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August 27, 2008

Metal, Metal, Everywhere

No, I've not turned to the dark side and given in 100% to the seductive riff-laden, low-E pedalling musical genre, but yes, this week it's all about HEAVY METAL.

[Imagine head banging, fingers raised in a 'Sign-O-The-Devil'... occasionally slipping into 'Live-Long-And-Prosper']

I had a crack at Metallica's "Seek & Destroy" last night. Like most of the metal stuff I've tried so far it's not actually that hard to play slowly, but playing it fast and accurately is where the challenge lies. I also don't have a 'metal pedal', so I'm relying on cranking the gain on the amp, dialling bass and treble to the max and turning down the mid. Sounds about right, but lacks the artificially clean sounding scream/crunch you get with a pedal. No, I'm not going to rush out and buy one just yet! I still don't know whether anything will come of the jam on Sunday.

Sunday... bloody Sunday...

Sounds a long way off, but realistically it's not as far as practice time goes. If I'm lucky I may be able to squeeze in an hour tonight (wishful thinking). Tomorrow night we're out at a show near Shepherd's Bush. That leaves Friday evening and maybe some time on Saturday or even Sunday morning.

All I'm hoping to achieve on Sunday is to put on a decent show and not screw up too horrendously. The band may turn around afterwards and tell me to get lost, but hey, it's the experience that's important here, isn't it?

Isn't it?


Okay, so I've been finding two things whilst trying to learn the Metallica stuff...

1) It doesn't take me long to burn out on a one of their riffs. Not the power chord stuff... that's easy. I'm talking about the more complex string-skipping roll-type stuff.

Here's a sample of what I mean. This is the riff from "Master Of Puppets" that comes straight after the whole descending intro thingy.

e ---------------------------------
B ---------------------------------
G ---------------------------------
D ---------------------------------
A -----2-----3-----4-----3-----2-2-
E -0-1---0-1---0-1---0-1---0-1-----

Right, I've just noticed that that one has no string skipping whatsoever... but what's tricky is rolling off the 0-1 on the low E and playing up through the second, third, fourth fingers on the A string then turning around and coming back. I can do it slowly, but it's a fast riff. I looked at possibly optimising the picking, playing the notes up-down on the low E followed by down on the A (then repeat). That seemed to speed things up a little, but I kept forgetting to start on an upstroke! D'Oh!

This one's a string-skipper, as promised. Intro riff to "Seek & Destroy":

e ---------------------------------
B ---------------------------------
G -----7h8-7-------------------5---
D -------------7h8-7-------5-----7-
A -0-0-------0-------0-8-7---7-----
E --------------------------------- that's not a great example either as it's not played particularly quickly...

Anyway, if I practice either of these riffs for too long my fingers start forgetting what they're supposed to do and my only option if I want to keep playing them is to drop down in speed to get back with the programme. Two steps forward, one step back. I know how finger memory is supposed to work: you start out slow but precise then gradually build up in speed. Right now I don't have time for slow. I need to nail this stuff ASAP.

2) Any musical activity late at night really screws up my sleep patterns. The same's true for other intense repetetive activities, such video games. Please, nobody mention the intense repetetive activity that actually helps sleep, m'kay? When I try to learn riffs close to bedtime or even when I'm writing or mixing tunes, they get stuck right in the front of my brain and I end up lying in bed, going through them, over and over, spinning my wheels. If I'm lucky I'll get to sleep eventually, but you can bet that at 4am I'm going to wake up and the whole process'll start over.

So, I'm a feeling a little weary today. You try sleeping with the intro riff to "Master Of Puppets" echoing around inside your cranium! Aaaaarrrghhh!

Oh, and in other news, I think our neighbour has just started to play bass! Last night I heard the sound of tentative low-end plucking drifting over our garden fence (okay, minds out of the gutter, please). I tell you, it's like that Kevin Costner movie "Field Of Dreams"... "If you build it [a chord progression], they [the rest of the band] will come!"

I expect Jim Morrison will visit me in my dreams any day now...


Kenski said...

...that must by the deal with the leather trousers... keep everything in place.

Thanks for the tech tips. I'm not really a gizmo kind of chap. I have a wah-way which has yet to see the light of day, but other than that it's guitar plus amp.

I seem to remember seeing a noise gate on my recording software, but obviously that'd be a post-processor rather than in-line.

I probably need to trade the LP for something all pointy and angular, too... Mebbe something shaped like bolts of lightning???

Oh, and I thing I might see if I can find some tongue weights on eBay (maybe better to buy new?!?) so get that real metal tongue flicking action.

Kenski said...

Aw, dammit!

Sorry FurtherOn... just managed to delete your comment by accident!


It was all good stuff. Noise gates, low slung guitar.


Kenski said...

Recreated comment from FurtherOn!

I'm not necessarily the best to comment on this stuff since whilst a metal fan to be honest I've struggled to play it myself - for similar reasons to you. Getting the speed and definition is difficult.

However my 18 year old son has cracked some of these licks... here's my advice from his experience and mine as much as I know it.

1. Don't go for alternate picking - that's my mistake I can't stop that. Most of Metallica's stuff with Hetfield is ALL downstrokes. (Yes push your jaw back in place) it takes a lot of practice and your wrist will hurt like hell.

2. metronomes - start slow and build up (another of my mistakes)

3. Sound - actually the most important thing often is a really good noise gate that is fast to help the "choppy" sound - listen to Slayer that is all noise gate. A compressor helps as well as it evens out your inconsistency on the heavy downstrokes... :-) If you have a POD or one of the computer simulator programs you might have them in your arsenal just not used.

Oh yes the final bit - you must stand with your legs 4ft apart the guitar slung 6 inches lower I bet than you currently do .... ;-)

Dave Jacoby said...

4 ft apart? That sounds like Joey Ramone. Well, more like five. The mike stand set for 8 feet and set out to one side.

Lots of metal comes from Les Pauls, so don't worry. It's the humbuckers that are crucial, and your LP's got 'em.

But consider dropping down to D at some time.

Further on up the road said...

Re the Les Paul - I agree don't get rid of that.

Judas Priest - they have very pointed guitars on stage esp that odd Tipson Hamer custom he uses. However I read an interview some years back and he mostly uses an SG in the studio! The pointy things are all look but not sound - Some Kind of Monster the DVD of Metallica recording St Anger mostly you see Hammet with a couple of Les Pauls (although one has some replace p/ups in it - not sure if they are crome plated EMGs or what) but -- LPs rock!

Kenski said...

Did I say *TRADE* the LP??? What was I thinking. I didn't mean it literally! I meant it in terms of using a pointier guitar to play metal on...

I'm never getting rid of Red. I'm taking that guitar to the grave with me!

Good to hear that the LP should work for metal, though :-)