IN THE WOOD­SHED

Give your pick­ing chops more power, stamina and speed with metal riff down­strokes. Char­lie Grif­fiths has his foot firmly on the mon­i­tor!

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Char­lie Grif­fiths says flex those hand, wrist and arm mus­cles as he pre­pares you for an or­deal on metal down-stroke riffs and rhythm.

Good metal gui­tar play­ing hinges on hav­ing a tight rhythm tech­nique, but with­out prac­tice and proper tech­nique it can feel quite phys­i­cally de­mand­ing and tir­ing. Play­ers like James Het­field of Me­tal­lica and Scott Ian from An­thrax and Gary Holt from Ex­o­dus for­mu­lated the tight rhyth­mic, palm-muted down­stroke in the ‘80s thrash metal scene. Nowa­days the palm­muted power chord is re­ferred to as ‘djent’, a term as­so­ci­ated with bands like Pe­riph­ery and Meshug­gah, al­though they dis­tance them­selves from the term.

Play­ing con­sec­u­tive down­strokes at speed and for an ex­tended pe­riod re­quires com­plete re­lax­ation from the pick­ing hand, and arm. A good way to achieve this is to move your hand from the wrist and let the pick ‘bounce’ on the strings. We have five ex­am­ples for you which start off us­ing short bursts of notes. This will al­low you to re­lax dur­ing the rests and dis­pel any mus­cle ten­sion be­fore it be­comes in­ca­pac­i­tat­ing.

First of all make sure you have a good tight sound, us­ing just enough gain to get the amp to ‘bark’, but not so much that the tone be­comes messy and in­dis­tinct. A lot of metal play­ers favour a softer pick, which pro­duces a more cut­ting tone and also glides through the strings with­out bend­ing them sharp.

Also try angling your pick in dif­fer­ent ways to see how the tone is af­fected. For this style it is nor­mal prac­tice to hit the string with the edge, rather than the flat of the pick. Slightly angling the tip of your pick up to­wards your face is also use­ful as this will clear the pick away from the strings dur­ing the silent ‘up­stroke’, which hap­pens be­tween each down­stroke. Think of the pick mov­ing in and out of the strings as well as down and up.

Ease your­self in to the tech­nique with Ex­am­ple 1, which fea­tures some short bursts of energy. There are three muted down­strokes, fol­lowed by a sus­tained power chord. At the end of each re­peat we dou­ble up to six down­strokes, which should help you de­velop con­sis­tency and stamina. In Ex­am­ple 2 you can ex­er­cise that stamina for a much longer pe­riod. Here we have six beats of eighth-note triplet down­strokes, with a brief respite at the end, as the pick­ing halves in speed to quar­ter-note triplets. Ex­am­ple 3 is a bit more de­mand­ing as it is based on the faster 16th-note sub­di­vi­sion. Once again we have in­cor­po­rated rests to en­able you to de­velop the speed in short bursts. Ex­am­ple 4 in­tro­duces the ‘hand bounce’, which is used to in­stantly switch be­tween a muted and a sus­tained sound. Al­though this Pan­tera-in­spired riff is es­sen­tially one chord through­out, the muted and sus­tained ac­cents cre­ate a cool syn­co­pated groove. Our fi­nal ex­am­ple is a sin­gle-note riff in­spired by Kill­switch En­gage. The fo­cus here is on mov­ing cleanly from string to string and also skip­ping over strings. Down­strokes also make pinched har­mon­ics pos­si­ble; great for adding tex­ture and in­ter­est to low-string riffs.

NEXT MONTH Char­lie ex­am­ines the won­der­ful art of out­side and in­side pick­ing

Try angling your pick to cre­ate dif­fer­ent pick­ing tone tex­tures

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