Archive for Guitar Playing

Heaviest moments in Heavy Metal #3111 – Obituary – Dying

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on February 26, 2008 by Staff Writer

From the 1990 landmark album Cause of Death came this crushing ‘tune’ by the Floridian quintet. Again produced by Scott Burns and featuring melo-shred hired gun James Murphy contributing to a lineup of strong fully-evolved classic Death Metal tracks, this album is widely considered essential when describing the history of this genre of extreme music.

The track Dying was unusual (now considered fairly normal) due to its very long introduction which traverses a number of different riffs at different tempos often skillfully juxtaposed to create sonic contrast from section to section. This use of dynamics is what keeps Obituary’s music interesting for me, rather than being fast all the time with blast beats prevalent throughout, Obituary have understood and internalized what it means to be ‘sludgily’ heavy (the best word I can think of to describe it) and how to use tempo changes and contrast to create perceived heaviosity. Low – E (or D) riffing often happens with an open low string rather than a fully palm-muted and scooped chunk which lends itself to more variety and often a thicker wall of sound with more note ‘bleeding’ occurring.

The song itself is apt – during the four-and-a-half minutes it runs for, the lyrics consist solely of the lines:

“We’re dying for our souls to learn.
We’re dying for our souls to burn.
We’re dying for our souls to learn.
We’re dying, euurrrrrrgghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”

John Tardy’s ‘voice as instrument’ approach works perfectly – the lyrics are largely irrelevant – it’s more about the noise he makes fitting so well with the atmospherics/mood of the music. Nevertheless, I always find these 20 seconds of vocals a highlight given Tardy’s unrivalled  gravelly sub-demonic gruntings – easily best DM vocalist in my book – Lord knows how he does it and how his vocal chords can survive making such sounds.

The ‘heaviest’ moment I am talking about occurs at 01:29 on the studio recording, and in the below YouTube video at 01:36.

Here’s my transcription. Tune all strings down a whole step, though I’ve tabbed it in standard notation:


Heavy palm muting on the single notes. Observe the use of what some refer to as the Ob chord (named after the band) which is a power 5  chord with the 5th doubled an octave lower for super thick sound. Get a mate, play this at the same time along with a fast double bass drum beat and you’re there bro’ – euuuurrrrrgrghhhhhhhHH!!!!!!!

P.S. I always love the comments on YouTube – one for this video reads:

‘the drummer and one of the guitarists have great beards and of course badass hair’.

Indeed they have. Gotta have badass hair to be Metal…


Heaviest moments in Heavy Metal #2314 – Sepultura – Mass Hypnosis

Posted in Heavy Metal with tags , on February 23, 2008 by Staff Writer

Oh yeah. Brazilian thrash/death metal.

From the ridiculously heavy Scott Burns-produced album Beneath the Remains (1989) came this monstrously crushing track. It’s very hard to pick a winner overall since the disc is filled with pummeling riffs which have been so masterfully engineered that instead of collapsing under the weight of the distortion and sheer aggression, they are instead tight and focused like rapid kicks to the ribcage.

The first heavy moment occurs in the studio recorded track at around 0:20 when after the opening riff, Max Cavalera switches to a super tight palm muted gallop that’s propelled by brother Igor Cavalera’s brutally fast double bass drum.

The second (and heaviest moment) occurs after the solo from about 2:30 with some huge power chords against a mid-paced double bass drum blast beat followed by some super chunky downpicking. The guitar sound is scooped, double (or maybe triple tracked) and with enough white noise resulting from the distorted overtones to make the sound one of the hottest and heaviest metal guitar sounds ever committed to tape.

Again, not being one to breach copyright here’s a YouTube live version. In the video, the moments occur at  00:41 and 02:37.

Here are my attempt to transcribe the riffs:

#1 – note that it’s all open palm muted E notes. So what? It’s *all* about the rhythm, the muting and the sheer speed (probably something stupid at around 200bpm)


#2 – huge chords over that blast beat. Amazing. Headphones on, volume up, lights off. Half time feel, slower tempo.


