The Guide To Writing Technical Death Metal. Part 2

A more in-depth look at Tech Death. I will discuss chords, common scales, lyrical themes, and more.

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Here we go again!

Tech-Death is all about the technicality of the music. That's why you find tapping, sweeping, legato, alternate picking, and sweep-tapping everywhere. These are very difficult and technical techniques to master. One thing that is very distinct in Tech-death is the odd and unusual chords and arpeggios used.

Chords!

You might find this somewhere:

    Gdim A#dim   C#dim    Edim\r\nD|---------------------------------------------------------------|\r\nA|---------------------------------------------------------------|\r\nF|---------------------------------------------------------------|\r\nC|-----7-----10-------13------4----------------------------------|\r\nG|---6-----9-------12-------3------------------------------------|\r\nD|-5-----8------11--------2--------------------------------------|
These are diminished arpeggios with the 3rd omitted. These give a very eerie, and dissonant sound to your music. They are used pretty often. Back in Medieval times, composers would be killed because of the tritone (diminished fifth) association with Satan. Brutal. A diminished chord looks like this:
      Gdim
d|----------------------------------------------------------------|
A|----------------------------------------------------------------|
F|----5-----------------------------------------------------------|
C|----7-----------------------------------------------------------|
G|----6-----------------------------------------------------------|
D|----5-----------------------------------------------------------|
You might also find Augmented chords and arpeggios:(augmented is indicated by +)
     E+          F+          G+
d|---------------------------------------------------------------|
A|---------------------------------------------------------------|
F|---------4-----------5-----------6-----------------------------|
C|-------5---5-------6---6-------7---7---------------------------|
G|-----6-------6---7-------7---8-------8-------------------------|
D|---3-----------4-----------5-----------5-----------------------|
They also sound eerie and dissonant. Because Tech-death has some jazz mixed in, you will also find m7, dim7, and more things like that:
   Gm7     Gdim7     Common Dim7 riff      Gsus2        Gsus4
d|------------------------------------------------------5--------|
A|------------------------------------------------------5--------|
F|-5-------5------------------5-------------------------7--------|
C|-5-------4--------------4-7--------------9------------7--------|
G|-7-------6----------3-6------------------7------------7--------|
D|-5-------5--------5----------------------5------------5--------|
These are some common chords in tech-death. I'd suggest use sweep picked arpeggios of these, or tapped arpeggios. Scales! Tech-death uses very exotic scales that tend to give an eastern or Egyptian feel, but this is my favorite and is the most common one used (in my opinion):
The Harmonic Minor Scale or Mohammeden Scale
d|------------------------------5-7-8----------------------------|
A|------------------------5-6-9----------------------------------|
F|--------------------5-7----------------------------------------|
C|--------------6-7-9--------------------------------------------|
G|--------5-7-8--------------------------------------------------|
D|--5-7-8--------------------------------------------------------|
It gives off the Eastern feel at the 6th to 7th note jump. This is called the augmented second. If you recall the Gdim7 riff up there, you'll notice that on each string, the jump is 3 semitones. That is an augmented second. There is another scale commonly used (Necrophagist comes to mind):
Phrygian Dominant(fifth mode of the Harmonic Minor scale) or Spanish Gypsy
d|-----------------------------5-6-9-----------------------------|
A|-----------------------5-6-8-----------------------------------|
F|-------------------6-7-----------------------------------------|
C|-------------5-7-8---------------------------------------------|
G|-------5-7-8---------------------------------------------------|
D|-5-6-9---------------------------------------------------------|
Again, it sounds very Egyptian. If you have time, you should look up more modes of the Harmonic Minor scale. You might recognize these next two:
  Locrian
d|-----------------------------2-3-5-----------------------------|
A|-----------------------1-3-5-----------------------------------|
F|-------------------2-4-----------------------------------------|
C|-------------2-4-5---------------------------------------------|
G|-------2-3-5---------------------------------------------------|
D|-2-3-5---------------------------------------------------------|
The 7th mode of the major scale is Locrian. It can give a very diminished, dark feeling if used on the rhythm. There are plenty of articles on UG about modal playing. Check them out sometime.
