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I have been playing Metallica songs (only the rhythm parts) for quite some time. I don't play them at full speed because of the Down picking, but i have been playing and practicing them at 80% speed with down picking and i can't go any further up. I know people tell that one has to practice by increasing the metronome in steps and i have been doing that, but there is no improvement at all (i have been doing this for a month, 5 minutes everyday).

I want to know what is the optimum right hand position for this technique, the pick size to be used(i use .50 pick size), pivot point and closed fist or open hand. I would appreciate if anyone could explain this technique with the Main riff of Creeping Death taken as example.

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For how long have you been playing the guitar? It takes quite a while building up chops like this. Five minutes a day might not be enough. I can imagine it feels boring to just chug away, try to play the whole songs at progressively faster tempos. Often one wants to take too big leaps, just increase one step on the metronome. –  Meaningful Username Feb 17 '14 at 9:52
Agreed on the time input. I used to practice 4 hours a day, and still felt like I wasn't improving fast enough! –  Dr Mayhem Feb 17 '14 at 15:48
Regarding picks, I would recommend Dunlop Jazz III (or similar). They are very rigid and smaller than normal picks, so they have good attack and you avoid digging the pick too deep into the strings. –  Meaningful Username Feb 17 '14 at 16:00
@DrMayhem: I considered making it a comment, but one specific part of the question was which pick size to use, so I consider it an answer after all. –  Meaningful Username Feb 18 '14 at 8:37
@Meaningful - totally understand, however we get into opinion with things like pick choice. Some go for thick heavy picks for speed, others use very light picks - the technique is the difference. –  Dr Mayhem Feb 18 '14 at 9:49

1 Answer 1

up vote 7 down vote accepted

In general, your technique isn't going to be fundamentally different than if you are alternate picking, and general good picking technique will apply:

  • Keep your right hand and arm relaxed
  • Hold the pick loosely
  • Move your hand in parallel with the strings (i.e. don't scoop)
  • Monitor your pick strokes to ensure that there is no wasted motion
  • Monitor the tone of each stroke to ensure that it is consistent

Speed and accuracy come with practice, but you're going to have to practice far more slowly than you probably expect. 80% tempo for a Metallica tune is probably still faster than you can handle, and you're not doing yourself any favors if you're practicing at a tempo you can't handle. Slow it way down, and increase very gradually. Practice slowly enough that you can monitor every pick stroke.

A lot of guitar players (most?) dig the pick into the strings far more than is needed. This has a detrimental effect on speed and tone. There's a gizmo that's been around for 20+ years called a Stylus Pick that can help correct that. If you go too deep, you will feel the pick catch on the strings. If you practice with one of these every day to a metronome, your picking technique will improve.

Lastly, be careful. Be sure that you're not straining your right arm when you practice, and be sure to take breaks.

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One more thing... It's not metal, but Chris Thile's mandolin video has what might be the best overview of good picking technique I've ever come across. As a wise person once said, really fast speed metal is about as quick as a medium-tempo hoedown. –  kiprainey Feb 17 '14 at 17:30
Any link for that video? –  Slicedpan Feb 18 '14 at 16:10
@Slicedpan, here's a link to the publisher's website: homespuntapes.com/Instructors/chris-thile/… The have a short sample on that page. –  kiprainey Feb 19 '14 at 3:59
@kiprainey , when i tend to use less pick(the pick's edge) and play a riff slowly like the one i mentioned in my post i tend to scratch my index finger's nail against the strings which start's to hurt once i finish the song.I also want to know is that my index finger ends up moving/bending towards the ground i.e.to my where my middle finger is, so end up with a finger freeze, Is this normal ? do i need to practice more? or start by retraining myself to make a fist and play as i play with just my thumb and index finger? –  CVA Feb 19 '14 at 5:51
@CVA, it's not unusual to have the index finger nail rub against the strings a bit, but, if it's causing pain, it's likely an indication that your picking motion is a bit off. Ideally, you would like for your picking hand to move parallel over the strings, and any contact between your picking hands and the strings would be incidental, and not enough to cause discomfort. –  kiprainey Feb 21 '14 at 0:14

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