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How To Play Metal On Guitar How To Play Metal On Guitar


How To Play Metal On Guitar

Written by: Kalina Muir

Learn how to play metal on guitar with our expert tips and tutorials. Master the techniques and unleash your inner rockstar. Perfect for guitar enthusiasts looking to level up their skills.

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Table of Contents



So, you want to unleash the raw power and intensity of metal music through your guitar? You've come to the right place. Playing metal on the guitar is a thrilling and electrifying experience that allows you to channel your inner aggression and passion into your music. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced guitarist looking to delve into the realm of metal, this comprehensive guide will equip you with the essential knowledge and techniques to rock out with confidence.

Metal music is characterized by its heavy, distorted sound, aggressive riffs, and lightning-fast solos. It encompasses a wide spectrum of subgenres, from the bone-crushing brutality of thrash metal to the dark, atmospheric melodies of black metal. Each subgenre brings its own unique challenges and opportunities for guitarists, making metal a diverse and dynamic genre to explore.

In this guide, we'll delve into the intricacies of playing metal on the guitar, covering everything from choosing the right gear and tuning your instrument for maximum impact to mastering advanced techniques and crafting your own signature metal sound. Whether you're drawn to the thunderous chugging of rhythm guitar or the blistering speed of lead guitar, this guide will provide you with the tools and insights to elevate your metal playing to new heights.

Get ready to embark on a thrilling sonic journey as we unravel the secrets of playing metal on the guitar. By the end of this guide, you'll be well-equipped to unleash a torrent of molten riffs and blistering solos that will captivate audiences and ignite mosh pits. So, grab your guitar, crank up the distortion, and let's dive into the exhilarating world of metal guitar mastery.


Choosing the Right Guitar and Gear

Choosing the Right Guitar and Gear

When it comes to playing metal on the guitar, selecting the right instrument and gear is crucial to achieving the distinctive tone and playability that define the genre. The following factors should be considered when choosing your gear:

  • Guitar Selection: The foundation of your metal sound begins with the guitar itself. While there are various types of guitars suitable for metal, the most popular choice is the solid-body electric guitar. These guitars are favored for their ability to handle high-gain distortion and produce powerful, sustained notes. Additionally, guitars with humbucking pickups are preferred for their ability to minimize unwanted noise and deliver a thick, aggressive tone.
  • Amplifier and Effects: A high-quality amplifier with ample gain capabilities is essential for achieving the searing, overdriven tones synonymous with metal. Look for amplifiers that offer versatile EQ controls, as well as built-in distortion or overdrive channels to shape your desired sound. Furthermore, incorporating effects pedals such as distortion, overdrive, and delay can further enhance your sonic arsenal, allowing you to sculpt your tone with precision.
  • String Gauge and Action: Metal guitarists often opt for heavier string gauges to accommodate the lower tunings and aggressive playing style prevalent in the genre. Thicker strings provide increased tension and stability, enabling you to execute palm-muted chugs and intricate riffing with clarity and power. Additionally, setting the guitar’s action (string height) to a medium to low height facilitates swift fretting and effortless string bending, essential for executing lightning-fast leads and expressive vibrato.

Investing in a reliable guitar tuner is also paramount, as metal frequently incorporates alternate tunings to achieve the crushing heaviness and menacing dissonance characteristic of the genre. Whether you’re exploring drop tunings or experimenting with unconventional pitch alterations, a precise tuner ensures your guitar remains in optimal intonation, allowing you to unleash the full sonic potential of metal.

By carefully selecting a guitar and gear that align with the demands of metal playing, you can embark on your musical journey with confidence, knowing that your equipment is primed to deliver the aggressive, hard-hitting sound that defines the genre.