   The Natural Minor Scale
d|-----------------------------3-5-6-----------------------------|
A|-----------------------3-4-6-----------------------------------|
F|-------------------3-5-----------------------------------------|
C|-------------3-5-7---------------------------------------------|
G|-------3-5-6---------------------------------------------------|
D|-3-5-6---------------------------------------------------------|
You've definitely heard this one before. This is one of the most common scales in all music. Lyrical Themes Often in Tech-death, they write about space, time, life, death, war, politics, et cetera. I personally just growl gibberish and when the chorus comes I start making words more pronounced. Obviously, don't do that. I'd say, if you want to start writing tech death lyrics, start reading them. I love Obscura so all my songs have lyrics about space stuff. If you like a band that writes about war, and you have a similar point of view, write about war, but don't copy them. Analyze and Apply. A Short List of Technical Death Metal Bands That Are Notable: Death- They pretty much founded the genre. Atheist- One of the founders of the genre. Cynic-Two ex-members of Death, and interesting vocals. Necrophagist- One of the most known and famous. Obscura- Pretty much a tech death super group. Two ex-members of Necrophagist, member of Pestilence, one member of Spawn of Possession. Decapitated- Famous Tech Death band. Notable. Origin- Notable. An influence in a lot of Death Metal. Pestilence- Pretty famous. I hope you enjoyed this lesson on writing Technical Death Metal! 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.

83 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    KyleLee
    theogonia777 wrote: Not very good at all. The problem is that while you show these scales and bits of theory (of which your knowledge is dodgy at best), you give absolutely no way of relating them into playing technical death metal. You can't just say "learn this scale and this arpeggio" and expect someone to just know how to use it. There is nothing on constructing riffs or leads, it's essentially rehashing the old "know your scales" bit that all music teachers say. You missed on so many of the fundamentals between this lesson and the first one that it's not even funny, such as use of time signatures, abrupt tempo and key changes, use of chromaticism, etc, things which you could have probably found reading the Wikipedia articles on death metal and technical death metal. The lyrical themes section was bad as well. That is one of the most childish and unprofessional things I have ever read in a lesson, and of no use to anyone. Also, your list of tech death bands at the ends is a joke. You pretty much said "famous" or "notable" with no why. Also, Sean and Paul founded Cynic several years before playing in Death. That whole section shows that you did not do your research at all. The whole thing was just not very good at all, and I'd imagine it would leave any newbie to the world of tech death just as confused, if not more, than before they read this. The whole thing shows very little research, poor writing skills, and poor knowledge of theory. Sorry man, but this just wasn't very good.
    Lets see your guide, bro. Dude's only a kid and he actually made a pretty decent guide. You shouldn't expect him to basically give you instructions on how to write a riff. Understand the notes, practice to get muscle memory and then begin writing. Sounds pretty simple to me. Having read this cats guide's, I've written a few riffs that have turned out heavier than before I read this. If you're older than the kid who wrote this, you don't need someone to hold your damn hand when crossing the street. Be a big boy and figure some shit out for yourself. Also, in terms of how it's written or researched; THE GUY IS THIRTEEN YEARS OLD. For 13, I think he did an impressive job.
    Flibo
    MaXiMuse wrote: Dim chords have a flattend 7th, so every chord with 'dim' behind is completely wrong. Sorry, but if you are going to post an article to be read by millions get your theory straight...
    Am I missing something here? Dim7 chords have a diminished seventh which is enharmonic to major sixth. He gets that right with the Gdim7. A dim chord by itself doesn't even have a seventh. It does have a minor third though, but he says that it's omitted so I guess it's fine.
    MaXiMuse
    Dim chords have a flattend 7th, so every chord with 'dim' behind is completely wrong. Sorry, but if you are going to post an article to be read by millions get your theory straight...
