Gallop Rhythms for Heavy Metal Guitar, Part 2

In part one of this lesson, you learned how to play the basic and reverse gallop rhythms. Once you can play these two patterns at a variety of tempos, the next step is to combine them and add power chords, single notes and articulations to enhance your rhythm playing.

In this lesson, you'll learn how the gallop rhythm is used in six different ways. The aim is to show you how to approach rhythms like this from your favorite metal records and to provide you with inspiration for your own music.

FIGURE 1 combines the basic gallop with the reversed version. You might find that your picking hand gets lost when doing this for the first time.

My advice is to keep practicing at a slower tempo until you can play it in time and without looking at the notation. This way, you learn to "feel" the rhythm on your own without the need for any visual aid.

Once you’re comfortable with this rhythm, add in power chords that aren’t played with a palm-mute. This trains your picking hand to release the palm-mute and re-apply it whenever you need it.

In FIGURE 2, I’ve used the same rhythm as before but I’ve added a non-muted E5 power chord on beats one and three. I’ve also added eighth-note power chord slides at the end of bar two to keep the riff from sounding monotonous.

Taking this a step forward, FIGURE 3 offers another thrash riff, this time in the key of F# minor. The gallop rhythms are combined with some regular sixteenth notes on beat four of the first bar. Pay close attention to the picking pattern here.

Another way to use gallop rhythms is to combine them with regular eighth-note picking patterns. In FIGURE 4, you play a riff in A minor on the fifth and fourth strings. Starting out with some hammer-ons, the gallop rhythms don’t come in until the second bar, which adds excitement. I’ve ended the riff with some bluesy pull-offs on the fifth string.

Gallop rhythms aren't limited to single notes. You can use this type of rhythmic approach when playing power chords, too. FIGURE 5 demonstrates a typical Iron Maiden-style chord progression in E minor on the fifth string.

As you’re constantly picking two strings, you need more energy from the picking hand, especially when the basic and reverse gallop rhythms are combined. As mentioned in the previous lesson, a similar approach was used in the Dio song Holy Diver." The tempo is slower here, so I recommend using down-picking exclusively to get aggressive and biting guitar tone.

So far, you’ve only played the gallop rhythm as single repeating note or power chord. Another way to incorporate the gallop rhythm is to make it part of a series of different notes, or even an entire riff. FIGURE 6 presents a riff that does exactly that, and the gallop rhythms within are synchronized with the drums for maximum impact.

I hope you enjoyed playing along with these riffs. Playing gallop rhythms at higher tempos can seem intimidating at first but with patience and consistent practice, they’ll soon start to feel natural. Start off slow and gradually increase the tempo over time until your timing improves.

Rather than spend hours on this exercise, I recommend incorporating this into your current practice routine, doing a little each day. This way, it won’t get boring and you’ll see results in your accuracy and speed much quicker.

When you’re ready, the next step is to learn some songs containing these rhythms. Some good ones to start out with are ‘Holier Than Thou’ by Metallica and ‘The Trooper’ by Iron Maiden.

Simon Revill is the author of the free eBook Metal Rhythm Guitar: Starter Guide and runs the Metal Guitar Lessons Facebook group. Simon teaches privately in the UK, globally via Skype, and runs a custom music transcription service from his home. Visit to find out more.

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