Guitar Teacher Reveals Why Madonna Covered Pantera

Drop D lesson led to "A New Level" cover.

Ultimate Guitar

Back in 2008, the internet erupted when Madonna dropped a guitar cover of Pantera's "A New Level" on her Sticky and Sweet tour. Now, in a new interview with Decibel magazine, Madonna's guitar teacher and live guitarist Monte Pittman has revealed the story behind the cover.

As the guitarist notes, the cover came about when he was teaching the pop star about drop D tuning:

"And so at the same time, she had gotten a new musical director. He wanted to do her song 'Hung Up' with her playing guitar. But it's in D minor. That would be a great segue to me showing her drop D tuning on the guitar. So I was showing her the song, and I was like, 'You know what, I gotta teach you some Pantera.' So I showed her the riff to 'A New Level' because I thought it would be easy to remember how the notes just move up chromatically, one at a time. She loved that. She kept playing that all the time.

"When we were in band rehearsals doing 'Hung Up,' once we ended the song, she would start going into that Pantera riff. The rest of Madonna's band, they're not really familiar with that music, so they just started playing what she was playing. Every day in rehearsal when we would end that song, we would just start playing that riff. I thought, 'Oh that's cool, that's fun.'

"But then all of a sudden, you would start to see, like, some runners bring water in to stock the refrigerator. And the tour manager just happens to walk in, doing something. All of these people just started showing up at rehearsals who are there working, but just kinda popping their head in the door, like, 'Hey I wanna see Madonna play that Pantera part again.'

"And it stayed [and became part of the live show]. I was surprised that it stayed. Of course, I'm not gonna say no. When else am I gonna get to play Pantera on a stage in a stadium? But it stayed, and that's where that story came from."

As Decibel notes, Pittman is a guitarist with a metal pedigree, having previously played with Dallas metal heroes Prong.

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43 comments sorted by best / new / date

    That's a pretty neat story actually. Also kinda cool to see Madonna get about as close to rocking out as we'll ever see her. I didn't realize that she did this, haha. Respect.
    That, admittedly, was pretty cool.Any tip of the hat to a relatively obscure band such as Pantera by an artist like Madonna is significant, and might lead a few people to look into them further.Good on her!
    I wouldn't say Pantera are relatively obscure, but I agree that it's pretty cool to see Madonna playing one of their riffs.
    before I looked at the paycheck which said $5932, I have faith that my cousin had been trully receiving money in their spare time on their laptop.. there sisters roommate has done this 4 only twenty one months and a short time ago paid the debts on their condo and bought a gorgeous Saab 99 Turbo. i was reading this ----- WWW.STAR58.COM
    I was expecting something as bad as Miley Cyrus covering Smells Like Teen Spirit, but was pleasantly surprised. Well done, madam.
    Did anyone check out his band? That song was pretty good, albeit the vocals were kinda the low point of that song.
    I didn't even know that Madonna could play guitar. I like her doing Hung Up on guitar, it's cool!
    "Could play guitar" is saying a lot. She's at beginner level at best.
    For a musician who clearly hasn't focused on guitar for most of her career, that's pretty impressive. She can sing and play at the same time and stay in time- that's quite a bit beyond what a beginner would do. I would have expected a lot of mistakes from a beginner- mistakes Madonna didn't make.
    Madonna played the notes with almost perfect timing and playing notes is one thing, but playing in time with the song/band is another. She did it very well and way better than any beginner would. Also, I would think Madonna knows something of music theory, so again, she is way beyond a beginner here.
    it always annoys me when these pop artist cover a metallica song or say they are metallica fans and its always a song off the black album that everyone knows. At least madonna played a deep track from pantera. a song you never hear on the radio really
    I know it's art so it is subjective, but I can't stand the way her video was edited. 5 cuts a second is excessive. As a musician i like to watch what people are playing, and it's very difficult to do that when the camera angle changes 3+ times a second. On a side note, I watched Phil Anselmo's band cover New Level last week and it was awesome. Go see him if you get the chance.
    totally agree, same with live dvds where they focus on the wrong person while someone else has a solo etc.
    Did she ever take up the invitation to go and see Anthrax I wonder . Although the fact that while Charlie invited her , he also said he would drink her bath water , might have put her off a bit !
    I've got to admit... I quite enjoyed watching that performance haha. That song sounds really good distorted and Madonna did a good job with her guitar playing (even though it's just power chords, but still...)
    This is good; Madonna is probably rich enough to find a way to resurrect Dimebag from the grave
    what kind of crap is this UG
    The kind of crap that is interesting, informative, and relevant. I am a big fan of Madonna and I thought that this was very interesting.
    I can't get over how hot she looks in that performance.. ****ing celebrities being all hot and shit
    The only reason Madonna copied pantera is because Madonna sucks (and knows it) and pantera kicks ass
    Yep. You nailed it. That's definitely why Madonna "copied" Pantera. Nothing gets by you...
    Monte is a class act player... Madonna, Prong, solo albums... cool signature guitar too, incredibly versatile for stage and studio guys.
    That's the power of good metal, even the jaded pop machine of wack Madonna can turn heads.