Making Progressive Metal Riffs

by Jose Mena

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  • Hello my friends! The purpose of this lesson is give you some insight into composition, and yes let's do some metal. My intent here is to help you write progressive metal riffs that seem impossible to follow as they are always changing.

    I want to introduce 2 concepts here, the first and simplest one is dynamics: When writing music we want to let the listener hear the difference between a verse and a chorus or a bridge. Usually we want the chorus of the song to sound more powerful, in metal we usually give the chorus more power by playing the drums harder, or the vocalist will sing higher or more aggressively. What about the electric guitar? If we have heavy distortion it won't matter that you hit it harder the volume will be the same, the sound is already compressed so much that it is basically all at the same level, but we can make a difference if we decide to use palm muting or let a chord ring freely.

    Usually for a chorus we would want lo play open chords, or if it is a riff its got to be powerful somehow, less palm muting would do the trick. I introduce the song with a riff I would play during a chorus instead of a verse, listen to the difference between this section (let's call it chorus riff) and what comes after which is a little more silent and muted (let's call this verse riff). Get the idea? Try this concept when writing your heavy distortion metal songs. Of course we don't always have to follow rules, but some guidelines are sometimes helpful.

    Now lets talk about the progressive part of this lesson:

    When I was 14 and heard Dream Theater for the first time I couldn't understand how they could remember all that they were doing, to fresh young ears it sounded impossible.

    This is when some theory knowledge comes in handy, the trick to this is learning about meter changes, it becomes much clearer once you understand this concept, and much easier to create and memorize crazy riff patterns. At first it might seem like these are long hard to memorize riffs, but really there are 2 riffs (one for the chorus section and one for the verse) with slight variations to achieve the desired effect.

    So let's get started.

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