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Classic Metal Riffing – Black Sabbath Style

All hail the mighty Sabbath! In this lesson, we take a look at a riff using the C# Pentatonic scale, yet playing outside its box position. The end result is totally symmetrical, using only notes at the 2nd and 4th frets. Also on display are some slur techniques, hammer ons and pull offs, curl bends, as well as some rapid vibrato.

Practice Tips

  • As well as using hammer-ons or pull-offs for slurs, you can also use sliding to accomplish the same goal, producing a uniquely different sound.
  • One of the most commonly used ideas in popular rock and metal riffs is to lead in to the root note with the minor 7th, in this case, B into C#. Try using different keys, positions and rhythms to come up with your own ideas using this formula.
  • 1/4 step bends, also known as curls, are a really simple way of introducing some bluesy flavour and spice into riffs and licks. They work particularly well with the Pentatonic and Blues scales.
  • The key to good vibrato technique is to have proper hand and finger position. Check out where my thumb sits as well as the first finger's 'posture' in the video; it will really help you get to grips with the technique.