If you've been through the other heavy
metal guitar lessons on this site, you should be armed with
rhythm techniques that you can use when needed.
This lesson will be about drawing many of those
elements together, but focusing
more on how the rhythm guitarist can work with and enhance the backing
is not just about keeping time with the drummer, as we've been
in the other lessons, rather enhancing the rhythm
that the drummer lays
Just to let you know, there'll be no tabs in
this lesson! No, it's not just
me being too lazy to upload them (although I am unbelievably lazy, let
there be no
doubt about it), I just think the focus of this lesson
train your ear to picking up rhythmic changes in
metal and developing your own
I'll provide drum tracks so you can experiment, That's better
copy-cat tab any day, right?
Playing through changing metal rhythms
It's very rare for heavy metal
to stay with one constant rhythm
for an entire piece. This means you, as a guitarist, must be prepared
to chop and change with it.
changes can be subtle, like in the example we're about to listen
track goes through three main rhythms, and although the
up, the guitar adapts with only a slight change in the palm muting
Notice on that final part,
where the drums
speed up for the 2nd time, the palm
becomes more prominent as a
percussive element in the piece. This is all about timing your muted
picking/strumming, which was introduced in the beginner palm mute
when the drummer goes into double time, don't always think in terms of
up with them (as you may be tempted to do), but rather ask yourself if
it's more effective to build on your existing rhythm, e.g. how much of
the riff becomes palm muted.
Try your own
ideas over the drum track below. Try subtle changes to your rhythm
complement the drum changes.
Some metal is built around a groove.
Pantera and Exhorder a perfect example, and bands like
Machine Head later fused this into
own style (the instrumental "chorus" of Davidian is a prime example). I
recommend listening to these three great bands for a taste of groove in
The main concept behind this
type of playing is the swing
of the rhythm. It has a lazy, bouncing momentum (no,
this is not strict terminology!). Listen to this next track for a
example of what I mean...
So the drums moved at quite a
slow pace there, but you'll
notice how the bass drum provided that casual, strolling rhythm in
between the snare drum which was enhanced by the palm muted guitar.
There's also use of
the single string phrasings common in this type of metal.
Even though the drums kept at a
constant, lumbering pace, you'll
notice the guitar changed its pace throughout. For example, the first 4
are played slow with the drums, but the phrase after that uses a
quicker, sharper palm
muted attack, dancing around the unchanged drum
So don't always feel locked in to every
beat of the drums - as long as the overall tempo between the
are matched, injecting the occasional sub-rhythm can help make the
music more dynamic and... groovy.
Also notice how those final
two snares are enhanced with two
final power chord stabs (or "slaps" if you want to tone down the
violent references!). Again, this constant shifting between locked in
and loose rhythm is something you as a guitarist can really play up.
Rock (or more accurately, rock and roll) tends to be locked in 100% of
the time, whereas metal is much less constrained.
As I mentioned before, a lot
of the metal
used in these example tracks (e.g. palm muting) are covered separately
This next track is fairly
typical of modern thrash or grindcore,
if a little more simplistic. Listen carefully to the track below and
get a feel
for how the guitar complements the backing drums, especially when it's
with the snare drum.
So quite a chaotic little
piece there with three main sections. The
opening riff highlights the timing of the snare drum. The snare drum is
will be naturally drawn towards in that opening riff, as it interrupts
what would have been a pretty straight beat.
First, try just palm muting a
single string or powerchord and
timing it to the snare in that opening section. Once you've engrained
rhythm in your mind, you can start to play around it, but still keeping
rhythmic "marker points" highlighted by the snare firmly in place.
This is what gives metal its attack.
After that intro blast,
there's a short break where, in the
example above, I simply attack in time with each kick of the bass drum
of the snare. Palm muting really packs the punch for this kind of
on, we break into a thrash riff which uses tremolo
picking along with
familiar blast beat, which should be straightforward rhythm-wise if
through the other lessons on this site!
The final section is
similar to the first, but more direct and to-the-point, with the kick
providing those triplet bursts which is complimented effectively by
using the palm
muted triplets on guitar. In this closing riff, the snare
drum is timed with
the non-muted "stabs", so just like with the opening rhythm, try and
identify those snare drum marker points. The sharper you are in time
I hope you enjoyed the music
and playing along to the drum tracks on this page (download them so you
access them quickly on your computer). Keep listening to a diverse
of heavy metal, old and new, as each genre has its own signature
rhythms and you can
them together to create progressive and dynamic metal of your own.
There are no new ideas when it comes to
metal, just new interpretations!