Master of Puppets riff - what strategies would you use to get this up to tempo?


Totally new here and got overwhelmed quickly with what people where talking about and filming themselves, something I can’t do, in Fast Downstrokes for Thrash Rhythms. So, I thought I would post this to help get a concise answer.

Now, I cannot play the Master of Puppets riff, you know this one:

6.---0-1--0-1--0-1--0-1--0-1--------- (repeat  ad naeseum)

with just downpicking at speed and it’s not from a lack of trying. Unfortunately I’ve just hit a major milestones in results of age and I had a major wrist injury in my left wrist as a youngster and have decreased RoM, all playing there part. Just playing this riff is extremely uncomfortable. Anyway after trying for many months and using strategies from a former teacher (tl;dr) the best result I got it was 90% - he could play it no problems. Today I broke out Guitar Pro 6 and was struggling at 80%.

So what strategies are people employing to get this riff up to tempo?

The one thing about this riff is that is a great exercise for alternate/economy picking and is east to play as such.

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Fast Downstrokes for Thrash Rhythms

Hey! Maybe I am in the minority here, but I think one can get a perfectly valid sound for MoP with alternate picking - and that is what I would go for.

Downstrokes are simply too much work for me :sweat_smile:


Sorry for the delay, forgot about this! In the “all down” case there’s an extra movement you have to make so that your upstrokes don’t hit the string, that is what makes it so much more physical/stringhoppy for me. But perhaps I haven’t yet found a way to optimise this.

Fast Downstrokes for Thrash Rhythms

IIRC there was some discussion of this from Brendan Small’s technique and the consensus seemed to be that there was a wrist flextension component? I know that I have a much easier time hitting, say, 8ths at 200 with downpicking than 16ths at 200 with alternate picking (even on a single note).

(On the other hand, I think it’s definitely possible. Maybe we should try some A/B blind tests of alternate picked vs. downpicked takes and see if any of us can consistently spot the difference? I know this was a huge point of contention back in my thrash days.)


I play it with downstrokes on the E string and upstrokes on the A-string accent notes in the main riff. this seems to work really well as the change in tone of the A string seems to partly hide the change in tone for the upstroke. that’s my theory anyway.

for the verse I play downstrokes the whole time.


Is Master of Puppets pretty much universally recognized as the most difficult Metallica song to play? It seems to be from the posts I’ve read here, but I always thought Blackened was considered their hardest song to play - a song written when they were at the peak of their careers, artistically speaking. Blackened is the first track on “And Justice For All” - their last thrash album before becoming much more mainstream with their “Black Album.” Was black, figuratively speaking, a funeral for Metallica as a thrash metal band? Is that why it was black with no title?

Blackened isn’t just tough to play from a technique point of view but also it’s rhythmically complex as well. It may be their most rhythmically complex song to play.

Try to play along with it and see what you think!


I think it’s more that MoP is the basic one you have to get down before you can think of having a go at Blackened.


Hi, I’m new here.
I’m struggling with Master of Puppets as well in these days: I started listening to Metallica very recently even if I’m old-ish. I never played thrash, by the way.
So, I started at around 160 bpm and in a couple of months I can play at the landmark speed (220 bpm), even if I still need more stamina and precision. By the way, I have limited time to devote to practice, but I try to squeeze at least 1 hour per day.
I hope I can still get better at this. But anyway, I hope I can give you some tips as a fellow buddy in MoP-challenge, as I had to dissect various aspects of my technique.

  1. Body position: the first challenge I met, was my shoulder tensing up. Most people say you have to go slower and blahblahblah. For me, it’s all about your body position: after seeing some Alexander technique videos I realized that “I suck at being seated”. Anyway, keeping your back straight and pulling your shoulder backwards while playing almost eliminated the problem. The first day of “forced posture” was quite painful.
  2. The infamous riff you mention: at the beginning of these two months, I downpicked everything, note for note, hence the bounce-y feel that you, too, mentioned. Anyway, a week ago or so I watched for the zillionth time an old video on youtube of Kirk playing the riff (as well as others) and I realized that he doesn’t “separate” the picked F (E-string) from the subsequent note in the A-string. It’s some sort of “forceful sweep”, with a single movement, so the bounce is after the picked note on the A string. It was a new movement for me, so it is still a bit tolling (but the first couple of days were way worst, so it’s improving). By the way, if I try to downpick it in the old way (note for note) I think It’s a bit improved as well but it can be either that my wrist is less fatigued from practice or that this
    “forceful sweep” has built some sympathetic stamina.
    To further clarify, I’m not putting that much strength, but a bit more than usual as I have to pick 2 strings with a relative ample and almost semicircular movement of the wrist.