Tuning Your Guitar for Metal

One of the defining characteristics of metal music is its penchant for unconventional and downtuned guitar tunings, which play a pivotal role in shaping the genre’s distinctive sound. To prepare your guitar for the sonic onslaught of metal, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the various tunings commonly employed in the genre:

  • Standard Tuning: While standard tuning (EADGBE) serves as the foundational tuning for many genres, metal guitarists frequently venture into lower tunings to achieve a heavier, more menacing sound. However, standard tuning remains a viable option for certain metal subgenres, particularly those emphasizing melodic leads and intricate harmonies.
  • Drop D Tuning: Widely embraced in metal music, drop D tuning (DADGBE) involves lowering the low E string a full step to D, enabling guitarists to unleash thunderous power chords and bone-rattling riffs with ease. This tuning is favored for its ability to produce a deep, resonant sound and facilitate aggressive palm-muted chugging.
  • Drop C and Beyond: As the quest for sonic brutality intensifies, metal guitarists often explore even lower tunings, such as drop C (CGCFAD), drop B (BF#BEG#C#), and beyond. These tunings afford a crushing low-end presence and enable the execution of devastatingly heavy riffs and menacing chord progressions, making them indispensable in the arsenal of modern metal guitarists.

Once you’ve selected a suitable tuning for your desired sonic landscape, it’s imperative to ensure your guitar is accurately intonated and the strings are appropriately gauged to withstand the increased tension of lower tunings. This involves adjusting the guitar’s bridge saddles to optimize the pitch accuracy of each string across the fretboard, preventing undesirable intonation issues that can detract from the clarity and power of your playing.

Furthermore, selecting the right string gauge is crucial when venturing into lower tunings, as heavier strings are essential for maintaining stability, resonance, and articulation in the face of increased string tension. By opting for thicker strings designed to accommodate lower pitches, you can fortify your guitar against the sonic onslaught of metal, ensuring that each note resonates with authority and definition.

By mastering the art of guitar tuning and tailoring your instrument to the demands of metal music, you’ll unleash a seismic wave of aggression and intensity that will reverberate through every riff and chord, cementing your presence in the hallowed annals of metal guitar mastery.


Basic Metal Riffs and Power Chords

At the heart of metal music lies the primal energy of thunderous riffs and bone-crushing power chords. These foundational elements form the bedrock of the genre’s sonic assault, driving the relentless momentum and ferocity that define metal’s unmistakable sound. As you embark on your metal guitar journey, mastering basic metal riffs and power chords will empower you to unleash a torrent of raw, unbridled aggression that captivates and electrifies audiences.

Metal Riffs: Metal riffs are characterized by their aggressive, distorted tone and relentless rhythmic drive. They often feature palm-muted chugging, rapid alternate picking, and menacing chromatic passages that exude a sense of impending chaos. When crafting metal riffs, it’s essential to experiment with dissonant intervals, unconventional phrasing, and dynamic rhythmic accents to inject your playing with an aura of menace and power.

One of the most iconic metal riffs, known as the “gallop,” exemplifies the driving force behind countless metal anthems. This rhythmic motif, often executed using palm-muted downstrokes in a triplet feel, imparts a relentless, galloping sensation that propels the music forward with unyielding intensity. Mastering the art of crafting and executing metal riffs will enable you to harness the genre’s formidable sonic arsenal, commanding attention with each thunderous, earth-shaking motif.

Power Chords: A staple of metal guitar playing, power chords are simple yet potent dyads that exude raw, unadulterated power. Consisting of the root note and its fifth, power chords possess a commanding, full-bodied sound that resonates with primal force. Their minimalistic structure and versatility make them ideal for crafting aggressive, hard-hitting progressions and anthemic, fist-pumping refrains that define the essence of metal.

By harnessing the relentless energy of power chords, you can forge an unbreakable sonic foundation that underpins the blistering solos and searing melodies that soar above the rhythmic maelstrom. Whether you’re summoning the thunderous might of classic metal anthems or forging new sonic frontiers with innovative riffing, power chords serve as an indispensable weapon in your arsenal, empowering you to channel the unbridled fury and unyielding resilience of metal music.

As you delve into the realm of basic metal riffs and power chords, embrace the untamed spirit and unrelenting drive that define the genre, and let your playing resonate with the primal force that has captivated generations of metal enthusiasts. With each thunderous chord and earth-shaking riff, you’ll forge a sonic legacy that reverberates with the indomitable spirit of metal.


Advanced Metal Techniques

As you journey deeper into the realm of metal guitar mastery, you’ll encounter a diverse array of advanced techniques that elevate your playing to astonishing heights of speed, precision, and expressiveness. These techniques, revered for their ability to unleash a torrent of sonic fury and virtuosity, form the cornerstone of metal’s electrifying allure. Embracing and mastering these advanced metal techniques will empower you to command the stage with unparalleled finesse and unleash a whirlwind of sonic devastation.

