30 Days of Metal Riffs: Metal Rhythm Guitar Lessons

By Jason Stallworth

May 12, 2019

Are you ready to learn how to play some killer metal riffs on guitar? I welcome you to the ultimate metal guitar lessons I created for you: 30 Days of Metal Riffs!

Here’s is what you will learn in this 30 day heavy metal guitar lesson series with guitar tabs in each video:

  • How to play and combine different metal guitar techniques (such as galloping, alternate picking, palm muting and more!)
  • A variety of metal guitar styles from the many sub-genres of metal (ex: classic metal, thrash metal, death metal, etc)
  • How to expand on these lessons to write and compose your own metal riffs
  • How to establish a daily guitar practice pattern and stick to it
  • You WILL be a BETTER metal guitaristmusician and riff writer within these 30 days

**If you want to just watch the entire playlist on YouTube, CLICK HERE


The first metal guitar lesson in the 30 Days of Metal Riffs series is called POWER CHOPS

Why must we call it that? Perhaps I was a wee-bit hungry and pondering on eating pork chops!

Anyway, Power Chops is a classic thrash metal style of guitar playing. The techniques you’re going to use are heavy power chords with palm muting. And you’re also going to be playing a metal riff at the end of the progression. 

The goal of learning the Power Chops metal guitar riff is to teach you how to play the simple techniques (power chords and palm muting) along with moving your fingers around the fretboard more (aka: the riff at the end). 

Go grab your guitar and check out the video for Power Chops below:

Metal Riffs 1 Video


Lesson 2 is a more intense follow up to the first lesson in 30 Days of Metal Riffs. I’m calling it: ‘CHOP CHOP‘ (my wife tells me to ‘chop chop’ all the time!).

The focus in this metal rhythm guitar lesson is playing single notes. The purpose here is to move those fingers around the fretboard more.

You’ll also be palm muting, which is one of the core guitar techniques in metal music.

The lesson is broken down into two parts:

  1. Palm muting single notes: You’re on the open E string while playing single notes between those palm mutes. 
  2. Different types of power chords: You are going to learn how to play some different types of power chords at the end of the riff. This will hep you expand what you know and will also help you be more creative when playing and writing metal riffs on guitar.  

Here’s the video…

Metal Riffs 2 Video


One of my personal favorite metal guitar techniques is often referred to as ‘galloping’ so I’m calling this lesson GALLOPING BULLS

**Background Note (this is totally irrelevant, btw): The name ‘galloping bulls’ spawns from this game at the Tampa Hard Rock Casino. It has these cool yet fierce looking bulls on it, and when you press the button, you can hear them galloping. It sounds like a metal song (don’t worry, I don’t have a gambling problem…I never blow more than $20!). 

Back to the lesson…this is a very fast, quick-pick (if you will) technique. ‘Galloping’ is performed by alternate picking the string, but in a triplet-style manner (I really hope that makes sense, but you’ll hear it in the video lesson below and it will then make sense!). 

If you’re new to galloping, or triplets, then I recommend that you start out by learning this lesson one small section at a time. You will get it, I promise! But this technique does take some practice if it’s new to you. 

Metal Riffs 3 Video


You’re probably asking “Dude, do power chords move by themselves?

No, they do not. Well, unless they’re possessed or something! If that’s not the case, then YOU must move them!

That’s what this metal guitar lesson is all about. You’re going to practice quickly moving from one power chord to another.

This is a classic metal guitar style of playing. Like palm muting, playing power chords is a skill that you must master if you want to be an accomplished metal guitarist.  

Power chords may seem simple in nature. But when you start moving power chords it can become more challenging. 

As you would expect, you’re also going to end the moving power chords with a riff. Remember, I don’t want you to just learn one simple riff each lesson. My goal is for you to be able to integrate multiple metal guitar techniques into one riff. 

Watch the video and start moving those power chords around…

Metal Riffs 4 Video


Do you like playing death metal on guitar? Do you also enjoy playing thrash metal?

You’re going to combine elements of both sub-genres of metal music with this lesson called DEATH THRASH

The focus with this metal guitar lesson is alternate picking. But there’s a catch. This isn’t your normal alternate picking lesson. You’re going to be picking on your guitar very fast!

With a light palm mute, you’ll alternate pick back and forth on the string while moving around from one note to another. Keep those hands in sync with one another so that your guitar playing is smooth. Even though this is a fast death metal meets thrash metal riff, you want each note to be distinguished. 

