Tremolo picking | black metal

Tremolo picking | black metal DEFAULT
The origin of the tremolo riff can be traced back to the songs Into the Void (Master of Reality, 1971) and Symptom of the Universe (Sabotage, 1975). Although the riffs themselves weren't tremolo picked, I believe they paved the way for the style of riffing that finally came into being with songs like Exciter by Judas Priest (Stained Class, 1978) and Fast as a Shark by Accept (Restless and Wild, 1982)

After that it just took off with the thrash and speed metal movement of the early 80s. Thrash deploys a lot of tremolo riffing, but it's much more monotonous with quarter note melodic "conclusion" that is closer to the Black Sabbath and Judas Priest riffing style, than what tremolo riffing would eventually become with black metal that is more melodic. I dunno how the black metal tremolo riff came to be from the thrash tremolo riff, my only explanation is most likely Venom and Bathory (although both bands didn't use tremolo riffing near as much as the second wave of BM did), and natural evolution. I think Euronymous played a large part in the propagation of the melodic, tremolo, black metal riff though with songs like Freezing Moon, Buried by Dust and Time and De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas.

Into the Void by Black Sabbath (Master of Reality, 1971)


  E   E  E  E  E  E  E   E     E  E  E  E  H         

Symptom of the Universe by Black Sabbath (Sabotage, 1975)


      E  E  E  E  E  E  E  E     H.           Q       E  E  E  E  E  E  E  E   

the riffs are now mostly tremolo picked but the ending of the riffs aren't, that which contains most of the riffs melody.

Exciter by Judas Priest (Stained Class, 1978)


      S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S    S S S S S S S S E  E  E  E   

  S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S    S S S S S S S S E  E  Q       

Fast as a Shark by Accept (Restless and Wild, 1982)


     S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S    S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S 

  S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S    S S S S S S S S S  S S S  S S S  S 

now a lot of black metal tremolo riffs aren't as monotonous (depends on the band) but are more melodic throughout the whole riff, rather than just the ending.

Freezing Moon by Mayhem (played live by 1993 at the latest)


     S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S    S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S 

Well that's my attempt at answering the question.


Tremolo picking for black metal

As someone who currently plays in an old school death metal band, and literally had to build exactly this type of technique from the ground up, I can tell you exactly what I did and continue to do, and honestly, its really simple.

Put yourself in the mindset of some of the early 90’s Scandinavian Death and Black Metal bands. These kids were just trying to be as extreme as possible, gain set to max on their pedals and amps. I highly doubt any of them methodically developed any of their speed. I 100% guarantee you they just flailed their hand as fast as they could. Forget about note subdivisions, forget about modern ultra tight metal tone. Get a super abrasive old school sound (for my style its the BOSS HM2), crank the gain to 10 and go for it.

You want to get your headspace into not actively judging your technique as you play. This is why I think getting a super old school dirty maxed out gain sound will help. It will mask a lot of the unevenness. Also, don’t palm mute. Its going to feel rough, maybe a little choppy (or very choppy). But you don’t want to care at all. The kids in Darkthrone or Nihilist didn’t. Just focus on sounding extreme.

What happens is that over time doing it this way, it will naturally start to feel easier and refine itself, and gradually, you’ll notice an increase in control and speed. This is why when you listen to a lot of these bands play nowadays vs when they started they are much much tighter. You do one thing that much for that many years, you’re going to get better at it.

Another thing is to consider the source of the influences. Those death and black metal bands listened to a lot of bands like early Slayer, Celtic Frost, Venom, Bathory, early Death, Morbid Angel, and hardcore punk bands like Anti-Cimex and Discharge. Within a lot of that material are riffs that aren’t quite as frantic, but will really challenge your right hand’s overall endurance. Try learning some of the material on the first two Venom records or Discharge, and then try to put the record on and play along with no breaks. If your right hand isn’t used to it, its going to get tired, even if its just a lot of open downpicking.

Hope that helps!


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Master The Art of Tremolo Picking For Death Metal Rhythms

Tremolo PickingExtreme metal is full of different styles, and one of the most prominent of this is death metal. With aggressive and hellacious guitar work, deep guttural vocals, and powerful, fast drumming, death metal has worked its way to the forefront of the extreme metal scene.

Bands such as Death, Cannibal Corpse, Origin, Morbid Angel, Carcass, Entombed, Dark Tranquility, and Atheist have all pushed the genre in some way or another, whether that be by means of technical prowess, or shear, raw brutality.

No matter how much the genre has developed over the past two decades, one technique has remained a constant; tremolo picking.

Tremolo picking is actually a classical guitar technique. Odd as it may be, the purpose of tremolo notes is to create a shimmering, dazzling effect. Death metal bands have taken the traditional tremolo picking technique and given it a whole new edge, breathing new life into a technique older than rock and roll itself.

So What Exactly Is Tremolo Picking?

Tremolo picking is sometimes known as speed picking. While this nick name is somewhat accurate, many guitarists don’t actually recognize tremolo for what it is. Tremolo picking isn’t a grouping of separate note values played in a row, but actually a single note played as a grouping of thirty second notes.

Take for instance an eighth note. If you were to tremolo pick an eighth note, you would be picking four thirty second notes to equal that one eighth note. That being said, those aren’t four separate thirty second notes; a tremolo note is the value of a single note.

So that eighth note tremolo note is still technically an eighth note, and is notated as such, only with three dashes through its stem. This lets you know that you will be playing the note as a grouping of thirty second notes.

The Key To Tremolo Picking In Death Metal Is Control.

You want to control the speed at which you are picking. This is important for many reasons, but mostly to (a) stay within your key signature, (b) avoid tiring your hand out, (c) keep the song rhythm steady, and (d) to avoid note spillage.

Note spillage is simply playing one too many notes, causing them to spill into the next notes value. While this won’t necessarily change the entire value of a riff, it will throw the riff slightly out of whack.

The only way to truly develop your tremolo picking technique is to practice. Keep your arm relaxed, and while you are playing, be aware of your form. Many guitarists unknowingly tense up when picking quickly. This can not only lead to injury, but it can also lead to strains. Both will keep you from your guitar for an extended period of time.

Take Your Time To Build Up Your Hand Endurance.

Use a metronome starting off around 120bpm, count each click as an eighth note beat within a 4/4 time signature. For each click, play four notes; one on the click, for simultaneously thereafter. Be patient, as tremolo picking takes time. As long as you practice, your endurance will build. Good luck!

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