Metal For Life: How to Use an Open-String Pedal Tone to Build Heavy Single-Note Riffs

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.

For each example in this column, the open low E string is used as a pedal tone throughout the riff. In FIGURE 1, I play a melodic line on the A string against the open low E pedal. The line is derived primarily from the E Phrygian scale (E F G A B C D) and is played in steady 16th notes, four notes per beat. I begin by striking the open low E along with a D note, fifth string/fifth fret, fretted with the index finger, followed by a hammer-on with the ring finger up to E, seventh fret.

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