Both death metal and thrash metal bands use this technique in their music. And we add an additional dose of thrash metal guitar playing with the ending riff. 

Learn this riff by watching the video below… 

Metal Riffs 5 Video


Lesson 6 could very well be the most important concept of playing metal guitar. It is crucial that you learn how to play RIFFS BETWEEN CHORDS.

You know that I preach this like a religion: DO NOT just play mere power chords all the time! 

I want you to throw in riffs because this is what will separate you from a dude (or dudette) who just plays guitar in their bedroom now and then, and someone who sounds like a pro when they play. 

The goal with this metal guitar lesson is for you to play a simple rhythm (in this case, a few power chords) and break it up by doing some riffing

Here are some places where riffs can be played between chords:

  • Riffs between the verse and chorus
  • Riffs to break up a long verse or long part of the same progression
  • Riffs between a chorus and bridge
  • Riffs going into or coming out of the guitar solo progression5
  • Intro and outro riffs (going into or coming out of another rhythm)

Seriously, it’s imperative that you learn this concept. So watch the video below for more details on how to do this. And then I want you to take what you’ve learned in this guitar lesson and start adding your own notes to it. 

Metal Riffs 6 Video


What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word arpeggios, or arpeggiated? Probably sweep arpeggios, which we associate with guitar solos.

Those are awesome, I want to share a lesson on ARPEGGIATED RHYTHMS. This lesson is different all of the rest as it’s not your standard metal guitar style of riff. 

However, learning how to arpeggiate your rhythm playing is going to do nothing but enhance your overall abilities to play metal guitar!

So what exactly are arpeggiated rhythms? 

It’s similar to playing a chord. Think of playing a regular G or C. Instead of strumming all of the notes together, you would play each note of that chord one by one. ​

Now you need to make it sound metal! How do you do that? 

By palm muting while arpeggiating the notes. There’s a touch of elegance required when playing arpeggiated riffs and rhythms. 

Want an example? Listen to the beginning of Lucretia from Megadeth (off the Rust In Peace album). 

Alright, let’s learn this arpeggiated rhythm! 

Metal Riffs 7 Video


Remember some of those killer riffs from 80’s metal bands? That era gave us a ton of awesome guitar riffs!

This lesson is based on that style of music, so I’m calling it 80’s MELODIC PATTERN

You may find this to be the most intense and difficult lesson of the series simply because you’re moving those fingers around a lot more. In fact, you start riffing immediately with the intro. 

There’s a mixture of metal guitar techniques here as well, such as complex palm muting (going from one note that’s palm muted to another that’s choppy, then back to the palm muted note). You also have a progression of different types of power chords after the riffing is done. 

I called these power chords on roids!

You’re playing the root note (the first note that starts the chord). But you’re not necessarily playing a normal power chord with that second note being the 5th note. Instead, you’re experimenting with other notes for that second note. 

Playing these different types of power chords will make your song standout from every other metal song. And the pattern itself is very melodic, which is why I call it the 80’s Melodic Pattern!

So check out the video below for this 80’s style metal riff…

Metal Riffs 8 Video


Ready to learn a technique that will greatly enhance your metal rhythm guitar playing? In this lesson, I’m going to teach you how to integrate PULL OFFS into metal riffs. 

Pulls off are more commonly used in guitar solos. So when you hear pull offs in a metal rhythm, it gives you that ‘Whoa, where did that come from?‘ effect. It just sounds cool. 

How do you play pull offs? Going from a low to high note on the fretboard, you hammer on that high note and roll it right off, which will land on that low note you hit the first time. This will give you that quick, snappy sound of the three fast notes being played. 

There are two parts to learning this guitar riff. The first is fairly simple and gets you used to playing the technique. You’re only playing notes on the E string. 

The second part of this metal guitar lesson has you switching back and forth between two strings. This adds more complexity to the lesson and can be challenging. 

You’ll also notice that I don’t have you just playing the pull offs on guitar. You’re playing a riff that leads into the pull-off method. 

Why do I do this?

Simple. Remember, I don’t want you to just learn techniques or one-off riffs. I want you to be able to play these riffs and techniques in a ‘real world scenario‘ as if you were playing an actual metal song. 

Watch the video and get ready to start pulling-off!

Metal Riffs 9 Video


Have you ever heard the term ‘runs‘ in guitar talk? And no, I don’t mean runs as in having to poop! Sorry, I love poop jokes…

Runs are what us metal guitar players call riffs. And in the world of guitar, a type of run is a walkdown. And I call this lesson WALKING DOWN THE FRETBOARD.