Sweep Picking: A hallmark of neoclassical and progressive metal, sweep picking involves executing rapid, cascading arpeggios with a fluid, sweeping motion of the pick. This technique demands impeccable coordination between the pick hand and fretting hand, allowing for seamless traversal across strings and producing a dazzling waterfall of notes. Whether employed in lightning-fast solos or intricate harmonic passages, sweep picking imbues your playing with an ethereal, symphonic quality that captivates and enthralls.

Tapping: Popularized by virtuosos such as Eddie Van Halen and further refined in the realm of metal, tapping involves using the fingers of the picking hand to fret notes on the fretboard, creating rapid, staccato bursts of sound. This technique unlocks a world of harmonic possibilities, enabling you to unleash blistering runs, cascading arpeggios, and otherworldly textures that defy the conventional boundaries of guitar playing. Tapping infuses your solos with a breathtaking agility and inventiveness, propelling your melodic expression to dazzling new heights.

Artificial Harmonics: Embraced for their ability to summon piercing, ethereal overtones, artificial harmonics involve lightly touching the string with the picking hand while picking to produce harmonic nodes at precise intervals along the fretboard. This technique infuses your playing with an otherworldly, celestial aura, adding a touch of mystique and grandeur to your sonic tapestry. Whether employed to accentuate soaring lead passages or imbue rhythm riffs with haunting overtones, artificial harmonics bestow your playing with an enchanting, supernatural allure.

By immersing yourself in the intricacies of these advanced metal techniques, you’ll unlock a boundless realm of sonic expression and technical prowess, transcending the confines of conventional guitar playing and forging a path of unparalleled virtuosity. With each mesmerizing sweep, lightning-fast tap, and celestial harmonic, you’ll harness the elemental forces of metal music, commanding a symphony of sonic fury and transcendent beauty that leaves audiences spellbound and breathless.


Developing Speed and Precision

Speed and precision are the twin pillars of virtuoso metal guitar playing, enabling you to unleash a torrent of blistering riffs and scorching solos with unparalleled dexterity and finesse. As you embark on the quest to elevate your playing to astonishing levels of velocity and accuracy, honing your technique and cultivating a disciplined practice regimen are essential for scaling the dizzying heights of metal guitar mastery.

Alternate Picking: A cornerstone of metal guitar technique, alternate picking involves seamlessly alternating between downward and upward pick strokes to execute rapid, articulated phrases with maximum efficiency. By mastering this technique, you’ll unleash a relentless barrage of notes with unwavering precision, propelling your playing to exhilarating speeds while maintaining impeccable clarity and control.

Metronome Training: Embracing the metronome as your steadfast ally in the pursuit of speed and precision is paramount. By systematically increasing the metronome tempo while practicing scales, arpeggios, and challenging passages, you’ll gradually expand your technical prowess and fortify your sense of rhythmic accuracy. This disciplined approach cultivates unwavering precision and empowers you to navigate the most demanding metal compositions with unwavering fluency.

Scale and Arpeggio Mastery: Delving into the labyrinthine tapestry of scales and arpeggios is instrumental in cultivating speed and precision. By immersing yourself in the intricacies of scales such as the pentatonic, natural minor, and harmonic minor, as well as arpeggio shapes spanning the fretboard, you’ll expand your melodic vocabulary and fortify your technical agility. This comprehensive command of musical vocabulary equips you to unleash a symphony of speed and precision, weaving intricate tapestries of melody and harmony with breathtaking fluency.

Economic Picking: Embracing the economy of motion inherent in economic picking empowers you to navigate arpeggios and scale passages with unparalleled fluidity and efficiency. By minimizing extraneous pick movements and leveraging the natural flow of your picking hand, you’ll unlock a seamless, aerodynamic approach to executing rapid, cascading note sequences, propelling your playing to stratospheric levels of speed and precision.

With unwavering dedication and a steadfast commitment to disciplined practice, you’ll ascend to the pinnacle of speed and precision, commanding the fretboard with a breathtaking blend of velocity and accuracy. Each lightning-fast run, searing bend, and precision-engineered riff will resonate with the indomitable spirit of metal, bearing testament to your unyielding pursuit of sonic excellence.


