Tremolo picking for black metal

Hello, i struggle to improve my tremolo picking. What would be the best way to exercise? Anyone has some sources of tremolo picking exercises?

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Do you have any clips of your playing? That would be a helpful first step. I play in this style and can make several recommendations for exercises or song excerpts to work on.

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I don’t think you need exercises - tremolo picking is just banging on 1 note as fast as you can. It is more about making sure you find the right notion mechanic thats right for you. As @guitarenthusiast has advised, post a video for people to critique.

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Here’s one thing we posted about tremolo technique. EVH, not metal…but some good general discussion of motor learning too:

And yes definitely feel free to make a post with video / further detail!

Video of me trying tremolo to Transylvanian Hunger:

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Nice, some critique:

It does sound like your pick is getting stuck against the string a bit. If you look at your hand position, one thing that you are not doing (that many players in this style do) is relaxing your upper arm so the picking hand slouches against the body of the guitar. This is more of a downward pickslanting setup that many metal players, especially black metal players, favor because many notes are grouped in even numbers of 4 or 6, which allows the groups to end on an upstroke to prepare for another riff, as opposed to getting caught in the strings and having to rotate outwards with two-way pickslanting.

So basically what you are doing is a downward pickslanting setup with minimal UWPS tilt caused by tension in the upper arm. I think you are overcompensating in trying to get through the strings, evidenced by your pick getting “stuck” on the strings which is very obvious to hear. Maybe subconsciously you are trying to rotate the pick upwards to make it easier to slice through the strings.

I would try to let your hand slouch as much as possible while playing that intro, and focus less on getting through the string. You can play black metal with an upwards pick slanting setup, but I know of a player who severely injured his right arm by trying to engage the elbow. Many players can get away with this in other genres, but tensing up the elbow for 4-6 minutes in black metal is not going to work, even less so if you are playing gigs or 30-40 minute sets.

tl;dr: Your form is good but a little bit of tension apparently in the upper arm is causing you to get stuck on the strings. I would keep on practicing Transilvanian Hunger and see if getting more comfortable with the notes and song in general results in your form relaxing a bit. You have no major problems at all, so keep it up.

Really helpful resource on why players get stuck on the strings even if their form is seemingly good: https://www.guitarprinciples.com/touch-guitar-string-play-from-the-string/

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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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^ Yes this is great advice.

I actually did the exact opposite of what @BlackInMind said and developed my speed methodically to begin with and would not recommend this. I would have been better off just trying to match the sonic qualities of the pieces.

I learned Emperor’s In the Nightside Eclipse front to back AFTER I had built extreme (200 BPM 16th notes+) right hand speed and I basically had to “un-learn” my tendency to methodically subdivide each beat.

Many of the old albums were not recorded to a click, and if they were, quite a few parts were rushed. So even if you have the perfect technique down from a subdivision standpoint, you need to match the tempo of the performances, which often ebb and flow in tempo. In a way, you’re sort of learning picking technique twice. One set of skills you have for rigid, metronomic precision, and another to copy the idiosyncrasies of the players you are emulating in covers.

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Many of the old albums were not recorded to a click, and if they were, quite a few parts were rushed. So even if you have the perfect technique down from a subdivision standpoint, you need to match the tempo of the performances, which often ebb and flow in tempo. In a way, you’re sort of learning picking technique twice. One set of skills you have for rigid, metronomic precision, and another to copy the idiosyncrasies of the players you are emulating in covers.

I remember slowing down a Dismember riff, I think Override of the Overture, and at a tempo around 230-240 BPM, the trem picking was dancing randomly between 16ths and 8th note triplets every so often, if you were to subdivide. This is obviously not on purpose and I think proves they are just going for sheer speed.

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YES! I confirm that. Brute force “method” for brutal music.

Not to forget Motörhead and GBH.
A good starting point is the song “Time bomb”, it’s fast, it’s raw, you don’t need tabs or anything, it is just a song that says: “Do it”

More surf guitarists,listen and imitate,start with this:
The Kilaueas - Wiki Waki Woooo (2014)

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