Kinda dumb question - 16th note tremolo at higher tempos

So I’ve been practicing one of my fav black metal artists song - I intend to make a cover of it - and I was thinking I pretty much nailed the high speed tremolo picking part.
But I kinda felt slowish for me after so much practice. So I looked at waveforms in my daw, and saw that there are THREE strokes per beat, not four.

Now - the tempo is high enough for me not to be able to focus on each click of the metronome, I only pay attention to the first beat.
So far it was sticking quite well, but turns out I am not really playing it properly.

So how can I know if I am really doing 16th notes, and note 16th note triplets while playing?
It’s quite important for me as I am basically quadtracking everything, and there are two separate guitars in this tune - so essentially the same riff is recorded for a total of 8 times!

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I don’t know if this is helpful, but I carefully create TAB and line it up to the click track and each “important” click (in the sense of “chunking”) has a required associated pick stroke direction (no matter what the speed). Usually if I do something wrong I notice that I have an incorrect direction somewhere. Some mistakes will not be visible but many are.

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That makes sense, but - as I mentioned, I am able to keep track of only 1st beat in the measure, and on the first beat I always on a downstroke.
But chunking seems to be THE solution.

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Have you done the same test with the track in question?

Just to be certain they’re actually playing four strokes to the beat.


I am also aware that there may be some “quantisation” in modern metal records, at very high speeds it seems unreasonable to expect exact subdivisions, e.g. in a live performance

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also I guess one could argue that “correct” tremolo picking would be such that one can’t audibly discern how many pickstrokes are being made (obviously not when slowed down and listened to in micro detail, I mean at performance level)

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This is how it’s done. In fact, it wasn’t until we started filming instructional stuff with our more modern gear that I learned that I actually accent the first note of every chunk with a more powerful pickstroke. And I wasn’t even the one who noticed this — viewers pointed it out because you can see in slow motion that that the initial pickstroke is larger:

Even when you can’t hear any audible accent on the first note of each pattern (sextuplets in this case), you can see that the first pickstroke is still larger. When you learn to make movements fast, you are essentially memorizing a short sequence of motions as a single chunk or “motor program”, and repeating it. The first note is the one you focus on because everything that comes after that is pre-recorded so you can’t change it anyway. The goal is to get the seqeuence to be recorded.

So you can try accenting the first note of each sequence. Also, note that I never practiced tremolo by itself. I always played repeating four- and six-note sequences where the left hand was also doing something. This probably why I started doing the accents. In my case, even when remove the left hand component and just fret a single note that doesn’t change, the right-hand accents are still there. I can’t feel them, and I can make them smaller by thinking “smooth”, but that first motion is still a little more powerful than the others. At least in my case.

Thanks to everyone for response.

So, this is how it looks like when I play it:


Does not seem to be too even, I must say.

I suspect it needs to look more like this:


While still there is lot to be desired in terms of being exactly on time, the second case actually shows 4 notes per beat - therefore, straight 16th notes.

Actually I do it on purpose, to help with tempo management.
But even doing 16th note triplets, 1st beat would still be a downstroke, so it is fairly easy to deceive myself and go the “lazy route”.

All in all it seams the only reasonable solution is to practice way slower so my muscle memory kicks in and won’t let me pick any less notes.
Or is it?

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I wouldn’t call it lazy, I think it’s just that you can’t hear because you’re only playing one note. Can you play a four-note fretted phrase, like 4-3-2-1 on adjacent frets, at the speed you are looking for, with solid synchronization, one pickstroke per note, always starting on a downstroke? That was my first step. If you can’t do the fretted sequence, than you can’t do the single-note tremolo without drifting out of synchronization. I know that sounds backwards, but the fretted sequence is easier to chunk. You need a way of signaling to your brain that four pickstrokes are “one thing”. And it’s hard to do that with only one note, because every pickstroke sounds the same as every other pickstroke so you can’t count them. And plus, it’s too fast to count anyway.

A repeating phrase is a great way to do that. One finger per fret is simple for sixteenths. The Yngwie six-note pattern is also a good one, for sextuplets. Don’t only do these slow — you need to learn what it feels like when going fast and actually picking every note, since that feels different from going fast and leaving out pickstrokes. So do both. Because it’s a phrase, it should be easier to hear if you’re leaving out pickstrokes or actually getting them all.

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If it sounds fast enough and doesn’t sound weird, why obsess on this detail? I’ve found most tremolo picked lines in old death and black metal tunes usually don’t stick to a particular subdivision, the guitarist is just picking as fast as possible. In fact, when I’ve asked some of my friends that have done nothing but play extreme metal rhythm guitar since they were teenagers, they usually tell me they have no idea what subdivision they’re picking at all.


Yeah, this is the only way to really approach it. I wouldn’t bother with subdivisions unless it’s some super technical death metal where everything is quantized.