Creating Your Own Metal Sound

As you immerse yourself in the exhilarating realm of metal guitar, the quest to carve out your own sonic identity becomes paramount. Crafting a distinctive metal sound that reflects your artistic vision and resonates with raw, unbridled intensity is a transformative journey that empowers you to leave an indelible mark on the tapestry of metal music. By embracing innovation, experimentation, and a deep understanding of tone-shaping elements, you’ll forge a sonic signature that reverberates with the primal essence of metal.

Exploration of Tone: Delve into the sonic alchemy of guitar tone, exploring the interplay of gain, EQ settings, and effects to sculpt a sound that embodies the ferocity and grandeur of metal. Experiment with different amp and pedal configurations, fine-tuning parameters such as gain, presence, and midrange to unleash a searing, larger-than-life tone that commands attention and exudes unbridled power.

Embrace Textural Depth: Infuse your sonic tapestry with layers of depth and dimension, leveraging techniques such as layering rhythm tracks, incorporating ambient effects, and experimenting with spatial soundscapes. By weaving a rich, immersive sonic landscape, you’ll envelop listeners in a sonic maelstrom that captivates the senses and transports them to the visceral realm of metal’s unyielding intensity.

Signature Lead Tone: Cultivate a lead guitar tone that serves as an extension of your musical persona, imbuing your soaring melodies and blistering solos with an unmistakable sonic identity. Whether you favor searing, high-gain distortion or ethereal, harmonically rich overdrive, sculpt a lead tone that resonates with emotional depth and unwavering expressiveness, enabling you to channel the full spectrum of human emotion through your instrument.

Innovative Effects Usage: Embrace the boundless possibilities of effects pedals and processing to push the boundaries of sonic experimentation. From ethereal reverb and haunting delay to spine-tingling modulation and visceral distortion, harness the kaleidoscopic palette of effects to infuse your sound with a captivating, otherworldly allure that defies convention and transcends the ordinary.

By embarking on this sonic odyssey, you’ll unearth the raw, untamed essence of metal and harness it to forge a sound that is uniquely yours. With each thunderous chord, searing lead, and atmospheric passage, you’ll etch your sonic signature into the annals of metal history, leaving an indelible imprint on the genre’s ever-evolving tapestry of sonic innovation and unyielding passion.



Congratulations on embarking on this exhilarating journey into the heart of metal guitar mastery. Throughout this comprehensive guide, we’ve delved into the essential facets of playing metal on the guitar, from selecting the right gear and tuning your instrument for maximum impact to mastering advanced techniques and crafting your own signature sound. As you stand at the threshold of this sonic adventure, armed with newfound knowledge and a burning passion for metal, it’s crucial to embrace the transformative power of music and the unyielding spirit of creativity that propels you forward.

Remember, the essence of metal lies not only in the thunderous riffs and blistering solos but also in the unbridled expression of raw emotion and unyielding resilience. As you hone your craft and cultivate your unique sonic identity, embrace the uncharted territories of sonic innovation, and fearlessly push the boundaries of what is possible with the guitar. Whether you’re summoning the primal fury of bone-crushing riffs or weaving ethereal tapestries of lead guitar wizardry, infuse each note with the unrelenting passion and unwavering intensity that define the genre.

Furthermore, never underestimate the transformative power of disciplined practice, relentless perseverance, and a steadfast commitment to musical excellence. Embrace the metronome as your ally, the practice room as your sanctuary, and the stage as your hallowed domain, where you unleash a torrent of sonic fury and virtuosity that captivates and enthralls audiences. Let the unyielding pursuit of speed and precision propel you to dizzying heights of technical mastery, commanding the fretboard with unwavering fluency and unparalleled dexterity.

As you forge your own sonic legacy and contribute to the ever-evolving tapestry of metal music, remember that your journey is a testament to the unbreakable spirit of creativity and the enduring power of music to transcend boundaries and unite souls. Whether you’re igniting mosh pits with bone-rattling riffs or serenading the cosmos with soaring melodies, your passion for metal guitar resonates with an unshakeable intensity that leaves an indelible mark on the world.

So, pick up your guitar, unleash the primal roar of distortion, and let your playing reverberate with the unbridled spirit of metal. With each thunderous chord and blistering solo, you’ll affirm your place in the pantheon of metal guitar gods, leaving an indelible imprint on the genre’s storied legacy and inspiring a new generation of guitarists to embark on their own sonic odyssey.

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