A walkdown is a run (or in our case, a metal riff!) that consists to going from high to low notes. It’s simple in nature, but it certainly sounds killer when you hear them being played in your favorite metal song. 

In this guitar lesson, you don’t play the walkdown until the end of the riff. This could be the end of a verse, chorus, or what I call a transition riff to bridge two parts of the song together. 

You’ll start out with a simple metal rhythm part. This will lead into the walkdown. The reason for this is to get you used to integrating a walkdown (or any riff) as part of a song or measure. 

Check out the video below…

Metal Riffs 10 Video


Have you ever heard the rhythm guitars that sound like guitar solos? That’s typically because the guitarist is playing SINGLE NOTE RHYTHMS

If you want a sure way to add more character and spice up your metal rhythm playing, throw in some single note rhythms. It’s what you’ll hear in a lot of the progressive rock and metal songs (naturally with single notes, you can add more complexity). 

Technically, these are just riffs. The core difference is single note rhythms are often played long. For example, an entire part of the song, like a verse or bridge, could be based on single note rhythms.

In this lesson, you’re going to get accustomed to playing these types of riffs on a single note. There are two parts to this guitar riff, and the second is just slightly different. 

Oh, I forgot to mention…you’re also performing another technique by doing a slide. I’m not sure why I threw this in but it sounded cool at the time, so here we are!

Metal Riffs 11 Video


Ok, let me know if I screwed up the name of this lesson. I called it PROG THRASH because you’re mixing the progressive metal and thrash metal styles of guitar together.

Similar to Lesson 11 you just learned, this riff starts out with single notes. There’s a lot of finger movement and also a chromatic riff hidden in there. This is what gives it that prog feel (in my opinion).  

The second half of the riff has more of a thrash metal feel to it. You bring in the palm muting and as you would hear in Metallica or Megadeth songs.

These two styles combined, prog and thrash, can be very powerful. And playing these types of metal riffs will make you sound like a true guitar pro. 

Metal Riffs 12 Video


I pulled this riff from one of my own songs called Skull Crusher’ from my Heavy Metal Workout album (the first one). And I’m going to teach you this technique from it with ALTERNATE PICKING NOTES.

This isn’t your typical alternate picking guitar lesson. As you will see (uh…or hear, rather) in the video, there’s a particular rhythmic pattern going on here. 

In this metal guitar riff lesson, you’re not just alternate picking on one string. Instead, you’re going back and forth between two strings. This adds a level of difficulty to most, especially if you’re used to playing standard metal riffs.

Here’s how playing alternate picked notes is done:

  • Downstroke the first note (in this case, the open E string) while lightly palm muting that note
  • Upstroke the next note, which is on the next string (A string, 2nd fret)

Notice the rhythm pattern, as I mentioned above. It’s a swinging or swaying feel. Like a trees blowing in the wind (oh dude, that sounded so cheesy). Anyway, you get it…

Metal Riffs 13 Video


In this lesson, I’m going to show you some various ways you can play power chords. On top of that, we’re gonna ‘hang around‘ together on the some of the notes (pun explained: we’ll hang on some of the notes). I know…it’s even worse when you tell a bad pun and then explain it. 

I’m calling this lesson COOL CHORDS AND HANGING NOTES! There’s a lot going on here, so hang tight and get ready to learn some cool metal rhythms on guitar.

Let’s start with the different types of power chords you’re playing here. The concept is simple. Rather than playing the typical root note with the 5th note, you’re just doing something unique with that second note. In this case, it’s the 3rd note for the first chord (C power chord). 

The following power chord is almost like working out because you’re doing a stretch. You’re also playing across three strings for this one. Make sure those notes are all pronounced and not muffled.

Lastly, you’re playing a metal riff that has those hanging notes. Another term for this is milking the notes. I didn’t want to use that term because I start thinking about cows being milked. Although I do like chocolate milk!

Check out the video below…

Metal Riffs 14 Video


If you recall a few lessons back you learned how to incorporate pull offs into your metal guitar rhythms. In this lesson, you’ll learn how to play both HAMMER ONS AND PULL OFFS

Essentially, hammer ons and pull offs are always played together. In lesson 9 you learned pull offs. I didn’t mentioned hammer ons because I wanted your focus on the technique rather than technicalities of terms, of that makes sense (I know…sometimes I even confuse me!). 

We’re bringing hammers ons into the terminology of this riff because I want you to focus on the concept of hammer ons and pull offs being one. Kinda like us Metal Heads. We are one!