I noticed a few more things but I have to try them for a longer period of time, and then maybe I’ll report back

I hope that can prove useful to you or anybody else.

Sorry for my english, I’m not mothertongue.


I first noticed it when playing Pantera riffs. I’d best describe it like flicking your wrist out. Say straight downstroke is the y axis, and towards the neck or brdge pickups are on the x axis. Flick your wrist out on the z axis as you pick. It’s subtle but it’s there and it’s your escape vector.


Do you really think so?!? Does playing a rhythm a little harder with distortion/OD/gain make a difference to the sound - I’m conflicted on this. Playing that MoP riff with alternate picking makes it dead easy, in fact, that’s the way I thought it was played until I heard different from another guitar forum I was involved with along with a couple of other riffs from “And Justice…” all alternate picked.


Maybe I’m being naive - but I believe it should be in principle possible to make alternate picking sound pretty much the same as all-downstrokes!

I don’t have hard evidence for this, but I know I can play several alternate picking licks both starting with upstroke and downstroke, and I typically get almost identical sounds. Maybe the only exception is pinch harmonics - much harder to achieve on upstrokes.

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one up, two down.

Work smarter, not harder.

Keep It Simple Stupid

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That was something that I used to practice getting, harmonics on upstrokes, got pretty decent at it after a while. The only scale shape I knew for a long time was the minor pentatonic so I was practicing it with that. When I found out I could play 3 note-per-string scale shapes that went out the window :grin:.

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If there are no chords, aren’t U and D indistinguishable? I don’t have a guitar handy but it looks like U D U repeated would be very easy and effective (basically sweeping U)? Then again perhaps it is awesome fun for D, D, D, but I think @tommo is right.

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You clearly know how to make an academic happy :rofl::rofl::rofl:

EDIT: the only problem I’d have with U-D-U (with upwards sweep) is that I find it a bit uncomfortable to palm mute when doing UWPS.


In theory, on single note lines, I agree with you. There may be something to be said for a pick slant in the most literal sense and the angle of the pick as it hits the string impacting the tone, which could lead to tonal differences between upstrokes and downstrokes, but that’s pure speculation.

Where it clearly differs is when you start incorporating diads or chords into your riffing, where a downstroke raking across two or three strings is going to sound differently than an upstroke simply because the notes are being hit at slightly different times.

And, I could also see a difference coming from the strength of your downstrokes vs your upstrokes - if you’re a guy who’s used to riffing with all downstrokes, then your attack is probably going to be more forceful on a downstroke than an upstroke.

I guess finally (I’m thinking out loud here) I could see the picking motion slant making a difference - if your stroke is moving downward through the string and burying the pick then it’s deflecting towards the body/fretboard, which could have a different sound to it than if it’s deflecting away. Vice versa if downstroke-only picking involves escaped upstrokes, and I’m actually not sure which Hetfield uses.


I can usually tell if multiple strings [chord/interval] are (a) going up, (b) going down, or © parallel (plucked by fingers). However, for a single string, I cannot tell.

I think the downstroke people are usually doing 5ths and they want a particular order, hence they have to go really fast.


This is a cool thought, but I kind of suspect it would have more to do with whether the picking path (and thus possibly the actual vibrational movement of the string) were more or less perpendicular to the body – with a low action in particular, a more perpendicular string motion might be more likely to hit the frets than one parallel to the fretboard.


Good point - an escaped downstroke would pull the string away initially, but it would then rebound into the fretboard. That would be a reason upstrokes would NOT sound different than downstrokes.

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In retrospect I’m glad you understood what I meant, because wow did I explain that poorly :smiley: