As you guys have probably seen already, I teach a lot of metal songs at GuitarLessons365. I try not to shy away from the more difficult hard rock and metal songs and that means not only a bunch of crazy fast solos, but lots of extremely fast rhythm guitar playing as well.
One of the most common techniques used in metal or hard rock rhythm guitar playing is the use of rapid muted downstrokes. In fact, that is probably the most important technique of the rhythm guitarist in most fast heavy styles of music.
Why use all downstrokes and not alternate pick you ask? Well it comes down to a couple of essential elements, number one being consistency of tone. Downstrokes and upstrokes have different tonal qualities, especially when you are picking across more the one string (ie. playing a power chord).
However, being able to play very fast downstrokes for an extended period of time can be very tiring and seem almost impossible to a lot of players. From my experience of teaching this style of rhythm to 100's of private students, I have found that no matter how economic their movements are, or how perfect their picking positioning is, the main thing that prevents players from getting rapid controlled downstrokes at a fast tempo is tension.
Any tension in your hand, wrist, forearm, bicep or shoulder will decrease your speed substantially. I think if you try it real quick you will probably notice that one or all of those parts of your arm will tense up at least a little bit when try to play fast muted downstrokes.
I have taught the concept of speed bursts before with many different techniques, I also feel it is the perfect practice method to master the art of relaxation in order to improve your metal rhythm guitar speed.
It is important to follow along with the video and truly practice at a very slow tempo at first until you feel all of the components of your picking hand and arm are as relaxed as possible. You have to be your own judge of this since no one can feel the tension in your arm for you.
After you feel very relaxed you can start to incorporate short speed bursts while focusing on maintaining that same relaxed feeling during the speed burst. This can take some getting used to and you may feel a bit out of control at first, but it truly is the key to mastering this technique.
Slowly start increasing the length of the speed bursts as you gradually master the art of relaxation. You will find it will become quite easy to you after a while. Good Luck!
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