Metal harmony is quite simple, even if there’s no ‘common progression’ present. Power chords and single note lines, often moving around the diminished 5th interval, are very common. The cliché sound is minor, such as the Aeolian mode, or darker still the Phrygian or Locrian modes.

The focus here is definitely on chops; tone wide vibrato, tapping, sweeping, legato, alternate picking, harmonics and whammy bar stunts. The tone is heavily distorted with a ‘scoop’ in the middle frequencies.

Important names are Black Sabbath, Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Pantera.


Ex 1: The first lick is one the most common rock-metal licks ever. It’s in the style of Kirk Hammet of Metallica, but it’s been used by most of players. It’s based on sextuplets from the E minor pentatonic using legato.

Ex 2: This lick is in the style of Marty Friedman (Megadeth). Marty has a very personal approach which is heavily influenced by exotic scales. This lick shows a long repetitive line using legato.

Ex 3: Another trademark of this genre is the use of arpeggios (mainly triads). It’s not particular to a band or player, but is rather just an often used technique. This lick shows a clever way to create the tension typical of Metal (b5) and it’s built using the E blues scale.

Ex 4: It’s impossible to talk about Metal and not mention the harmonized guitar parts typical of bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. This lick is built on a very simple line built from the Aeolian mode.

Ex 5: This lick is in the style of one the most innovative Metal guitarist: Dimebag Darrell (R.I.P.). His style was heavily influenced by rock players such Van Halen and Steve Vai. Some of his trademarks are the use of harmonics and a different scale choice, in this case Dorian. Play the first natural harmonic and dive bomb with the bar, and then play the pinched harmonic with pick and the edge of the thumb.


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