How to Play Heavy Metal

Metal; or a bit harder form of rock, was introduced to us through a great band called Black Sabbath. It is categorized by loud distorted guitars, lively drum-work, and vocals that are much different from those used in popular music today.


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    Buy, borrow an instrument that you enjoy playing or would like to play. Preferably drums, guitar, mic, or even a keyboard.
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    There are several ways to learn how to play this music.
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    If you are a vocalist, simply sing along by ear. If it is a form of extreme metal, or isn't but includes some sort of growling, screaming, squealing, gargling, screeching, or inhaling, I will offer information on extreme vocals later in the guide. Also, visit to get the lyrics laid out quickly and clearly to get the rhythmical sequencing of your syllables right. Don't be like the guy in Obituary who sang the vocals and then wrote the lyrics.
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    If you're a guitarist/bassist, search for tablature on sites like,, etc. You can also play by ear as the great Chuck Schuldiner did. To play by ear, simply turn your music on a stereo or computer, iHome etc, and play along. Make sure you know what tuning the group is in before following along. After enough repetition, you will learn patterns and techniques that many metal bands follow when composing songs. Soon you will be writing your own skull crushing riffs with a little blend of yourself and your influences.
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    Find other people who like metal, and get to know them. They're pretty cool, really! If you hang around with a lot of like minded people who have a passion for music, you yourself will feel more motivated to continue routine practices in all kinds of music.
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    If you're a drummer, play by ear. It is a lot of fun, and can also be a good workout if you're not in shape. Learn the different patterns and sequences that metal drummers use to fill the space in the guitar driven songs. A good way to find the beat in an unusual tempo, is by finding where the snare is played. If you can match this up right, you will have an easier time adding the other percussive elements to the drum pattern. Don't be mechanical, hit that splash often, use the ride, and buy a china!
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    Take breaks when practicing, for metal can be quite exhausting if you're not used to playing for long extensions of time. After a while, you're body will get used to the speed and effort and you will become much less fatigued during play.
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    Try to practice daily, for at least an hour. If you're passionate, you'll practice longer sessions without thinking about it. If you have no passion, don't play music, because you'll end up sounding mechanical and boring.
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    Form a band if you know enough people who are into metal like you are. If you get good enough, you could show them how to play and make them your student. Teaching others will also teach you much about proper technique and understanding the genre


  • Look for music that makes you happy. If you like Slayer, listen to Slayer. If you like Death, listen to Death. If you like whatever, listen to them and take it all in.
  • Don't be discouraged by people who don't like your music. There will be LOTS of those people along the way.
  • Oh yes, keyboard players. Check out bands that have keyboards in them like Cradle of Filth, Dragonforce, and Children of Bodom, etc.
  • Get inspired, watch videos of your favorite artists and even visit their shows. But especially, learn the story behind each and every band you like. This proves invaluable to understanding and connecting to their music on a personal level.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Every day. Yngwie Malmsteen didn't just wake up one morning and start shredding. It took him many hours experimenting and learning to get to where he is now.
  • Here's a quick tip for the vocals. Use your false vocal chords; they will preserve your normal voice and keep you from getting a killer headache after practicing/performing. Screaming and growling come from a very similar place in the voice, if used properly. Like all things, this will take practice to master.
  • Eddie Van Halen strapped his guitar on unplugged and walked around the house doing what he calls, "noodling".
  • Now extreme vocals; there is a guide on this site on how to perform them properly called, How to do Harsh Death Vocals. That, I believe, will inform you on proper technique involved in using the guttural style I.E. Chris Barnes, David Vincent, Angela Gassow. Melissa cross also offers some advice on this subject, but she goofs off a lot and avoids actually teaching in most of her free stuff.
  • Just because you play heavy metal does not mean you can't incorporate other styles of music into your music. Acoustic guitars, wind instruments and string instruments help you get a more epic folk/power metal sound.


  • If you can hardly speak after performing extreme vocals, you're not doing it right. research proper technique
  • Don't give up. You'll never get anywhere by doing that.
  • Don't get all caught up in being a nonconformist just because you play metal. Don't try to be someone you're not, in other words. If you are a nonconformist and metal strikes your fancy, that's cool.
  • Don't buy Melissa Cross' video. It won't teach you a whole lot about the vocal style. She only discusses it for about 2 minutes and then teaches you vocal warm-ups that any normal vocal coach could show you.
  • Ask yourself, "Do I want to sound generic?" if the answer is no, then explore other genres.
  • Don't bang your head too hard, you might hurt it like Dave Mustaine once did. Head banging while playing is a form of theatrics and should not take away from your playing.
  • Don't get so caught up in metal that you only listen to metal. This will make you narrow minded and your music will eventually all sound the same if you are a songwriter.

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Categories: Music Techniques