The Doom Generation: The Art of Playing Heavy
One of the heaviest riffs known to man, the main motif of Black Sabbath’s “Symptom of the Universe” (Sabotage) is based around Lucifer’s very own interval (the power chords used, E5 and Bb5 are a tritone apart). This truly evil entity is shown in FIGURE 22. Incidentally, if you’re smart and you finger the open E5 chord and the Bb5 chord as shown in FIGURES 23 and 24, you can switch between the two of them while playing “Symptom” without having to move your left hand up or down the neck. This is called economy fingering and was perfected by James Hetfield and Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine. If you really want to summon Satan, try using the tritone as a power chord (root-flat five). FIGURE 25 shows a movable form of this diabolical diad which is used frequently by the likes of Korn. A great example is found on the opening to “K@#%!” (Life Is Peachy). To add extra low-end grind potential and darkness to their sound, quite a few heavy bands tune their axes down lower than concert pitch (A=440Hz). The relative pitches among the strings remain the same but all the notes are lower. Tuning all six strings down a half-step (low to high: Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Eb) is a fairly common practice, but more radical detunings are also employed. For example, on Metallica’s ominous opus “Sad But True” (Metallica), all guitars (including bass) are detuned a whole-step (low to high: D G C F A D). Heavy bands such as Black Sabbath, White Zombie and Machine Head have on occasion tuned all six strings down as far down as a minor third (low to high: C# F# B E G# C#), while Type O Negative and have been known to detune a bowel-loosening perfect fourth (low to high: B E A D F# B) Another fairly commonplace heavy tuning, especially in the so-called “grunge” idiom is drop D. This simply involves detuning the low E string one whole-step to D (low to high: D A D G B E). Soundgarden used drop D tuning on “Spoonman” and “Black Hole Sun,” and Alice in Chains use this tuning often (on axes already detuned a half-step). Like a lot of today’s players, Jerry Cantrell got the idea from Van Halen’s brilliant cut, “Unchained” (Fair Warning), the intro of which is shown in FIGURE 26. Aside from sounding pretty damned heavy, arguably the coolest thing about this tuning is the fact that you can play a root/fifth power chord with one finger, as shown in FIGURES 27 and 28. And, if you want to go heavier still, try using “drop D” tuning on a guitar that’s already detuned a whole step or even a minor third (Warning: you might want to try using heavier string gauges before you start tuning this low, otherwise your guitar will feel like it’s strung with rubber bands). Although we’ve only scratched the surface of this vast subject, hopefully you’ll glean some useful ideas from the ground we’ve covered and will be able to use them to beef up your own playing. As for the future, well, some nay-sayers may have pronounced heavy metal, grunge, thrash and death metal dead, but, thanks to the likes of Pantera, Korn, Tool, Marilyn Manson, Machine Head, Rage Against the Machine and Alice in Chains, the spirit of heaviness lives on and is constantly evolving into new, exciting forms.
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