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.

  • 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. Feb 17, 2014 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!
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Feb 17, 2014 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. Feb 17, 2014 at 16:00
  • @MeaningfulUsername, I have been playing for 3 years, started playing rocksmith an year ago.I can play Nothing else Matters, Enter sandman, Broken Beat and Scarred, some nirvana and greenday stuff. could you please recommend a comfortable pick size ?
    – CVA
    Feb 19, 2014 at 5:57
  • 2
    It takes a lot more than a month to build up chops to that level. Unless you have some naturally amazing sets of hand and arm muscles, it takes years and years! Just like a bodybuilder doesn't become huge in one year, you have to develop those muscles over a very long period of time. Try the 4 4 2 method. 4 minutes at half tempo, 4 minutes at your highest full tempo, then 2 minutes spent trying to breach your full tempo. Sorry if I dissapointed you!
    – Musicode
    Aug 22, 2014 at 21:14

2 Answers 2


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.

  • 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, 2014 at 17:30
  • @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, 2014 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, 2014 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, 2014 at 0:14
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    Sure, @aeroNotAuto. The pick should be moving in a flat plane across the strings, hitting each string with the pick at the same depth and angle. Scooping refers to rotating the wrist while picking, as if one is using a spoon. This tends to be a less efficient picking motion and usually results in tone that is less consistent.
    – kiprainey
    Apr 7, 2015 at 7:31

5 min won't get any a day get is not nearly enough. You need to spend 10,000 hours to truly master something. That something can be anything. So since you play the guitar and you don't put the time in and the right type of time, you won't get anywhere. A master pianist once told me you need to eliminate mistakes first. So practice scales or the piece of music at a speed you can handle. Once you stop making mistakes you start adding speed. Start by adding 5 bpms at a time. After 3 months of working 2 to 3 hours a day you should be nailing it. This practice 5 min a day isn't going to get you anywhere fast.

  • "You need to spend 10,000 hours to truly master something" [citation needed] Apr 6, 2015 at 9:27
  • On the other hand, "practice slow enough so that you can not make mistakes and then increase speed" is solid. Apr 6, 2015 at 9:30
  • I have noticed my downpicking improve after not practicing it for sometime and focusing on techniques like alternate & gallops picking. The improvement was nothing major but made me relax my arm and reduce my movement a bit. Still working on reducing scooping though.
    – CVA
    Apr 8, 2015 at 7:32
  • 1
    User19796 - please read skeptics.stackexchange.com/a/10781/619 - "So really all this 10,000 hours figure is, is a guide to the magnitude of the amount of practicing needed to significantly influence expertise, at least in Ericcsons's studies. However, it's a memorable enough soundbite that it seems to have taken on a life of its own"
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Dec 25, 2016 at 21:10

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