6 Essential Techniques for Playing Guitar in Metal Genre
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. Palm Muting for Heavy Riffs
  2. How to Use Power Chords
  3. Tap and Hammer-On Technique
  4. Utilizing Whammy Bar
  5. Speed Picking for Fast Solos
  6. Pinch Harmonics for Extra Bite

Are you ready to rock out on your guitar with the heavy, electrifying sounds of the metal genre? If you've been wondering how to play guitar for metal, then you're in the right place. This blog post is going to break down six techniques that are the backbone of any metal guitarist's skill set. So, grab your six-string, amp up your enthusiasm, and let's get started!

Palm Muting for Heavy Riffs

Let's kick things off with one of the most basic, yet powerful, techniques in metal guitar playing—palm muting. This technique is all about creating that heavy, chunky sound that's a staple in metal riffs. If you're looking to add some serious weight to your guitar playing, this is a technique you'll want to master.

What is Palm Muting?

Palm muting is a guitar playing technique where you rest the edge of your palm lightly on the strings near the bridge while strumming or picking. This results in a muted, chunky sound as opposed to the usual clear, ringing notes. The key here is to apply just enough pressure to mute the strings without completely killing the sound.

How to Palm Mute?

  1. Position your hand: Rest the edge of your picking hand palm lightly on the strings, right where they meet the bridge of your guitar.
  2. Pick the strings: Strum or pick the strings as you usually would. You should hear a muted, chunky sound.
  3. Practice: Like any other skill, mastering palm muting will take some practice. Start slow, and as you get comfortable, try increasing your speed and incorporating it into your riffs.

Palm Muting in Metal Music

When it comes to playing guitar for metal, palm muting is a game-changer. It's used to create those heavy, chugging riffs that are a hallmark of the genre. Take Metallica's "Enter Sandman" or Pantera's "Walk"—these iconic metal tracks are drenched in palm-muted riffs. So, if you want to learn how to play guitar for metal, getting your palm muting technique down is a must.

How to Use Power Chords

Moving on from palm muting, let's turn our attention to another fundamental aspect of metal guitar playing—power chords. These are the lifeblood of metal music, providing the heavy, punchy backbone for many a head-banging anthem.

What are Power Chords?

A power chord, also known as a fifth chord, is a two-note chord that consists of the root note and the fifth. It gets its name from the powerful, full sound it produces, perfect for the hard-hitting vibes of metal music. Unlike regular chords, power chords are neither major nor minor, making them highly versatile.

How to Play Power Chords?

  1. Find the root note: The root note is the note that gives the power chord its name. For example, if you're playing an A power chord (A5), the root note is A.
  2. Add the fifth: Count up five notes from the root note to find the fifth. So, if your root note is A, the fifth is E.
  3. Play the chord: Press down on the root note and the fifth with your fingers, and strum these two strings together to play your power chord.

Power Chords in Metal Music

Power chords are an essential part of the metal guitarist's toolkit. They're the foundation of many iconic metal riffs, from the driving rhythm of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" to the fast-paced intensity of Slayer's "Raining Blood". So, if you're learning how to play guitar for metal, mastering power chords is a step you can't afford to skip.

Tap and Hammer-On Technique

Now that we've got a grip on power chords, it's time to take a look at another technique that's characteristic of metal guitar playing — the tap and hammer-on technique. This technique is what gives metal its fiery, rapid-fire sound, and is a key skill to add to your arsenal if you're serious about playing guitar for metal.

What is Tap and Hammer-On Technique?

The tap and hammer-on technique is a two-part technique that involves tapping a string with your picking hand and then hammering on a higher fret with your fretting hand. This creates a quick succession of notes, giving the illusion of speed and complexity.

How to Execute Tap and Hammer-On?

  1. Pick a fret: Choose a fret to start with. It could be any fret you like, but for beginners, the middle of the fretboard is usually the easiest place to start.
  2. Tap the string: With your picking hand, tap the string at the chosen fret. This should create a note.
  3. Hammer on: Without picking the string again, use your fretting hand to press down on a higher fret, creating a second note.

Tap and Hammer-On in Metal Music

Using the tap and hammer-on technique can add a lot of flair and speed to your metal guitar playing. It's been a mainstay of many metal solos, from Eddie Van Halen's legendary "Eruption" to Kirk Hammett's blistering solos in Metallica's "One". So, if you're figuring out how to play guitar for metal, mastering the tap and hammer-on is a must in your journey.

