The Rhythmic Realm
First off we’ll start off with the basics. Rhythm guitar is the force that drives the ensemble. It needs to be perfectly in time or it just won’t sound good. For best results from these exercises I would highly recommend uses of a metronome to keep a constant tempo. Always pay very close attention to accents. Accents are a slightly stronger attack, usually located on the beat. (Accents are signified by a <)
First, we’ll startwith a simple down picking exercise. Start off slowly be accurate and smooth, then slowly build up the tempo. Make sure to pay close attention to all accents, because later you’ll need them!
Now, we’ll start will move to a basic picking exercise. Alternate picking on one string.
Remember that it’s very important to be smooth on all of these exercises!
Palm muting. Palm muting is an effect done on the guitar by dampening the strings just before the bridge. This is what creates that heavy tone.
Do Ex.1 with palm muting
Do Ex. 2 with palm muting
Now what would we have if we didn’t have the power chord? Sure wouldn’t rock. This is the most simplistic chord. It’s made from two separate notes. A root (I) and a perfect 5th above (V).
It looks like this.
This is an A5 chord. It can be moved all over the neck and on different strings. Here are some random examples of the basic “power chords”
Now picking chords is definitely a little more difficult then single notes, because you’re playing two separate strings instead of just one. Lets play a D5 chord all down strokes. Remember to start off slow and build up speed.
Now play Ex.4 with palm mutes
Lets work with some power chords for a bit.
Ex.5 e minor scale using 5th
Ex. 6 Motorbreath from Metallica. James Hetfeild of Metallica is one of the best rhythm guitar players ever. (well used to be.) He always boasted about playing with exclusive down picks…. I think not! He does down pick quite a lot though.
Now lets move on to some fun stuff shall we. I hope that we can all hold on because we’ve left the bunny hill and it’s going to hurt. Your forearm on your picking hand better be all nice and warmed up or else there is no way you’ll be able to make it through this next stuff.
We are going to take some time on thrash rhythms. As you’ve probably noticed and will see even more of, I use a lot of Metallica riffery for this stuff. Hey, it’s awesome stuff to warm up with.
Let’s begin with some riffs from blackened. Make sure these are played with all down strokes to insure continuity in sound.
Ex. 7 the x’s are muted strings, lift your index finger off the string just enough so that it doesn’t ring but makes a nice kind of percussive sound.
Here’s a fun little riff from "Master of Puppets." Remember all downs!!
I really hope that you are totally warmed up for this next one, because you’ll need it. This one is the chorus riff from my band Dark Shift’s song "Fit of Rage." It is all alternate picking and it is a nightmare. You can check it out for free at www.darkshift.net
Ah what fun, but I still haven’t even broken a sweat yet ;0) . This next riff is in my mind, one of the toughest recorded riffs of all time. I’m not 100% sure of this but I believe that even Metallica has never been able to play it live, it’s just a rumor… I would love however, to hear a live version of it. It’s a little song called "Dyers Eve."
Supposedly that was played using all downs… no sorry kids, I think not.
Now let us move to some different voicings that you can use to add a little spice to your riffs.
So far just about everything has been based on 5ths. 5ths are definitely one of the most powerful chords in metal… but lets expand a slight bit on that. Closely related to the 5th is the 4th. Basically the 4th is merle an inverted 5th, meaning that you take the root and put it above the 5th
D5 followed by a D4 notice that they’re both made of a D and an A!
The 4th is not as stable as the 5th but when used in the correct manner it adds a nice touch… but use them sparingly, they tend to get dry if used too much.
See ex. 10 ("Fit of Rage") Notice the movement from a C5 to a F4 and a D5 to an G4.
Another great usage of this can be seen in Forever Night (www.darkshift.net
)the 12/8 riff following Joel’s solo. On the recording its two different
guitar parts filling in these chords… but here the are together. It’s a very
fun and dark sounding chromatic lick. Make sure it’s played all down for
Another great chord that can be used for added texture in a riff is the 3rd.
There are two different 3rds, Major and minor (Major =M, minor =m) These chords help create better vocal lines and are great to under line solos with.
A great example of the thirds can heard in Holy Wars from Megadeth’s "Rust in Peace."
This is a good example of the M3rd.