Me playing Led Zeppelin’s Bron-Y-Aur

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on February 21, 2008 by Staff Writer

I finally got around to getting myself a YouTube account (mainly so I can view those ‘Over 18’ rated clips). Of course, the service is useful for putting up random videos – in this case, me sucking while trying to hack out Jimmy Page’s most excellent acoustic fingerpicked number Bron-Y-Aur from the album ‘Physical Graffiti’.

The tune uses a very cool Page-invented open C6 tuning (CACGCE) which sounds so BIG when strummed.

Playing my Martin HD-28 Herringbone dreadnought here. Video was recorded some time in 2004 I think…

Two string Seventh chord arpeggios

Posted in music theory with tags on January 30, 2008 by Staff Writer

One most useful piece of info that Master imparted to me at our last meeting concerned the ‘patterns’ that can be derived for easy memory of seventh chord arpeggios.

Consider a G Major 7 chord starting on the 3rd fret, bottom string and playing two notes per string:


Notice that there’s a repeating pattern every two strings, i.e. starting from the root note G, you play the next note a major 3rd up (B). Then, when you shift to the next string, you move up two frets, and again play a two note interval a major 3rd apart, i.e. five frets, so going from the D to the F#. That’s the complete one octave arpeggio, so when you move to the 4th string and start on a G, you simply play the same pattern again – two notes on the 4th string, then 2 notes on the 3rd string. And so on… cool huh?

So, for the other 7th chord types:


Sp, basically, repeating each of these patterns every two strings starting from the next root note you can easily cover 3 octaves of the arpeggio in question.  The Major 7, Minor 7 and Diminished 7 ones are particularly easy to remember given their fingering ‘symmetry’.

Heaviest Moments in Heavy Metal #1327

Posted in Heavy Metal, Shred Guitar with tags on January 24, 2008 by Staff Writer

Whitesnake – Still of the Night.

Was listening to the 1987 album on the bus this morning. Surely this track, and its super-cheesy video featuring Tawny Kitaen, epitomizes 80’s hair metal like no other. Still of the Night is an absolutely awesome song with a serpentine Zepplinesque main riff and that stupendously heavy part in the middle. The song (and the album) features John Sykes on guitar (curiously he isn’t in the video) and ranks as some of the greatest heavy metal guitar playing of all time.

Since it would be illegal for me to post the sound clip from the song, I’m directing you towards YouTube where you can see a video illegally posted by somebody else; let them take the copyright heat. Check out the video below – the ‘heaviest moment’ I’m talking about occurs from about 3’55” after Coverdale sings “Ooh Baby, ooh Baby, AAAAHHHH!!!”


Here’s my effort at the guitar tab for it:


This excerpt from John’s own site:

“Coverdale and Sykes wrote these nine songs together in a small village in the south of France, in what Coverdale has described as a week-long period. Various studios were used on both sides of the Atlantic. Sykes and Murray demo’d new songs in Blackpool, England, before the bulk of the recording was done in Vancouver, Los Angeles and London. Of these songs, one (‘You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again’) was left off the original album release in the US (although it appears on the UK CD version and the 1994 Greatest Hits CD), and the eight new compositions were accompanied on the record by new versions of ‘Crying in the Rain’ (featuring the excellent guitar solo that Sykes had been playing at Whitesnake gigs in ‘84 and ’85) and ‘Here I Go Again’, the one track on which Sykes does not play lead guitar. I would really love to see a classic albums-type documentary made on this record, but given the ill-feeling between the main protagonists (although Sykes and Coverdale have since had some cordial exchanges), I doubt it will happen. The famous A&R man John Kalodner, who oversaw the release of 1987 describes Sykes and Coverdale as a dream team, and like many fans, Kalodner still harbours a wish to see the two men record and play together once more. Whether or not that would be feasible (personal differences aside), given DC’s now sadly deteriorating vocal abilities, is a moot point. Coverdale’s and Sykes’s voices gel so well on the 1987 songs – at times it is almost as if they are duetting. Why was it decided to record in this fashion, and considering the doctoring of some of Sykes’s other contributions to the record (eg. the guitar solos are often obscured in the mix, part concealing them with keyboards and so on – just think what that middle section and guitar breakdown in ‘Still of the Night’ would sound like with quieter keyboards, although it still sounds fantastic as it is), why was this aspect retained? There has been an unofficial remastered version of the album, and to an extent this improved on the original sound. Hopefully one day we will be allowed an honest remastered version of ‘1987’, one that does full credit to the guitars. Many critics of the album will say that ‘Still of the Night’ is too derivative of Led Zeppelin. True, it is reminiscent of ‘Black Dog’, but did Led Zeppelin ever record such an electrifyingly exciting song? – I don’t think so. I’m sorry, but for me, and I suspect others who were first discovering hard rock in the mid to late 1980s, Whitesnake’s ‘1987’ was, is, and will always be a top 5 all-time album. The guitar sound which Sykes hit on for this album (assisted by future Metallica and Mötley Crüe producer Bob Rock) is not replicated by anyone anywhere else.”

