------12------12-------|
F|---------------------11---------------------------11-----------|
C|---------------------------------------------------------------|
G|---------------------------------------------------------------|
D|---------------------------------------------------------------|
        Cm                              Csus2
D|-----13--17--13--------------13--17--12--17--12----------12--17|
A|-----------------15------15---------------------15----15-------|
F|---------------------14----------------------------14----------|
C|---------------------------------------------------------------|
G|---------------------------------------------------------------|
D|---------------------------------------------------------------|
        Cm                              Csus2
D|-----13--17--13--------------13--17--12--17--12----------12--17|
A|-----------------15------15---------------------15----15-------|
F|---------------------14----------------------------14----------|
C|---------------------------------------------------------------|
G|---------------------------------------------------------------|
D|---------------------------------------------------------------|
That's how I apply sweep picking to tech death. You should also include jazz things like 7ths, 9ths, m7,Dom7, et cetera. Well that's all I got! Davey P is a 13 year old technical death metal writer. He has been playing for about 6 years. He was raised on heavy metal, but evolved into more darker metal.

9 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    carnagereap666
    Thanks man. It gets tedious writing an article like this. 1. I personally don't listen to Chuck Schuldiner, I only covered what I knew. I probably could have done more research. 2. I didn't think about that when I wrote it. That is true though. 3. I think Buckethead uses that too. 3 (part 2?). I don't see any mistakes. 4. I said that the formatting sucks, but I realized that it all worked out. When I wrote this, it looked odd. Either way, there is Control+F. 5. I know there is, but in the Jazz Band at school all there is, is 7ths, 13ths, and 9ths, 6. Yeah, I probably should have covered them as well.
    boratian
    This is more a guide to standard old school death metal, even just normal modern metal (Metallica, Slayer). Tech death is alot of time signature changes, dissonance, blast beats, straight up beating the tar out of the drums, tapping (think Beneath the Massacre), wide range of harsh vocals (death growl is most common), very much downtuned guitars...and of course SWEEPY SWEEPY SWEEEEEP
    HaydenHohns
    They are really small mistakes like no space between a bracket (In the third paragraph) but otherwise it was well written. I think a genre as complex as Technical Death Metal requires a lot of information for someone to get a rich experience from an article/column like this. I highly recommend a continuation of this series. what Flibo said is very correct. Cynic were really in-depth with their chord vocabulary. Integral Birth is a good reference point if you were going to extend this.
    carnagereap666
    Is it an Asus2 because there;s no 5th? Otherwise it would be an A9? Just check my theory...
    In a sus2 chord you replace the 3rd with a 2nd. So instead of 1-3-5, it becomes 1-2-5.
    You seem to focus a bit too much in Obscura
    Obscura is one of my favorite bands, so I tend to talk about them a lot.
    tostrhed
    Is it an Asus2 because theres no 5th? Otherwise it would be an A9? Just check my theory... Cant wait to try that, my kinda stuff..give us some more!
    Flibo
    You didn't really go into detail with all that jazz and arpeggios thing. But that's fine, because that's much more advanced stuff than what you covered. If you haven't already, I'd definitely look into the album Focus by Cynic. There are great .pdf tabs for it in the internet that have the chords marked in. Great if you want more insight to that "jazz" influence. Also, a lot of technical death metal bands have trippy time signatures. You seem to focus a bit too much in Obscura. They're a great band and are a good example of techniques like sweeping and tapping (and string skipping tapping!), but they're not all there is. Good effort though.
    HaydenHohns
    I'm quite impressed considering you're thirteen years old but there are a few things that need to be corrected: 1. Chuck Schuldiner created Death Metal and while quite visceral at first, his music and lyrical topics became rather complex (Discussing thing such as abortion, social commentary, The Human Condition, philosophy etc). 2. Technical/Progressive Death Metal has also mixed Western Art Music (Think Baroque/Classical/Romantic etc) as apparent from bands like Necrophagist (The end of 'Only Ash Remains' even contains an excerpt from Sergei Prokofiev' 'Dance of the Knights'). 3. I'm not quite sure about this fact but I'm also under the belief that Joe Haley of Psycroptic uses 'Chicken Picking' in many of his riffs which is a technique that originated in Country Music (Again I'm not 100% sure but correct me if I'm wrong and you have a reliable source). 3. Spelling and grammar, they're small but if I was writing a column to post where everyone could see it then I would treat it like an English assignment. 4. Looking for that tab you made a link to was really annoying to scroll through. Perhaps you could create a screenshot to make things easier. 5. There are a lot more things to Jazz than
    7ths, 9ths, m7,Dom7
    . Chromaticism is widely used, both in chord progressions and melodies. I'm not too experienced in Jazz but you can also expect frequent and/or extended 'jam sections' over complex chord changes. 6. More depth would also create a richer experience for those just starting to learn/experience Technical Death Metal. History on its pioneers such as Atheist, Cynic, Suffocation etc would be good. Otherwise it's quite good. If you plan to continue this then I suggest a more in-depth look at the history, techniques and musical application in Technical Death Metal.