The Doom Generation: The Art of Playing Heavy
“To attain maximum balls you’ve gotta pick using downstrokes only—it just sounds tighter, chunkier and more rhythmic,” continued Hammett. “Playing really fast riffs using all downstrokes is something James [Hetfield] and I have been working on for years.” Don’t fret though, as even the mighty Metallica can’t down-pick everything they play. “We play the intro to ‘Master of Puppets’ using all downstrokes, and although that riff isn’t our absolute limit, it’s definitely getting there! As for a riff like the one at the front of ‘Whiplash’ from Kill ’Em All, alternate picking [down, up, down, up]is a must!” To get an idea of just how much power palm-muting and down picking can add to a riff, play FIGURE 13 using both techniques. You may only be repeating an F#5 power chord, but it sounds a lot like the intro to Judas Priest’s gigantic early-Eighties hit, “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’,” from Screaming for Vengeance. Such is the power of a single, palm-muted power chord played with downstrokes, a goodly amount of distortion and the right attitude. Another common method of adding more oomph to a part is to pedal, or continually repeat, the root note in between the chords or notes that make up the riff. Check out the simple E minor power chord progression in FIGURE 14. How can you make it heavier? Pedal a palm-muted low E string root note in between the chords as shown in FIGURE 15. This simple ploy definitely takes the riff to a heavier place. Now you know why E minor and A minor are the most common keys in hard rock and metal — it’s easier to pedal an open-string note between power chords than a fretted one. The reason why power chords are used more in heavy music than regular major or minor chord shapes is simple: Excessive distortion makes regular chord shapes sound like crap. When a major or minor third is added to a high gain, root/fifth combination, the result can be an undesirable mess. However, to quote Mr. Hammett again, “If you ditch the fifth and play just the root and third together, you can get away with it, even with mondo distortion.” Hammett is correct. FIGURE 16 is a moveable minor diad (two-note chord) shape and FIGURE 17 is a moveable major one. Now let’s hear them in action: FIGURE 18 shows the E5, D5, C5, B5 riff from FIGURE 15 using Em and Bm diads instead of E5 and B5 and major diads in place of the C5 and D5. When used in moderation these diads can definitely add color and contrast to a part. When should you use them? As Dimebag Darrell once said, “I don’t follow any rules when it comes to using these diads. I go with the one that sounds best. It’s always worth that extra second to see if the minor third sounds better than the major. For the demonic stuff the minor wins every time, but I always run through my options before going with it. Sometimes it’s cool to play major third and minor third diads back-to-back, or a minor third followed by a root/fifth diad—whatever combo sounds good.” For an explanation of playing “chromatically,” Dime offers this: “In case you don’t know what ‘chromatic’ means, let me explain: it means every note! So, to play chromatically, all you do is move up and down a string one fret at a time. Simple shit, huh? I use chromatic thinking a lot in my songwriting. I dig chromatic passages because they can add mood and aggression to a riff. If you’ve never dicked around with this idea, then check it out. It’s simple but it kicks ass.” FIGURE 19 is a killer chromatic ascending riff taken from the start of Korn’s “No Place to Hide” from Life Is Peachy. It also features inverted chord shapes. Other great examples of chromatic riffage include the intros to Pantera’s “New Level” (Vulgar Display of Power), Alice in Chains’ “Them Bones” (Dirt), and the crushing riff that appears at 0:57 in Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (Ride the Lightning). Dimebag continues with an explanation of syncopation: “All syncopation means is accenting beats that you don’t normally accent. Let’s say you’re chugging out a simple eighth-note pattern like the one shown in FIGURE 20a. The notes you’d normally accent would be the ones that fall on counts ‘one,’ ‘two,’ ‘three’ and ‘four.’ This is shown in FIGURE 20b (the accented notes are indicated by the symbol >). All we have to do to make this basic rhythmic idea syncopated is accent the notes that fall on the ‘and’ counts instead (FIGURE 20c)—the eighth-note upbeats. I know this is a real basic illustration, but remember, simple is bad-assed if done aggressively. So, attack those accents, because that’s where the magic is!” One very effective way of creating syncopation is by employing rests (i.e. not playing anything) on some of the prominent beats, as this forces the listener’s ear to focus elsewhere. Creating such “holes of silence” can have a very dramatic effect, especially in an otherwise busy song. A great example of rests is found between 0:39 and 0:51 in Metallica’s “Leper Messiah” (Master of Puppets). FIGURE 21 is the opening riff to the song that launched Alice in Chains to superstardom, “Man in the Box” (Facelift), and it illustrates the power of a hole-filled, syncopated groove perfectly. Although the majority of the riff features a repeated diad, the resulting rhythmic groove is both memorable and instantly recognizable because most of the accents fall on an eighth-note upbeat. Other great examples of unforgettable rhythmic grooves based largely on one note include the intros to Pantera’s “Psycho Holiday” (Cowboys from Hell) and White Zombie’s “Thunder Kiss ’65”(La Sexorcisto). The most disturbing interval (an interval is the “distance” between two notes and is measured in tones or steps) in Western music is the tritone (the infamous “flat five” interval, E-Bb for example). In fact, this interval is so inherently immoral that it was dubbed “Diabolus in Musica” (Latin for “the devil in music”) in the Middle Ages and outlawed. “They used to hang you for stuff like this,” remarked James Hetfield. Not surprisingly, the tritone appears frequently in heavy music.
You Might Also Like...
11 hours 47 min ago
Sunset Strip Music Festival Announces 2013 Lineup, Including Linkin Park, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Logic and More12 hours 41 min ago
13 hours 25 min ago
17 hours 25 min ago
17 hours 37 min ago
17 hours 46 min ago
Video: Metallica Post Orion Music + More Recap, Including Meet-and-Greet, "Carpe Diem Baby" and "The Day That Never Comes"17 hours 54 min ago