Another nifty example of how the thirds work well as a riff, and also how the can help shape a vocal line, check out "Forever Night" by Dark Shift (www.darkshift.net) this is the verse
Experiment and you’ll find some cool combinations. Now lets look at the last type of chord that we’ll be working with today, the 9th chord. These are powerful, and when used in the right fashion, ARE THE MOST POWERFUL!!!!! The nine chords, well that I’m talking about I call perfect ninth chords (most people call them sus2, but this is my column and I can do what ever I want, moo haha ha aha a. ;>).) This is because they are created by taking you basic power chord, D5 and adding another perfect fifth above the fifth… so a D9th would be a D5 (D A), with a perfect fifth above the A, E so the chord would be spelled DAE.
Here is a fun example of the underlying riff of the forever night solo, (www.darkshift.net).
Tt uses the perfect ninth chords in a fairly simple yet effective way.
I actually learned this chord from John Petrucci of Dream Theater
Listen to Under a Glass Moon on Images and words from D. T. and see what I mean, here it is. It has a very unique sound and draws a lot of attention, especially because not many people are used to hearing that chord. This is the part UGM the keyboard solo.
Here’s the big unison riff using the same chords but with a different rhythm, this is the part after the key solo.
How fun was that? Did the chordal theory get you tripped up? Well get up and get some water or take a quick breather because this is where you newbies need not apply, cause welcome to hell, because I sure hope you guys like timing. Cause this is where its at, as far as I’m concerned. This is step one on what separates the men from the boys.
The usages of hemeolas and odd time signatures.
Hemeolas are fun let me tell you. I don’t want to get too far into the theory behind them, but basically they are defined as playing a rhythm in one time signature but it is played so that it feels in a different time, its all relative to the accents ( remember how I said pay close attention to the accents?). For instance, listen to the main riff of "Lost Forever."www.darkshift.net and you can get a small taste of one.
Also in the middle of "Fit of Rage" www.darkshift.net there is a hemeola that’s is in 5/4 where it is grouped 123, 123, 12, 12 (all 8th notes)
Now lets play with some odd times, first we’ll start with some basic NON 4/4 riffs. You see, I don’t know about you guys, but 4/4 bores me, its been done to death and there’s just not that much more you can creatively put into a bar of 4/4.
Here a great 6/4 riff from Under a Glass Moon.
Next set of riffs is from "Forever Night" again, www.darkshift.net its in 5/4 for the first 3 bars the convienitely moves to 9/8 for one bar, back to 5/4 for 3 more bars, and then decides to look you directly in the eye laugh, go to 4/4 then repeats itself… this is after the third second chorus and before the solo.
Did you notice the hemeola in the 5/4 bars? Did you also notice the M3rds and 4th chords? Pretty cool how it all can start to come together huh?
This is the precursing riff, which is in 12/8 but has a crazy feel to it, that’s because it’s a kind of hemeola. It can be broken down to four distinct beats. 123,123,12,1234, this was also shown in ex. 13 but now it has been explained. (Look at the accents!)
This was originally the end of this column, but I’ve decided to make this just a bit longer. So now well go off and tackle how to develop speed and how to play like you’ve got a pair. How about if we start with a simpler exercise and work our way up.
Of course your going to want to start off slowly and build to a searing tempo. Let’s begin shall we? This is a very simple example of a straight rhythm. Make sure to play the E5 on each beat.
After you’ve mastered this riff at, oh lets say 225 or so, try to move the accent around. Try putting the riff into 6/4 time and divide it into four. Be creative… move the beat around, have fun.
Now a slightly simpler variation. It is a galloping rhythm that is raw and rocks.
Build up your speed at this one and then reverse the rhythm.
Now incorporate both of these together.
Try this one on for size.( Taken from "By the Waters" by Dark Shift)
Oh it hurts!!! (Taken from "Forever Night Pt. 2" by Dark Shift)
As you can see, the possibilities of what you can do with just the timing of the songs are unlimited. Add different voicing to the mix and then ravage with some killer rhythms and watch out.
I hope that you have been able to take at least a little something back with you after this column. I have so many more tricks under my sleeve but I don’t want to blow my whole load here. If you have any questions or comments please email me at email@example.com
please only constructive feedback, lets be mature. Happy shredding and keep your eyes open for more for crazy rhythm styles from me.