    Myshadow46_2
    The Harmonic Minor Scale or Mohammeden Scale??? it's just harmonic minor, very common in a lot of music, it's the natural minor with a raised 7th to give it a leading tone back to the tonic. Oh and people weren't killed for using tritones.
    sebediah
    good article! i'd have to criticize here and there but some of my guitar students that are your age are nowhere near as articulate. keep it up man! when speaking about diminished, it's more about minor thirds, diminished 5ths and diminished 7th's.. augmented seconds are minor thirds. and since we're speaking about evil music, the minor seconds are more useful (IMHO) than augmented seconds. so to avoid any confusion, your 'evil' intervals would be minor second, minor third, diminished 5th and diminished 7th. kinda like how a Fmajor tonality has F G A Bb C D E, not F G A A# C D E. two A's is more confusing than one A and one Bb, if you get my drift!
    metalheadblues
    are you really 13? Good guide..The last thing i would ever think to use would be some chords but the certainly do have a way of just making the atmosphere of the song brutal..
    tostrhed
    Its a good article! This was a good read, which we havent been getting much of lately on here! Thank you carnagereap666, keep up the good work. You helped me cement the idea of locrian being the diminished mode, been playing with that alot lately, love diminished arpeggios. Every article doesnt have to be thesis theogonia777, jeez!
    carnagereap666
    Myshadow46_2 : The Harmonic Minor Scale or Mohammeden Scale??? it's just harmonic minor, very common in a lot of music, it's the natural minor with a raised 7th to give it a leading tone back to the tonic. Oh and people weren't killed for using tritones.
    Mohammedan Scale is another name for the harmonic minor. Sort of like how locrian is another name for the diminished scale, and Aeolian is another name for the minor scale. They used to be punished or excommunicated for using it because it was known as being "Diabolus in Musica" which means the devil in music.
    MaXiMuse : Dim chords have a flattend 7th, so every chord with 'dim' behind is completely wrong. Sorry, but if you are going to post an article to be read by millions get your theory straight...
    My theory is straight. A diminished triad has a flattened 3rd and a flattened 5th, but a fully diminished chord which makes things a little harder to use has a 6th and a bb7th. It makes things generally easier to use with just a flat 3rd and 5th. Look it up: http://piano.about.com/od/chordskeys/a/d... http://piano.about.com/od/chordskeys/a/d...
    carnagereap666
    That is true. But that's how I learned. Trial and Error. I went out and learned scales and chords, and I figured out how to take those scales and chords and make the music I like with it. I never promised to make you a master of Tech-death. I promised a guide to writing some tech-death. It wasn't intended for someone who's been playing for 10+ years. It was meant as a stepping stone to get you on your way to writing tech-death. I'll admit I did leave out some things like time signatures, and key changes. But not all tech-death uses that. Also, if my writing is bad and my knowledge of theory is bad, I would like to see your lesson on tech death. I don't see any typos in this. This lesson was covering the basic techniques and skills and some bands to listen to. if you don't like the article don't acknowledge it. If you feel the need to "set people right." Go write a lesson.
    theogonia777
    Not very good at all. The problem is that while you show these scales and bits of theory (of which your knowledge is dodgy at best), you give absolutely no way of relating them into playing technical death metal. You can't just say "learn this scale and this arpeggio" and expect someone to just know how to use it. There is nothing on constructing riffs or leads, it's essentially rehashing the old "know your scales" bit that all music teachers say. You missed on so many of the fundamentals between this lesson and the first one that it's not even funny, such as use of time signatures, abrupt tempo and key changes, use of chromaticism, etc, things which you could have probably found reading the Wikipedia articles on death metal and technical death metal. The lyrical themes section was bad as well. That is one of the most childish and unprofessional things I have ever read in a lesson, and of no use to anyone. Also, your list of tech death bands at the ends is a joke. You pretty much said "famous" or "notable" with no why. Also, Sean and Paul founded Cynic several years before playing in Death. That whole section shows that you did not do your research at all. The whole thing was just not very good at all, and I'd imagine it would leave any newbie to the world of tech death just as confused, if not more, than before they read this. The whole thing shows very little research, poor writing skills, and poor knowledge of theory. Sorry man, but this just wasn't very good.