Extreme: guitarist gives update on comeback

Posted in Shred Guitar with tags on January 16, 2008 by Staff Writer

Oh yeah. I love Nuno!
Extreme: guitarist gives update on comeback

Guitarist Nuno Bettencourt of the reunited Boston funk rockers Extreme has issued the following update:

“We are now finishing up the recording of our new release… which, by the way, rocks. We had a great time jamming and creating. We ended up with about 24 tunes, which we dwindled down to the 14 that will be on the record. And I’m sure it’s no surprise to you, our fans, that they are a ‘mishmash’ of old-school rock and some tasty abstract ditties.

“As a band, we always manage to be misfits in the midst of whatever music is out there. But I guarantee it will be delicious. We are very, very excited to share it with you. Both on record and live when we come to your town… and WE WILL. Yes… we plan to tour for at least one year — well, probably two years — ’cause we’ve got a lot of catching up to do with you guys and gals. And we can’t fucking wait… Shit! There I go fucking swearing again… What a prick… Anyways.

“It’s also great to welcome [drummer] Kevin ‘Figg’ Figuieredo to the family. I could say lots about Figg and what he brings to the intensity and sound of this band in 2008… but in the words of Joe Perry… I will ‘let the music do the talking.’

“And when I speak about the Extreme family, I also want to mention that Paul Geary [former Extreme drummer and now Godsmack manager] is still very much a part of the family. I’m very excited to tell you that he will be involved in the managerial side of the band, working closely with us and new addition to our business team, Robby Hoffman, to help reclaim our block of land in the music ghetto.

“Yes… Lock up your daughters and lock up your wife… Lock up your backdoor and run for your life. ‘Cause once we move back in, we plan to be around for the rest of our days… God willing… however long that may be.”

We’re jammin’!

Posted in improvisation with tags , on January 15, 2008 by Staff Writer

“We’re jammin’
I wanna jam it with you,
We’re jamming, jamming
And I hope you like jammin’ too”

…and presumably, also “Spliffin”, but never mind.

I took Bob Marley’s advice and recently started jamming again. It’s been a long time since I rock ‘n’ rolled (groan) – over 6 years since I last really played with a band, so I got together with a couple of colleagues of mine who are both very experienced musicians (bass and drums) and we went into a jammin’ studio last night for some jammin’.

Oh yeah.

It rocked.

Drummer started messing around with some rhythms, bassist plugged in and just started pumping out a bitchin’ low end and I started riffing over the top, launching into some wailing leads. I think we just went on playing for 10 minutes before stopping to try something else – having never played before together.

The vibe was definitely there – we all clicked well and the music really went to some new and interesting places. I think we could have (and trying to stay modest) gone up on the stage in front of some drug-addled hippies in the mid 1970s and played one song for 45 minutes in a cloud of cannabis smoke and gotten away with some respectable adulation. To say I enjoyed it would be an understatement and I really felt my playing has reached a new level after years of woodshedding at home in the bedroom and learning a whole bunch of new theory and soloing and harmonic approaches. I felt much better about playing over changes and was able to follow the harmonic groove being laid down by the bass and even anticipate some of the changes comfortably.

We plan to learn some real material but given the spark that was there these will generally be launching points for more free form jammin’ – (at least if I get my way, heh heh… just kiddin’ fellas).

I hope you like jammin’ too.