Advanced Rhythm Guitar
Hello everyone, and welcome to my second guest column for Insane Guitar. In my first column I went over pretty basic rhythm guitar techniques because most guitar players tend to ignore rhythm guitar. You’d be amazed at how many guitar players have lost their hair because they can’t double a diffucult riff while recording in the studio. To avoid this, rhythm chops must be worked on frequently because the technique tends to drain pretty quickly if they’re not polished. That said, lets move onto the second section.
One thing that’s very important before doing any serious physical exercise is warming up your muscles. I can’t stress this enough; I’ve seen too many guitar players hurt their wrists and fingers from over playing, and from not warming up properly. What I’ll do to warm up is I’ll stretch my arms and back until the blood begins to flow freely. Once that’s finished, I’ll massage my forearm and wrists, working towards my fingers. This helps a lot, and should be done before you rip into a six hour practice schedule.
Now, time to do some warming up with our guitars. First of all, you should get your fingers warm by just playing some slow licks and melodies to get your hand adapted to the neck of the guitar, and to the strings. This is especially important if you haven’t played for a while and your fingers are stiff and cold. When the time comes to really warm up, think of something that needs to be polished a little. If you’re sensing that your pull-off’s are not as strong and fluid as before, then rip into some pull-off exercises. (Ex. 1) Start out slowly before you start shredding, you’ll maintain a better tempo and a more fluid feel. After all, which one of us would be proud to be a sloppy player? Not many of us, unless were intoxicated, high, or both. You should also stretch your fingers really well by doing some stretching exercises. (Ex. 2) This will also get the fingers warm and loose, and is very helpful before you break into some burning lines. These exercises are dull in melody, but get the job done. If your left hand hurts like it’s supposed to while playing the second exercise, take a little break and come back to it. Pushing yourself is good, crippling yourself is not.
Another great way to warm up is to bend the strings. Just pick a note and play around with it. (Ex. 3) Do normal bends, pr-bends and releases, compound bends and wide bends. But no matter what you bend, listening for your target pitch is very important becuase you wouldn’t want to be doing a wide bend (or any bend, for that matter) if you don’t know where you’re bending to. Bending a string is pretty pointless if you’re not sure where the bend is going to end. Start off by half-step bends, then move onto full steps once you’ve got them covered. After you’ve mastered the basics, there’s pretty much no limits as to what you can do.
The last part of this section will be based on some riffs that will help you get adapted to the abuse unleashed in sections three and four.
Ex. 4 : ‘Devils Amongst Angels’ – Dæmonium
Ex. 5: ‘Through Blood & Fire’ – Dæmonium
Ex. 6: ‘Through Blood & Fire’ – Dæmonium
A lot of guitarists seem to be strictly limited to their favorite chord shapes. You know, E5, F5, G5 etc. power chord shapes. Below I’ll give you some chord shapes that are often over-looked. Of course, each and every one of them can be used musically, just try to be as creative as you can. If you’re playing punk, the three chords I mentioned earlier should do you well. But because we don’t play in punk bands, we should open our minds to any type of chord we might come across.
Now that we’ve given the shapes, lets talk about the chords a little bit. The first chord F5 is extremely basic, every guitar player out there knows this. The G chord listed is one of the most demented sounding riffs in metal. You wouldn’t want to chug a whole riff to this chord as it can get muddy, but they’re great for adding some colour and depth to a riff when used in the right place. The G5 chord is also really basic-it’s just a three string power chord. Now, the B5/F# chord is something really odd, something like a ‘reversed’ power chord shape. Have fun with it, and experiment. Bb5/G is also another strange chord that you may not have worked with yet. Again, it wouldn’t be too wise to base an entire riff on this chord, as it will sound muddy. D/G is a more familiar type of chord, and works well almost everywhere. Next, we have a four string version of the E5 power chord. Once you’ve played it, you can see that it sounds a lot bigger than the two string version. I love this chord because a lot of different things can be done with it, especially when there are two guitarists in the band, the possibilities are endless. The last chord is one of my favorite chords ever, Cadd9/E. This is what some call a ‘progressive’ chord. This chord simply sounds amazing, and it will really add a lot of colour to your guitar riffs. Have fun and experiment with them, I’m sure these chords will be of some use to you. Below, I’ve tabbed out some riffs using the odd chord shapes we just went over. These should give you a pretty good idea on how and where to use them. Have fun.
