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Bring on the Pain

Welcome to the first of my rhythm guitar columns. I hope that you are coming here with, at the minimum, a basic understanding of rhythm guitar. I suggest that before you begin with these lessons, that you first visit my master class. This should give you a feel for what’s going on and an understanding of the vocabulary, etc. So lets begin;

Our first lesson consists of two riffs from my band Dark Shift. The first is from a song called "By the Waters". This riff has come to be known as the ‘psycho riff’ by the band due to its difficulty. Please note the picking patterns. With rhythm guitar, it is essential that you develop a skillful right hand (unless your a lefty…). It is important that you down pick as often as possible to get that sharp attack. However, it isn’t always possible or practical to exclusively down pick some passages. Make sure in bar one to down pick everything except the ‘e’ of beat three, (second sixteenth note) which is of course an upstroke. (I personally can down pick the first bar, but it sounds better the way its written.) Now bar two as you can see uses alternate picking with a sweep between the 5th and 4th strings. I find that it is a little smoother the way its written but I suggest also learning it completely alternately picked. Measure three is quite difficult, it uses string skipping. The best way to tackle something like this is to break it up into sections. Each beat has four notes to a string, so play beats one and two in succession, then two and three, and finally three and four. Once you have those smaller bits connected, connect them into a bigger peace. Play one, two, three, then play two, three, four. Then put it all together.


Next we have some riffs from the song "Nevermore". The first two bars are the intro and is quite difficult. It looks pretty cool when played also. The trick to this riff is to bar with your first finger, that way you only have to move one finger from the A to D sting and vice versa. I personally play "power chords" with my first and fourth fingers, for many different reasons which we will go through in future columns. Make sure to play it open and all down picked. The verse riff starts at bar three, it almost has a bouncy feel with the open chord on one and the sixteenths on three. Again pay attention to the picking pattern, its quite simple but fatigue can make it extremely difficult.


Practice practice practice and I’ll see you next month.
If you have any questions please email me at
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