Utilizing Whammy Bar

Once you've got the hang of the tap and hammer-on technique, it's time to dive into another quintessential element of metal guitar playing: the whammy bar. This nifty gadget can give your metal riffs a unique flavor and make your solos soar to new heights. Let's explore how to use it.

What is a Whammy Bar?

A whammy bar, also known as a tremolo arm, is a lever attached to the bridge of the guitar. When you push or pull it, the whammy bar changes the tension of the strings, creating a vibrato or pitch-bending effect. This can add a whole new level of expressiveness to your metal guitar playing.

How to Use a Whammy Bar?

  1. Hold the bar: Grab the whammy bar with your picking hand. It should feel comfortable and not too tight.
  2. Push or pull: Push the bar down to lower the pitch of the note, or pull it up to raise it. The further you push or pull, the more dramatic the effect will be.
  3. Release gently: Let go of the whammy bar slowly. If you release it too quickly, it can cause the strings to go out of tune.

Whammy Bar in Metal Music

The whammy bar has been used to great effect in metal music. Dimebag Darrell's use of the whammy bar in Pantera's "Cemetery Gates" is a prime example of how this tool can be used to create dramatic pitch bends and add an extra layer of emotion to a guitar solo. So, if you're learning how to play guitar for metal, getting to grips with the whammy bar is a vital step.

Speed Picking for Fast Solos

Once you've got a handle on the whammy bar, it's time to step up the pace. Metal music is known for its rapid-fire solos, and to nail these, you need to master speed picking. It might sound daunting, but with practice, you'll soon be shredding like a pro. Let's break it down step by step.

What is Speed Picking?

Speed picking, also known as tremolo picking, is a guitar playing technique where you quickly alternate between downstrokes and upstrokes on a single string. This produces a rapid, continuous sound that's perfect for fast solos and riffs in metal music.

How to Speed Pick?

  1. Hold the pick correctly: Grip the pick between your thumb and index finger. It should be at a slight angle to the strings, not perpendicular.
  2. Alternate your strokes: Start with a downstroke, then follow with an upstroke, and keep alternating. Try to keep the motion smooth and fluid.
  3. Start slow: It's tempting to try to play fast right away, but it's more important to get the technique right. Start slow, then gradually increase your speed as you get more comfortable.

Speed Picking in Metal Music

Speed picking is a staple in metal music. It's used extensively by guitarists like Kirk Hammett of Metallica and Dave Mustaine of Megadeth to deliver blistering solos that are both technical and expressive. So, if you're wondering how to play guitar for metal, mastering speed picking is a must.

Pinch Harmonics for Extra Bite

Now that you've learned about speed picking, let's add another tool to your metal guitar toolkit: pinch harmonics. This technique can give your guitar playing an extra bite, a sound that's quite distinctive and often used in metal music. But what are they, and how can you incorporate them into your playing? Let's find out.

What are Pinch Harmonics?

Pinch harmonics, also known as squealies, are a guitar technique that creates high-pitched, 'squealing' notes. They're produced by lightly touching the string with the thumb of your picking hand immediately after you pick a note. This creates a 'pinch' effect, hence the name.

How to Perform Pinch Harmonics?

  1. Choose the right spot: Pinch harmonics work best on certain spots along the string, usually over the pickups. Experiment to find the sweet spot on your guitar.
  2. Right pick grip: Hold your pick so that a small amount is sticking out. This allows your thumb to lightly touch the string right after the pick does.
  3. Strike and release: Strike the string with the pick and immediately touch it with your thumb, then quickly release. If done right, you should hear a high-pitched harmonic note.

Pinch Harmonics in Metal Music

Pinch harmonics add a unique flavor to metal guitar playing. They can be heard in songs from bands like Black Sabbath and Pantera, where guitarists Tony Iommi and Dimebag Darrell respectively used them to great effect. If you're looking to learn how to play guitar for metal, getting a handle on pinch harmonics is a great way to add some extra bite to your playing.

If you're eager to master the essential techniques for playing guitar in the metal genre, don't miss the workshop 'How to Get Better at What You Do - Go from Good to Great!' by Debbie Knox-Hewson. This workshop will offer valuable tips and guidance to help you elevate your guitar skills and take your metal playing to the next level.