Ok, now that we’ve gotten through the previous three sections, it’s time to concentrate on the most important section of this lesson : right hand picking, or chops, if you will. Now, the reason some guitar players have trouble playing rhythm is because they are simply lacking in proper technique. Most people will argue with me saying that there is no such thing as proper technique, whatever works best for you is fine, etc. I have yet to see a guitar player play awesome rhythm guitar using his whole right arm to play though, so it’s kind of a weird situation. It’s true that you should play however feels best for you, but lets not forget that there are basic ‘rules’ in guitar playing which are sort of unwritten. I spent years playing the way I felt was right, and it was fine for the time, but when I wanted to improve as a player and as a musician I had no choice but to learn some basic technique theories.
Rhythm guitar takes a lot (and I mean a lot) of strength and stamina to play. The only way to get those down are to practice. Don’t even bother practicing if you’re not using a metronome. If you play in a metal band, using a metronome is a must when practicing, because metal simply sounds terrible when it’s sloppy or off time. The only way to do this is to practice a lot with a metronome. It’s not rocket science; anyone can do it as long as you get off your ass and play! If you think that it’ll just come to you one day, then you’ll be waiting for quite a long time. Below I’ve given you some serious exercises that will whip your rhythm shops into shape. But as I said earlier, in order for these exercises to pay off, you have to practice them pretty intensely. Start off with the exercise below (Ex. 11), and don’t move on with the lesson until you’ve mastered it, inside and out.
My, wasn’t that fun? If not, then I have some bad news for you, as that riff was the easiest one in this section. It’s not that hard once you get it under your fingers, but it’s not that easy to play cleanly. And remember, if it’s not clean, than it’s not worth playing. Once you get Ex. 11 down, move on to Ex. 12.
Alright, now that we have those two riffs down, we can move onto the fun stuff. Keep in mind that the trick to playing these riffs is patience-don’t try to play them perfectly the minute you pick up your guitar. Take it slowly; you’ll develop a better feel for the riff, which will help you to play it cleaner. Ex. 13 is a riff that I simply love, it’s from Slayer’s ‘213’ off of their ‘Divine Intervention’ album. I guess I like this riff because it’s pretty original, fun to play, and a good workout for both hands. Ex. 14 is another riff that I wrote which focuses on the right hand, but is also a good workout for the left as well. Take them both slowly to acheive the desired tempo. Once you have those down I’ll see you again.
Ex. 13: ‘213’ – Slayer
Before ending this section, I’ll leave you all with three riffs that I personally love. The first is the intro to ‘Blessings Upon The Throne Of Tyranny’ from Dimmu Borgir’s lastest album ‘Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia.’ I love this riff because it has all the qualities a good metal riff should have : aggression, speed and melody. For any of you who knows the song, I’m sure you’ll agree that it smokes! The second riff is from ‘Painkiller’ by Judas Priest. The riff in question is the awesome melody part before the solo section. The third and final riff is from a song called ‘Asmodeus’ from my band Dæmonium. I really like this riff as it’s fun to play, even though it requires some simple counting. Have fun with them, and I’ll see you all in section five.
Ex. 15: ‘Blessings Upon The Throne Of Tyranny’ – Dimmu Borgir
Ex. 16: ‘Painkiller’ – Judas Priest
Ex. 17: ‘Asmodeus’ – Dæmonium
Many of you may be stuck in a rut when the time comes to practice. The best advice I can probably give you is to practice what needs to be practiced, and don’t waste your time with bullshit practice exercises. Practice exercises that will actually help you, as most exercises don’t cover a lot of new ground or look into anything interesting. Basically, you should practice the techniques you may not have mastered yet. And believe me, the quest never ends. No matter how much you know, you can always learn more-it’s all out there, but it’s up to you to decide how far you want to push yourself.
Another good peice of advice I can give you is to use your practice time wisely. A five hour practice routine is pretty much worthless if you don’t know what the hell you’re doing, or if you’re not practicing with some discipline. Remember that practicing for one hour with discipline will pay off more than practicing hours and hours of nonsense.
Another thing I want to touch upon before I let you go is keeping your playing fresh and interesting. If you find that your riffs and licks are sounding very similar to one another-or to someone else-you should start listening to different kinds of music, or take a few weeks off from playing. Unfortunately most people are too narrow minded to check out different kinds of music besides the stuff they listen to. For example, most people who listen to metal will rarely listen to the blues. Just remember that there is something you will probably enjoy in any type of music, whether it’s blues, jazz, prog, metal, soul, funk and millions of others. Keeping an open mind is one of the most important things about being a musician. Also remember that if you only listen to one type of music, you will end up sounding like the guys you are listening to, which is not good. Remember that if you play like someone else people might accept you, but if you play like yourself, people will respect you.
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