How To Play Killer Metal Rhythm Guitar

by Tom Hess

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Want to impress others (and yourself) with your rhythm guitar riffs?

It's not hard.

(And it's a lot of fun too.)

Here is what to do:

Stop looking for “cool guitar riffs” to play.

Instead: practice to make your playing very tight.

When your playing is tight – any riff you play sounds good.


On the other hand:

Sloppy rhythm playing doesn’t impress anyone. 

(No matter what you play or how fast you play.)

Tight playing is about 3 things: timing, palm muting control and consistency.

Want to hear the (huge) difference between tight and sloppy rhythm playing?

Watch the video & and then practice the drills below:

Ready to make your rhythm playing tight? It’s simple. Do these 5 things every day:

1. Use Powerful Pick Attack In Your Rhythm Guitar Riffs

Check How Good Your Ears Are At
Hearing Rhythm Guitar Flaws
Rhythm Guitar Playing Test
Rhythm Guitar Playing Test
Rhythm Guitar Playing Test

Take The Test Now

By submitting your info, you agree to send it to Tom Hess Music Corporation who will process and use it according to their privacy policy.

Many rhythm guitarists use too little power in their picking hand. They think that playing fast is about picking lightly.

This creates a big problem:

 …it makes your playing sound wimpy.

To play fast and powerful rhythm guitar riffs (without becoming tired) you need 2 things:

  1. Hit the strings hard.
  2. Relax the tension in your picking hand (and arm) afterplaying each note or chord.

(I show you how to do this below.)

Watch this video to see how to play powerful rhythm guitar riffs:

2. Make Your Palm Muting Consistent

Most rhythm guitarists know they need to practice with a metronome.

Problem is:

Metronome practice is only one element of tight rhythm guitar playing.

Other elements include:

  • Playing with perfect intonation on all strings when you strum chords. This becomes most important when you record rhythm guitar parts in the studio.
  • Eliminating ringing noises from strings that you are not playing.
  • Eliminating unwanted squeaks or scratchy noises when you change chords.
  • Muting strings that are not part of the riff (or chord) you are playing.
  • Avoiding sloppy noises during rests in the music (between notes/chords).
  • Playing pinch harmonics with vibrato that matches the rhythm of the music.
  • Doing all of the items in this list with rock-solid timing.

Master rhythm guitarists developed these elements to a very high level. You can do the same.


Simply make time & practice the elements in the list I just gave you.

Note: one of the keys to rhythm guitar mastery is hearing the difference between truly tight rhythm guitar playing and playing that is not very tight.

How well can you do this now? Test yourself in this rhythm guitar skills assessment.

If you don’t already know how to correctly practice these elements of tight rhythm guitar playing, get a good teacher to help you.

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3. Practice Playing Rhythm Guitar For Real-Life Situations

Do you only intend to play guitar for yourself?

I didn’t think so.

In that case:

…You need to make your rhythm guitar playing reliable when playing in front of others (and/or in the studio).

Playing by yourself (and for yourself) is one thing.

Playing for real (in front of other people) is another thing.

Why don’t more guitarists practice for real-life playing?

That is because:

  1. They never had a great guitar teacher show them how to do this correctly.
  2. They assume that their real-life playing skills will “develop on their own” as they simply play guitar more. (This almost never happens.)

Want to learn how to practice rhythm guitar to prepare for real-life playing? Read this article about playing guitar live.

Guitar Practice Drill For Real Life Guitar Playing

4. Learn How To Separate Your Picking Hand From Your Fretting Hand

A common rhythm guitar mistake is to tense up your fretting hand as your picking hand plays faster.

Why is it so bad?

This tension makes you tired quickly and playing fast rhythm guitar riffs becomes a real struggle.

What is the solution?

Mentally separate the hands when you practice rhythm guitar.

This means:

Don’t let your fretting hand squeeze the strings harder as the picking hand strums the strings.

Your fretting hand needs a whole lot less power and strength to fret notes than the picking hand does to strum chords.

The more you pay attention to tension levels in your body, the better your entire guitar playing becomes.

Rotate your focus when practicing and make sure that each hand uses appropriate amounts of tension for the job it has to do.

5. Train For Long-Lasting Endurance (Ability To Play Tight Rhythm Guitar For Long Periods Of Time)

Rhythm guitar endurance consists of 3 things:

  1. Control over general rhythm guitar tightness and accuracy (the elements I listed earlier in this article).
  2. The speed at which you can play perfectly.
  3. The amount of time you can maintain control, accuracy & tightness at that speed.

Training for rhythm guitar endurance is best done on 2 different levels:

Level 1: Select a guitar riff that you want to build endurance with. Then set a time goal (how long you want to play the riff at that tempo). Next, find the fastest tempo where you can play your riff perfectly for the desired amount of time.

For example:

Play your guitar riff for 30 seconds non-stop at 100 beats per minute on the metronome.

Then (if it feels too easy), increase the metronome by a few beats per minute and repeat the process for another 30 seconds.

Continue doing this until you hit a metronome tempo where your playing falls apart (before you can play for 30 seconds).

Keep practicing at that tempo, until you can play your riff accurately and tight for 30 seconds.

Level 2: Select a metronome tempo and try to play your rhythm guitar riff for as long as possible at that speed. When you are able to beat your previous time (play longer than you have in the past), your endurance has improved.

Combining these 2 approaches helps you fully master this area of rhythm guitar playing.

Just like sports: If you ever feel pain while practicing guitar, this is a sign to STOP. NEVER attempt to play through pain!

Practicing Guitar Without Injuries

Now that you know what to practice to become a great rhythm guitar player, test yourself to see how close you are to mastering rhythm playing.

Take this guitar playing assessment & learn exactly what to work on to transform your rhythm playing into something you feel proud of.

Tom HessAbout Tom Hess: Tom Hess is a guitar teacher, music career mentor and guitar teacher trainer. He teaches rock guitar lessons online to students from all over the world and conducts instructional live guitar training events attended by musicians from over 50 countries.

Transform your guitar playing fast by studying with the best online guitar teacher.

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