    HaydenHohns
    Good! This one is much better than the last. I can't help but feel that more examples would help though. Maybe three or four songs from each band that really stands out as a fine example in Tech Death. You should be a little more formal with your wording as well. "pretty much" sounds unconvincing. Instead it should be a statement. "Death founded the Genre", "Obscura are a Tech Death supergroup" etc. I think composing and applying is the next step in your guide. Maybe start through analysis of specific works, then show how to apply something new. So you're a fan of Obscura, I recommend you pick out a particular section of a song that you like and pick one riff/melody and find what specific characteristic/s you like (Such as tonality, rhythm etc) and then show how to make a new riff/melody from that. That might take up two parts though. Keep it up though. You've already improved dramatically.
    codyblanchard15
    jesus that song wildchild posted sucks balls compared to obscura lol especially the solo, totally sounded like a major scale run lol i was looking up practice techniques cuz im struggling to learn and obscura solo (incarnated) and i see this hilarious argument lol
    ninjainvader
    Wow, very impressed that you wrote out this lesson at age 14. I don't get why people are complaining, you gave some of the common scales and chords and used some examples, it's a good lesson. Wish I knew all this at 14. I totally agree, writing tech death is very often trial and error. Having an idea of what you want to hear is good, but it even so it can take a lot of trial and error to get it to sound exactly how you want given how many octaves you can choose from, how many ways you can arrange arpeggios, mixing scales or not, harmonizing using a mix or 3rds and 5ths can be cool too, theres a lot you can do.
    sebediah
    it's a diminished 7th. (double flat 7th.) a flat 7th is just a minor seventh. although we do refer to the 'locrian' m7b5 chord as half diminished ( 1 b3 b5 b7) where the full diminished chord is 1 b3 b5 bb7. which is still just a 6th, but as i stated earlier, you give intervals their names according to their importance in a chord. m6(b5) is alot more confusing than just dim7 though yeah, your first Gdim chord would be mainly just a m(b5) as your voicing goes 1 b5 1 b3. though you made no mention of dim7 so it's kind of a grey area. would be clearer to simply label your chord Gm(b5) as for your Gdim7. the notes would be 3423 (R b5 bb7 b3). if you didn't know it, try it. evil in a chord XD move it up in minor thirds and you've got that sinister organ from horror flicks. the gdim7 you wrote is actually a GmM7b5 (G minor major7th flat 5. 1 b3 b5 7) which as eerie as it sounds, isn't as sinister as a full fledged diminished. give the kid a break! or at least outline why he's wrong at some parts. the general idea of tech death is there. i guess being a teacher i feel more inclined to give him a hand than just plain say he's wrong
    sebediah
    wait. scratch my GmM7b5 thinger. you've got the write chord. except you write G on the 5th fret so that threw my brain in a loop as the 4th fret is G's major 7th in standard tuning. but here's something else: even if you tune to D standard, refer to the chords on your tab as if they were in E standard. you play a Adim7. but it sounds like a G. again, less confusion! see what you did to my brain?! haha
    carnagereap666
    I'm sorry as well. I was immature at a moment that really didn't call for it. But death metal isn't about death, it's about anything. Space, philosophy, life, robots, and more. The generalization that it is only about death is wrong. Yes, I am thirteen. I grew up in an odd environment for music. My dad was in a band and they'd practice in the house when I was a baby. It was mostly hard rock and 80's metal. So I ended up liking it. Then I started to look at different styles of metal, and currently tech-death is my favorite.
    rockgodman
    Interesting article for a newbie (me not you) to the genre. I think what your article does a better job at showing people how to identify the genre than learn to write in it. Which actually if you had said that less people would be on your case. The only thing that sorta bothers me is that you say there's some jazz in it just because there are 7th chords. 7th chords don't make things jazz as many genres have 7th chords. Just thought i would throw that out there.
    ruletheneck
    i love the way you completely pummel the haters who didn't read properly i'm not very far into tech-death, but i'm fourteen, been playing for a couple of years now and am really starting to get into composing, and this was a great read and helped to open my mind up!