Maybe depends on the line. John Taylor, @milehighshred posted this today and it sounds killer:

This is faster than I can pick for even one bar let alone 50+ seconds. (Edit: I see this 225 not 250 so I can technically do this for maybe about one bar, but even then only on a good day.) And the timing consistency on this is next-level. I don’t think there is any quantization happening here. Not even sure how you’d do that with video involved. But just as a general point that some lines maybe call for a more metronomic approach and others it may not matter as much.


Note that @milehighshred was alternating between strings so he cannot miss any notes or he will be in trouble… and his hand seems to be a veritable metronome, there is a lot to love about his mad skills.

Also, I can easily count 1-2-3-4 with the metronome at 225 bpm but of course I can’t count the 16th notes. I am guessing that he might be looking at the clicks as signs to alternate strings?

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Correct :slight_smile: Just me pickin’ along with the click and trying my best to hit all four strums per click.


Listening to the click for sure. Still doing my best to feel out 4 strums per click. I can’t count 16ths at that speed either. Can anyone? But, it’s certainly something you can train yourself to feel. Easier said than done!

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I guess yes - in fact in the very same song there is one 4nps riff alternating between some arpeggios, string skipping included. Very difficult to play for me, but on my good day I am able to do it without any major screw-ups.

I usually warm up with a variation of tremolo picked “spiders”:


back and forth along the neck. Helps a lot.

Well, for one, I am trying to do it the “proper” way. I am kind of a perfectionist, and being so attentive to the detail will only help me become faster, better guitarist.
For two, I intend to quad track each guitar part, so at some point this will result in a total of eight guitar tracks playing the same riff.

It’s actually black metal:

I would not call it technical, at all. It does not mean I should be sloppy.

That’s an awesome piece of playing I must say!

Anyways - I guess I figured I just need to play it faster than I originally thought - somehow I knew something is wrong, as there are two parts in the song I was catching myself actually accelerating, and thougth it was incorrect, turns out it was really the other way around.

Now I only need to figure out the rest of the song and actually record it - I still can’t play the intro and I have absolutely no clue what is going on at 1:50.
Once I figure it out, I will make a video.

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Thank you :slight_smile:

I get what you’re saying, I’m just pointing out that, playing in an old school death metal band myself, having slowed down and listened to a lot of the faster tremolo picked players, I can say that its not super consistent, perfect 16th notes on the fast tremolos. I’m talking when the tempo reaches well above 200 BPM, something in the 230+ range, I don’t hear consistent perfect 16ths. I’ll hear it dance between 16ths and 8th note triplets at those tempos.

Sure there is plenty of “technical” death metal out there nowadays that does value ultra-precision, but thats not really what I’m talking about here.

I should point out that I’m not referencing tempos up to and including around 200 BPM. With those tempos I do definitely hear consistent 16th notes. Also, I’m referring to the open type of tremolo riffs, similar to the black metal stuff, not the really staccato palm muted riffs.

Take the opening riff to this OSDM classic:

When you slow it down you can hear what I mean. Also you can hear the tremolos don’t match perfectly on either side of the stereo, so I wouldn’t worry about that.

Here’s the thing, I think the dudes in this band, for example, were probably no older than 17 or 18. The mindset was to be as extreme as possible, so they’re just kinda “going for it.” The attitude is way more punk, in a way, and most of the early Scandinavian bands, both death and black, were influenced by a lot of hardcore punk music. To over-think things like subdivisions at super high tempos for this kind of music is going against the vibe and intent of the style.

NOW, granted, I believe as these players got more experienced, they probably developed more proficiency, naturally. I can’t check the playback of the band you are covering, but it looks like Batushka, if I’m correct? I definitely don’t think its worth it to obsess too much, they are fairly raw from what I remember.

I’m not saying its bad to focus on proper subdivisions, obviously, but I think the musical intent needs to be taken into consideration. In the old death and black metal style, the values weren’t placed on the kinds of ultra precision that we tend to value on this forum. I think Fenriz himself would find this discussion on the silly side :slight_smile:


Correct. Just trying to put that new 8 string of mine to a good use.

And yeah, you may actually be right that I am obsessing too much over it, to the point that I am even trying to recreate the guitar tone.

Now, I tried several times, and looks like I am able to sort of play it, maybe not perfectly, but just fine to try and cover it finally.

Just wondering, do you “pulse” on the beat when you trem pick? Thats pretty much the only thing I focus on when I tremolo pick very high speeds. So I’m not focused on subdivisions but I try to “feel” the beat in my right hand, so to speak. I guess its the same thing as accenting on the downbeat, but I’m focused less on the precise subdivisions and more on making sure I can feel the pulse of the drums. Otherwise, its tough to find the drummer’s pocket, especially if you’re navigating blast beats or high tempo Slayer beats.