When writing riffs, one of the greatest challenges is to create parts that are not just melodically and rhythmically effective but also memorable and powerful. The best metal riffs—like “Crazy Train,” for example—contain all of the qualities necessary for a great riff: hard-driving power, strong melody and, most importantly, a “star quality” that makes the riff instantly recognizable. This is true for both fast and slow riffs, because a really great riff doesn’t have to be impressive exclusively in a technical sense. This month, I’d like to present a couple of riffs that I believe exemplify these qualities.
Guitar players are usually on some sort of a mission to improve our guitar tone. For many, this journey never ends. I dare say we're obsessed with it. The point of this blog post is simple, and I’m not going to comment much on the new toys for our guitars. However, I can tell you without any trepidation that the single greatest way to improve your tone is practicing. It might seem simple, but on the other hand, it can take years for us to truly understand it.
For this lesson, I’ve put together a series of melodic riffs that could be used for a song’s intro, verse, chorus, bridge or solo section, and that utilize an open low E-string pedal tone. A pedal tone is defined as a long held or rearticulated note around which other parts move. As applied to the guitar, a pedal tone usually represents the tonic, or root note, and is played on the lower, often open, strings.
This month, I'd like to address an essential point of focus for every good metal player: how to best strengthen the pick-hand technique. The examples I'm going to show you cover a wide variety of pick-hand techniques, from using all downstrokes the alternate picking to economy picking and more, offering a systematic approach to building up these different techniques that will allow you to play with more expression, control and power.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that guitar playing is like a winter sport. During the summer, guitarists, like everyone else, divide their time between recreation, work and practice, but when the cold months arrive, they start playing guitar again in earnest. Unfortunately, after a long break, we often find that our skills aren’t quite where they need to be.
I spent some time speaking with the guitar tech to then-GN’R guitar player Robin Finck. In one of our conversations, I asked him how often he changes strings on Robin’s guitars. Since Robin then traveled with about 10 guitars, I thought to myself that this is quite a lot of string changing. Chris said something I've thought about ever since then.
Just a few days ago, I spent a week with 42 metalheads aged 10 to 19 at a destination Metal Camp at Camp Lakota in Wurtsboro, New York. It was a fantastic, positive experience on several levels, fueled by young energy, enthusiasm and "go get ‘em" attitude from the young rockers. Many of them wanted to make metal music their life. While I was there, I started to collect my thoughts the definitiuon of "success," and what it could mean to them as metal musicians.
This month I'd like to talk about the art of combining different, complementary rhythm guitar parts to create powerful metal rhythm tracks. The sound of two guitars is the bedrock of heavy metal music.