The Doom Generation: The Art of Playing Heavy
High volume doesn’t miraculously turn a flaccid riff into a heavy one, though. As Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains pointed out in GW, January 1996, “there’s something about having strength and not flaunting it. Being heavy has nothing to do with how many speakers you blow or how many decibels you play at.” A heavy riff will always be a heavy riff regardless of volume, but sometimes there’s nothing more satisfying than cranking a 100-watt Marshall stack to the max and letting ’er rip. But be warned: repeated exposure to ear-shattering volumes will damage your hearing, so be careful. The building blocks of heavy music are, of course, power chords. A power chord is a two- or three-note sonority consisting of the root and fifth notes of a chord. A power chord is neither major nor minor because the third is required to determine either of these qualities (more about this later). Power chords are easy to play, easy to move around the neck at high speeds and, most importantly, sound great with gobs of distortion, as the riff in FIGURE 1 proves. FIGURES 2 - 5
show movable forms of the four most commonly used two- and three-note power chord shapes. In these four power chord shapes, the root note is the lowest in pitch. However, many classic riffs, such as the intro to Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” employ inverted power chords. Inverted means the lowest note is the fifth instead of the root, as shown in FIGURES 6 - 8. Inverting a power chord makes it sound darker and also makes it even easier to play—each of the inverted shapes shown in FIGURES 6, 7
and 8 can be fingered using a single digit.
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