Need help with metal rhythm playing

Thanks a ton for putting the effort into this, I’ll watch the whole thing and try your suggestions!

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You’re welcome! It honestly wasn’t much of a hassle. I just hope it all makes sense. Please let me know if any of it worked for you (or not).

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Its interesting that you think of the movement as ‘upstroke+back2neutral’. So does it feel like you are primarily using the muscles on the inside of your forearm?

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@J.P.Amboss

I never really thought about it prior to your question. I’ve just checked it and I think you’re right. When I’m tremolo picking without palm muting, I can feel the muscles on the inside of my forearm (the parts below the elbow) activating and flexing as a result of my flexed positioning of the wrist (it varies depending on how much I’m flexing my wrist).
I can also feel that the muscles on the other side of the forearm are activated, but they aren’t flexed, just kind of tensed up (not in an uncomfortable way, though). However, both outside and inside muscles are flexing a bit when I play downpicking.

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Have you tried practicing standing up with your guitar in a relatively low position? I imagine most metal rhythm guitarists developed their right hands because they play standing up with the guitar slung on the lower side, in which case, forearm rotation with a USX is pretty much all you can do. Also, playing a pointy guitar with very little room for any type of anchoring other than the pinky edge of the palm on the bridge.

It’s entirely possible you can develop good fast rhythm playing without that setup, I’m merely pointing out a possible reason why so many rhythm players adopt this position. Actually one thrash guitarist that comes to mind who didn’t use forearm rotation is Jeff Hannemann. He looks like he did some type of combination of wrist deviation and elbow.

What I’m saying is, if you’re finding your body gravitating towards generating speed one way, don’t throw it out because you don’t see “other guys” play that way. There’s always going to be exceptions.

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@BlackInMind

It is not my intention to speak ill of the dead, but from what I’ve read about Slayer’s live shows and the band in general, Jeff might not be a good example of a tight rhythm guitar player, at least not one with a sustainable technique in the long term.
Namely, it is a known fact that Kerry King (who has a more traditional metal rhythm technique) recorded all rhythm guitars on several Slayer albums prior to Jeff’s death ( “Somebody reported some bulls–t. People say s–t when they don’t know what’s actually going on. Even though Jeff’s song, “Piano Wire,” was recorded during the last album cycle [ World Painted Blood ], I played all the guitar. I’ve been doing that for years. Since he has no lead on that song, he’s not on it.” - Kerry King in an article on Loudwire).
Secondly, people on some forum commented on the band’s more recent performances with Jeff still in the fold and comparing them to those with Gary Holt on the rhythm guitar only to reach a consensus that the band sounded significantly tighter with Gary (I can’t remember where I read that).
All this leads to a conclusion that although Jeff’s songwriting was amazing, his technique couldn’t be maintained properly and therefore I wouldn’t recommend that approach to anyone.
However, I agree with trying to change strap length in order to have the guitar slung a bit lower than usual (while keeping the comfort of the fretting hand in mind at the same time), since I’ve found that when I play my guitar slung lower, my wrist naturally assumes a flexed downward pickslanting-oriented position.

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Just to play devils advocate here, but is it possible his coordination is to blame and not his motion mechanic for his sloppiness? Yeah, Jeff wasn’t the most precise, but he was fast. I’m sure I can find other dudes who don’t use the gypsy wrist position who play metal rhythm, but he was the first that came to mind. Actually, I seem to remember Troy mentioning Brendon Small from Dethklok uses an elbow mechanic for even rather speedy things.

My point is, with the sheer volume of metal rhythm players adopting the slouched wrist style, I’m questioning if this is more a result of a fashionable strap length forcing this motion mechanic or not, because in the world of speedy lead players who might be more inclined to wear their guitar higher we see a lot more variation.

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That is indeed a valid point, especially when considering the fact that both Jeff and Kerry are sloppy when playing leads.
Judging by this video, Brendon Small does in fact use an upward pickslanting orientation, although it seems that on certain downpicked parts he assumes a somewhat neutral position coming close to a downward pickslant, but yeah, he’s definitely a tight and fast rhythm player with an efficient upward pickslant orientation, though I don’t get how he’s able to do it. It seems that wrist extension is the key to efficient downpicking, regardless of the pickslanting orientation of choice.

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Yeah I often practice standing up. I tried wearing my guitar lower for a little while for this exact reason but since my band is pretty active (rehearsals/writing/recording twice a week, gigging, etc) I was struggling to keep up so I went back to my higher playing position just so I could get through our material.

I know that Brendan Small and other metal players are using other setups (Brendan Small doesn’t seem too far-off from my usual position so I’d love to see his interview when it’s out) but I think I would benefit from changing things up. Even in my natural playing style I’m finding myself clinging to the guitar for dear life, so to speak. My wrist is slammed in the little nook where the bridge meets the body of the guitar and my forearm crushes the guitar against my body. The whole operation feels really tense. It’d be really awesome to just crush out some fast power metal 16ths like Blind Guardian or Helloween with that badass wrist/forearm action, you know? I’ve been trying to do it my way for a long time and all it got me was an ulnar nerve injury.

@13GuitarDude I’m going to make a long-term practice routine out of your little video over the fall and see how it goes for me. Your English is spot-on, btw!

Thanks again to all for chiming in here :slight_smile:

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@element0s “My wrist is slammed in the little nook where the bridge meets the body of the guitar and my forearm crushes the guitar against my body. The whole operation feels really tense.” - You want your forearm to grip on the body of the guitar as lightly as possible. I think adopting the downward pickslanting orientation will help with that. I think you should start off with exercises incorporating palm muting, since resting of the edge of the palm on the bridge, as well as of remaining fingers on the higher strings (higher in terms of pitch) should provide enough support for your picking hand. As for you your forearm in general, try to think of it as resting your forearm on the edge of a table - you don’t dig your forearm into the table while using tableware, a pen, or a mouse, you just let it sit there.

I’m really glad that my video is of use to you. Please provide feedback on your progress.

Since you’ve had an ulnar nerve injury, I’ll just share a few tips regarding your practice routine: go light on the pick attack and palm muting (whenever I go overboard with hard palm muting, the lower half of my forearm starts tingling due to my ulnar nerve damage). Just remember to ease into it and listen to your body. Also, a good thing before playing guitar in any situation is to stretch your hands. I’m currently using these exercises:

(minus the drink at the end :smiley:). I’ll chime in if I have any other advice. Good luck!

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