    Attack&Release
    Not to be picky, but the first "chord progression" you showed weren't chords. a chord is three or more different notes, and those were diminished fifths with octaves.
    SlackusMaximus
    kratos379 wrote: carnagereap666 wrote: They used to be punished or excommunicated for using it because it was known as being "Diabolus in Musica" which means the devil in music. Tony Iommi is the one who came up with the tritone thing. He heard that it was banned in church so he decided it must be good to use. Black Sabbath was born. That's where it started. This isn't actually true, but it is a common myth. Dave Mustaine told Kerry King (during the short time that he was in Megadeth) about this. He told him that a tritone was called a devil's tritone and he gave the same story you did. That influenced Slayer's sound a lot. However it really is just a dramatization. That's never actually happened.
    carnagereap666
    Well, the reason I wrote this was because there were no articles about technical death metal. Only metalcore, deathcore, thrash, and death metal. But nothing on technical death metal. So I figured why not be the first?
    carnagereap666
    Thanks! I don't play bass as a primary instrument, but from what I know, fretless basses are popular. 5 and 6 string basses are used, and the bass often is heard louder in the mix. Most bassists will play what the guitar is playing or will be playing arpeggios of the chords used. That's all I really know.
    carnagereap666
    Haha! Well I wrote this with using a guitar in standard and moving everything down a whole step. And a lot of tech-death is in D standard so I figured I'd write tabs in it.
    technoguyx
    carnagereap666 wrote: Yeah I am thirteen. I'm the only kid I know who like Tech-death. Thanks for the review!
    Well, I'm 14 and I've been kinda interested in some tech-death lately if that counts. Kinda good lesson btw though nothing I didn't really know already. Any tips on playing tech-death bass?
    carnagereap666
    kratos379 : carnagereap666 wrote: They used to be punished or excommunicated for using it because it was known as being "Diabolus in Musica" which means the devil in music. This isn't actually true, but it is a common myth. Dave Mustaine told Kerry King (during the short time that he was in Megadeth) about this. He told him that a tritone was called a devil's tritone and he gave the same story you did. That influenced Slayer's sound a lot. However it really is just a dramatization. That's never actually happened.
    After extensive research (wikipedia) and looking up the definition of "fanciful." I have concluded that that I am false, but it makes for a good story! haha.
    kratos379
    carnagereap666 wrote: They used to be punished or excommunicated for using it because it was known as being "Diabolus in Musica" which means the devil in music.
    This isn't actually true, but it is a common myth. Dave Mustaine told Kerry King (during the short time that he was in Megadeth) about this. He told him that a tritone was called a devil's tritone and he gave the same story you did. That influenced Slayer's sound a lot. However it really is just a dramatization. That's never actually happened.
    sebediah
    common practice is to write the chords as if they were in standard however. look at some tabs of detuned metal in guitar world and such, a silly example but metallica's sad but true in the tab book. the verse riff is written as E5 D5 E5 E5 Bb5, even though the song is tuned to D standard, the low string riff is written as an E.
    PapaSchumpf
    carnagereap666 wrote: It takes more time and talent to play than any petty genre you think is "real music." People like you assume that death metal is just: DETUNE TO Drop A#, hit notes. More knowledge goes into making it than any other genre besides Jazz and classical, which technical death metal is mixed with. You people assume no emotion or feeling goes into making it. But you're dead wrong. Bob Dylan is terrible and so are the Outlaws. GTFO.
