Metal Rhythm Guitar Speed Bursts

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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Metal Rhythm Guitar Speed Bursts


  1. Jacob Rhoades on July 16, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    I had no idea you had this lesson! Thanks Carl

  2. zois asimakopoulos on August 9, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    Exactly what I was looking for. Premium Metal Guitar Lessons has more like these?

    • Carl Brown on August 10, 2017 at 6:01 pm

      Right now the Premium Metal Guitar Lesson section only contains the first level of the metal guitar improvisation course and a few rhythm videos.

      Many more are on the way!


      • zois asimakopoulos on August 11, 2017 at 12:35 am

        Thanks Car for all the help and support you offer with you video lessons. After the summer holidays I will start my premium subscription to follow your premium courses.


  3. Zack Elekes on November 26, 2019 at 4:14 am

    Cool lesson Carl! Unfortunately I am struggling with downpicking recently. I used to be able to play Master of Puppets, Creeping Death and Blackened in a row without breaking a sweat. Recently I tried changing the way I Hold my pick, I wanted to play like Hetfield. Biggest mistake of my life. I played like that for like a week, and now I cant downpick as good. My Palm muting tehnique became weak too. I cant play neither way. Its so frustrating. I can send you a video about my nem and old playing If you want to. What would you suggest? Whats wrong? Also, while I am playing my shoulder/back hurts which is weird. It never happened before.

    • Carl Brown on November 26, 2019 at 5:17 pm

      Sounds like you just developed some tension in your hand, arm, back and shoulder by trying a technique that didn’t feel natural to you. I could never play with the pick grip that Hetfield uses either. It is obviously natural to him because of his specific hand and wrist anatomy, but for most, a more traditional technique works much better in the long run.

      Just try and work on the old way of playing in a relaxed manner and it should come back soon. 🙂

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