Basic Metal/Rock Song Writing Lesson Plan

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Basic Metal/Rock Song Writing
Posted by RIP Dime

This is for the people trying to get out of their beginner phase and trying write some songs, take what you learn here about riffs and apply them to your own songs. Think of these techniques as tools, barre chords, power chords, open chords, pedal notes, strumming patterns, chord progressions, tapping, basically every guitar technique under sun is a tool for you to use at your disposal when writing songs.

This is going to be structured a little differently than my normal lessons, I'm going to post lessons containing techniques that I think are either important or cool to use in songs, and explain some of their uses. I'm also separating them into 3 groups, increasing in difficulty to use in songs. So first watch the lesson, learn the technique, then read what I have to say about how to use it in a song. Or you can read the explanation first to see what you'll be doing with the technique. *Disclaimer: These are just easy, basic places, and ways to use these techniques, this is by no means the only way to go about writing, the possibilities are endless, this is just meant to help.

Kris-Power Chords
Kris-Barre Chords
Lian-Death Metal
Joe-Arpeggiated Chords

Ok, here we go the meat and potatoes of songwriting. Firstly, metal and power chords go together like Americans and Hamburgers. Check out Kris' lesson for great explanations. Power chords, or 5 chords(example: A5) are very easy to use in riffs, you can see the use of them in Lian and Toni's lessons above. They are basically used to get a strong punch out of the amp, and they sound great with distortion. Palm muting a single power chord(usually a low chunky one), and playing it rhythmically can give you the basic metal breakdown, not great as a main riff, but it has it's place in a song's structure. Strumming 3 or 4 different power chords after each other is also an easy way to establish a chord progression, useful for a chorus, verse, or solo backing(listen to any pop punk song and you'll hear this somewhere). Or you can just let the power chords ring out one after another to create your popular power metal chorus riff. A basic progression you can use is I V VI IV, 1 5 6 4, or in the key of D: D5 A5 B5 G5 is great for pop punk or power metal. You can try any combination you like, and use it in your song. Those are a couple ways to use power chords to create very simple but effective parts of a song. Now crap on a donkey and give it your bowtie. (just seeing if anyone is reading this) Barre chords can be used in a similar way to power chords, except they contain 1 more note, the 3rd, or the note that makes the chord minor or major. Try different combinations of these to make a progression by ear or you can go by a chord scales. Barre chords work great clean or distorted, so try both, and if you like the way they sound, use it! You can also create arpeggiated chords from barre chords, as shown in Joe's lesson above. Arpeggiated passages work great for any section of a song, really. Also look up finger picking, as this is a way of getting the arpeggios faster than with a pick, and also allows you to do more complex patterns.

  • As you probably noticed, I've left out open chords, but as these should be one of the first things you learn I left out a lesson on it, but if you aren't familiar with open chords, look it up in the lessons section, or if you want a recommendation of how to learn it just let me know and I'll help you out. Open chords can be used in the same fashion as power, and barre chords, but allows you some freedom as you'll probably have a finger not assigned to a string, so it allows you to do some fancy legato, or maybe just to add a note here and there, but that is all just icing on the cake, and we're focusing on the baking of a cake here.

I added Joe's Firewind & Lian's lesson to display note pedalling, witch is a great way to establish key, and allows your left hand total freedom to add extra notes in between the pedal notes, or do like Lian did, and add power chords in between to make a sort of choppy chord progression, it doesn't establish a chord progression as clearly as just using chords, but it works. These riffs also work as easy backings to solo over in one scale. These work great as main riffs, but they also create this crawling, beastly vibe that can work anywhere you want that sound. Octaves are easy to use for thick melody lines, as shown in Toni's lesson. These little octave riffs can be used again, anywhere, but are easiest to use as bridge riffs imo.


A little harder here, I'd like to talk about melodies, these are ways for guitarists to voice their creativity is a way similar to the way vocalists do. There are many ways to play melodies, just search the word "melodies" in the lessons section and you'll see what I'm talking aboot(look I did it for you, how easy is this!), all of those lessons show ways that you can express yourself in a song. Now melodies can go almost anywhere in a song as well, you could actually make non repetitive melodies and use those in place of vocals! How crazy is that! But if you're looking for a place to put a melody, try a bridge, or chorus first. Melodies aren't actually techniques, they can contain basically any technique, but you can practice those on you own, melodies are the application.

Now I'm goin to talk about difficult techniques, these basically can take the basic, boring, tools I've talked about so far, and transform them into something unique and interesting.

David-Lead & Rhythm interaction

First up, lead and rhythm interaction, the concept here is more important than learning what is being played. Pretty self exclamatory, being that David explains it! But what I have to add here is be careful not to litter your songs with lead bits. Sometimes it is more fitting for you to step back and let the singer do some of the melody section stuff.


Now if you are the only guitar player you will have to master making riffs that can stand alone and be interesting. These palm muted one notes lines achieve this fairly easily. And for other techniques to make stand alone interesting riffs, I highly recommends delving into the expansive amount of prog lessons here(look, I've done it for you again! I should get a cookie). If you've come so far that you can play these lessons I'm pretty sure you can extract these techniques and apply them to your playing all by yourself! I know, it will be tough without my long winded explanations. But hey! if you're having a hard time, ask! Make a thread, we are all here for each other. One thing I would like to point out is the use of wierd diads, such as the b5 chords (ex: E:5 A:6 D:7), major diad (ex: E:5 A:4 D:7), minor diad (ex: E:5 A:3 D:7). You can take those shapes and move them around, also the note on the D string is just an octave of the root, so it's not nessicary to play that. Often you can use these in place of power chords to get a more washed out sound, and next time the riff comes around use the power chords, to give it more punch. But these can really open up the sound of your metal chug chug riffs. And really, adding all this "icing" to the cake really makes your music stand out, just make sure you have the "cake" or the meat of a good song, or there will be no nutritional value to the song, it will just be pretty. I'm not saying you have to conventionally structure your songs, because you don't, I guess what I'm saying is make the song have a purpose, nothing more.

Ok, now nearing the end.
If you got 2 guitar players, use them! Try not to have both of them playing the exact same thing all the time, or else it pretty much defeats the purpose of having two. You can harmonize, you can have the guitars flowing in and out of each other, or have them complimenting each other, whatever the case, there is no point to having 2 guitar players if there is no dynamic between them, unless you just want the other guy to look pretty onstage! But you also don't want cacophony(the band and the term), well, I don't like that. Having the guitarists lock up at certain points yields great advantages as well, it can create a bigger contrast for the dynamic between them. I haven't really found a lesson yet that has two guitar players interacting with one another at the same time(other than lead, and rhythm guitars). But listen to Mastodon, Protest The Hero, Opeth, Testament, etc...and you'll get it.

Lian-Power Metal Concepts

I highly recommend these lessons to add to this lesson plan. Have a nice day!