    Sorry man, I didnt intend to raise the tempers like that. It was more of a joke, since I just dont understand how you could write music about death all the time ... but ok thats your problem and just some advice: If you want to argue in a professional and convincing way don't get personal (reading my profile to see which music i like and writing an offending comment about it). But in this case it was justified due to my equally offending comment. Is the author really 13 years old? Pretty impressive, I mean with 13 years I just stopped listening to Justin Timberlake...
    carnagereap666
    The Wildchild wrote: carnagereap666 wrote: Is that so? Where is your article? Where is your guide to writing music? I don't see it. Please elaborate on how this article is in anyway bad. Otherwise, just leave because no one cares about your opinion or your terrible band that has zero stage presence. Thanks for the comment! This article was written to serve as a guide to writing technical death metal music, but it fails at that not only because writing metal cannot be translated into mere numbers, techniques, or what have you, but also because it cites terrible "tech death" bands as examples (such as Necrophagist, Obscura, who just throw flashy passages into a big heap of crap without any notion of coherent songwriting and musical development). Remember kids, metal is about feel, not technique.
    Writing music is all about letting your creativity to shine. You say metal is all about feel and not technique. Well, you need technique to play the guitar and write music. You can't just take some gentleman off the street and tell him to play something with feeling. He has to learn techniques, chords, scales, and all that good stuff. In reality, metal is 60% feel, 40% technique. Besides, the point of TECHNICAL death metal is to be technical with the music. Use odd chords, use unique scales, try complex rhythms, think outside the box. You say metal can't be translated to numbers and techniques. You're wrong. It has to be otherwise no one could learn the goddamn genre. Again, if you think my article fails at serving as a guide, write your own. Also, Necrophagist and Obscura are not terrible examples. They are perfect examples of what tech-death is all about. Technicality. And if you think they just throw "flashy passages into a big heap of crap without any notion of coherent song writing and musical development." You clearly don't appreciate good music and do not deserve to write your own songs because if you can't see the feeling and emotion that goes into some of their songs, then don't listen to tech-death.
    xXSlipknotfanXx
    My favorite tech-death is Fleshgod Apocalypse hands down. If you don't know them you gotta check them out. And thank you for this, it should come in handy.
    carnagereap666
    If I write another article, I'll have section on linking riffs together. But I do think Demilich is bad. I hate the vocals. They remind me of Torso**** which is grindcore. But Necrophagist and Obscura are pretty much what tech-death is. Fast licks, odd chords, blast beats, fast double bass, the use of exotic scales, and more. Necrophagist is probably one of the most famous modern tech-death bands.
    The Wildchild
    carnagereap666 wrote:Give some critique. Tell me how to make it better.
    Okay, how about you include a part on how to string riffs together such that it expands on a single theme and becomes a coherent (meaningful!) song rather than "oh put diminished scales and weird chords and become tech deff lololol"... then again, you just called Demilich bad and worship Necrophagist and Obscura... There might just be no hope for you. PS: Chromatic passages are pretty much the meat and potatoes of death metal. What you describe as technical "death metal" is basically a heavier (and shittier) variant of jazz fusion (actually I would suggest that you focus on jazz fusion instead since you probably would like that more than metal). Ta-ta
    carnagereap666
    Senor Kristian wrote: The point of technical death metal is tothink outside the box, yet here you are extablishing the box for technical death metal. I don't get it.
    I'm just supplying techniques, scales, chords, and some general info. Think outside the box using the information I gave.
    carnagereap666
    That is a terrible song IMO. But anyway if you think you can make a better guide writing what you call "coherent death metal songs." Then what's stopping you? By the way, I honestly don't think I can classify that has tech-death. There's nothing different in the riffs. Just the same two over and over again. There is practically no scale being followed (Maybe the chromatic), there are no chords being used, no technicality in this besides the drums which are following a quick fill then a simple beat then later they start doing blasts. Technical Death Metal has roots in jazz. I don't see any of that in this. Just two or three riffs over and over. Then a mediocre solo. And it's not just a heap of irrelevant theory babble. It actually relates to the article. You're just bashing the guide for the sake of bashing the guide. Give some critique. Tell me how to make it better. Don't just say: You forgot the part about good songwriting. You go write an article on "good songwriting."
    Senor Kristian
    The point of technical death metal is tothink outside the box, yet here you are extablishing the box for technical death metal. I don't get it.