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Dave Mustaine on the secret to playing Megadeth: “A lot of the technique is in the right hand. It's not what the left hand is doing at all”

Dave Mustaine
(Image credit: Per Ole Hagen/Redferns)

Megadeth leader since the band’s formation in 1983, Dave Mustaine will forever hold a seat in the pantheon of thrash metal greats, his furiously accurate electric guitar playing a goal of many aspiring metal guitarists.

And while the eye is naturally drawn to Mustaine's fretting hand while he plays classic Megadeth cuts like Holy Wars... the Punishment Due and Tornado of Souls, he actually places far more emphasis on what his picking hand is doing when talking about the nuances of his playing.

“A lot of the technique is in the right hand,” he says in an interview in the new issue of Guitar World. “It’s not what the left hand is doing at all. 

“Yeah, sure, there are notes threaded in there, but I think it’s the way they’re picked that makes them exciting. Doing that and having the right sound is the name of the game with Megadeth. You don’t have to understand exactly what’s happening; you just have to let the music take you where it goes.”

Another integral element of Mustaine’s skillset is his ability to play complex thrash riffs and sing at the same time. As he explains elsewhere in the interview, he owes this skill to precise fret-hand economy.

“I keep my hand on one part of the guitar because I’m singing at the same time and I want to be in that area,” he says. “I don’t want to have to be all over the neck and looking at my guitar and not singing right because I’m looking sideways and singing out of the side of my mouth. That’s why I’ve sung funny like that before.”

Dave Mustaine

(Image credit: Joseph Okpako/WireImage)

In the interview – which just so happens to be the cover story of the new issue of Guitar World – Mustaine also expresses a sense of regret over the circumstances surrounding the departure of former Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman, who played with the band for 10 years from 1990.

Megadeth are days away from dropping their 16th studio album, The Sick, The Dying… and the Dead! on September 2. Three singles have been released so far: We’ll Be Back, Soldier On! and Night Stalkers, which Mustaine says is the fastest song they’ve ever written. The band performed We'll Be Back live for the first time on August 24.

You can read the full interview with Mustaine in the new issue of Guitar World, available now from Magazines Direct (opens in new tab).

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Sam is a Staff Writer at Guitar World, also creating content for Total Guitar, Guitarist and Guitar Player. He has well over 15 years of guitar playing under his belt, as well as a degree in Music Technology (Mixing and Mastering). He's a metalhead through and through, but has a thorough appreciation for all genres of music. In his spare time, Sam creates point-of-view guitar lesson videos on YouTube under the name Sightline Guitar (opens in new tab).