This lesson is a great introduction to playing rhythm guitar as part of
larger repetoire of heavy metal techniques.
The strumming patterns we're about to learn should be seen as the
foundations you'll later build upon as you learn other metal
techniques (palm muting, tremolo picking etc.).
lesson and the next, I'll be showing you examples of various strumming
patterns and you'll also have some drum tracks to put what you
learn to practice. Enjoy it!
Down strumming in metal - the basics
The first thing we need to master is down
strumming. As the name suggests, this is simply where you hit the
strings with your pick using a downward motion. This technique gives us
attack, hitting those bass strings with the most force as
your pick strikes them.
In the exercises we're about to look at, we're simply going to use power
I'll tab out the
power chord riffs for reference as we go but the emphasis will be on
coming up with your own
riffs over the drum tracks.
Let's first look at the action of the pick hand as we strum powerchords
on the low E and A strings...
You'll notice that I actually use very little movement to "strum" the
strings, since we're just hitting two strings at a time. It's
mostly in the wrist. Keeping your pick sweep tight around the target
strings will help as you
speed up your down strum playing.
Simple enough. Try it yourself, gradually speeding up using a metronome
to keep time. In a moment we'll try something more complex over a
let's now try moving around the fretboard with this powerchord shape
whilst maintaining that down strum timing above. You can obviously come
up with your own riffs, but I'm using the one tabbed out below...
you change position from an E string powerchord to an A string
powerchord, you'll need to reposition your downstrum attack
first string you hit is the root (bass) string of the powerchord.
Remember, if you can't keep up with that drum track yet, use a metronome
first to speed up gradually and ensure you're "string targeting" is
Heavy metal strumming patterns
most likely recognise the patterns we're about to look at as they are
used a lot in metal. However, with the drummer adding his/her own beat
and the guitarists writing their own riffs, they will never sound
rehashed. Think of them as fundamental ingredients which you should
build on and make into your own.
Let's start with this one. First take a listen to the audio for an
slightly different from before as this time we're grouping our
downstrokes into triplets (with the exception of that opening couple of
I find this pattern works well with moderate blast
beats, as a nice alternative to the typical palm muted scratch picking
heard in a lot of thrash. You can certainly hear the hardcore punk
influence in this combination. Try your own riff over the drum track
below (right click and "save as" to download)...
there's a bit more space in that riff for the powerchords to ring out.
What's interesting about riffs like this is, when the percussion is
added, the down strums naturally move with the groove of the bass drum.
Take another listen, but this time with the drums...
we're essentially doing here is leaving gaps in that constant 4/4
downstrum pattern from earlier. If we filled in those gaps, here's what
we'd get... Click to hear
Ideally, you won't be relying too much on the tabs in this lesson,
because I really want you to experiment with your own riffs, and
explore the rhythm techniques we've been looking at.
There's one last down strumming pattern we should get to know before we
move on to part 2.
Metal often makes use of sub-rhythms, where a different time signature
will provide a "fill" or an interruption to the main driving rhythm.
Now, the best way to understand what I mean is to hear it! Take a
hope this lesson has helped you become more confident with your rhythm
playing in heavy metal. It's now time to move on to more complex and
quicker strumming patterns that involve both up and down strokes.