The bulk of this metal riff is based on learning the technique. But I always encourage you to add more to all of my lessons. For example, you could throw in some power chords before and after this riff to expand on it. 

Metal Riffs 15 Video


Alright, this is a special lesson. You’re not only going to learn a metal riff. I’m going to teach you HARMONIZING RIFFS

Think of some of your favorite metal songs where you hear the rhythm guitars harmonizing with one another. Bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest are famous for this. 

You may be thinking that you need another guitar player to do this with. Maybe so. But you can at least learn the notes the harmonizes with the core notes, and that’s what you’re going to learn in this metal guitar riff lesson.

First, I show you the core riff. These are all single notes (as you’ve learned in an earlier lessons). 

Next, I teach you how to play the harmony notes. In this case, you’ll be playing the 3rd note to every core note. 

The result? An extremely killer guitar sound! 

Metal Riffs 16 Video


What??? You’re playing METAL ON ACOUSTIC?

Yes! And if you have an acoustic guitar, go grab it. And get ready to learn how to play this metal riff on acoustic.  

The riff itself is what you may call a stock metal riff (Oh man, don’t say that too loud…did you see Metallica’s ‘Some Kind of Monster’ when James tells Lars his drum beat sounded like a stock beat? That’s didn’t go over too well!). 

Anyway, the point I’m making is this lesson isn’t so much about the riff. It’s more about strengthening your fingers by playing metal riffs on acoustic. 

This is the only lesson in our 30 Days of Metal Riffs series that you’ll break out your acoustic.

But I do encourage you to practice, in general, on your acoustic a few times a week. Or at least one a week.


Well, do this test on yourself. Play this riff (or any riffs) on acoustic for a few minutes. Then go pick up your electric guitar. Your fingers will be flying all over the place and it will feel easier! 

Metal Riffs 17 Video



You’re probably thinking ‘Yes Jason, but WTH are riffing triplets?‘ 

First, it’s a cool name I came up with for this lesson. More importantly, it’s based on the galloping metal riff technique you learned in the beginning of the 30 Days of Metal Riffs series.

Let’s explain triplets. This is a note that is picked three times, extremely fast. It’s very snappy, as you can hear in the video. The technique is similar to playing tennis or ping ping…it’s all in the wrist. 

Now, the reason I add the term ‘riffing’ is because you’re not just playing these triplets in one place. You’re playing the triplets while you’re riffing. 

This means you’re moving your fingers across the fretboard while playing this technique.

Check out the video below…

Metal Riffs 18 Video


I know what you’re thinking. The name of this riff sounds killer and you’re ready to learn it! SPEED DEMON!

I love hearing these types of riffs in my metal. In fact, there’s a breakdown in a song called ‘Mission: Terminate‘ from my first album, Apocalyptic Dreams. It’s very similar to what you’re learning in this lesson.

The goal is to alternate pick power chords on higher notes (we’re playing these chords on the D and G strings as opposed to the heavier strings). This riff is sort of a Dokken meets Queensryche style of playing, only much faster. 

The fast alternate picking is accompanies by some light palm muting. This makes the sound much tighter and gives it more of an edge. 

Next, you’re playing some different types of power chords (as we’ve gone over in prior lessons). Using this technique gives the riff more aggression. 

When playing this riff, think of it as if you’re attacking those strings. Not necessarily playing harder, but adopt that aggressive mindset when playing this particular riff. Sounds weird but you’ll hear this in your playing! 

Metal Riffs 19 Video


In this lesson, we’re going to dial it back to some of the founding fathers of metal and learn a CLASSIC METAL RIFF.

It’s always a good thing to go back to the basics of metal guitar and what defines metal guitar. That’s the focus of learning this riff.

This metal guitar riff is filled with the three things that define metal music:

  1. Riffs
  2. Palm muting
  3. Power chords

You’ll be incorporating much of all three of these techniques…

Metal Riffs 20 Video


You’re about to go to the next level of heaviness in this metal guitar lesson. It’s time to learn some DEATH METAL riffs. 

The culprit of playing death metal on guitar is fast alternate picking. You’re basically speed picking on the lower notes for these rhythms. 

This lesson is an introduction to death metal. There’s not a ton of finger movement on the fretboard. Rather, it’s designed to help you master the art of fast alternate picking for your rhythm playing.

Go grab your guitar and get ready to play fast! 

Metal Riffs 21 Video


This is a follow up from the previous lesson but we’re going to turn it up a notch with this ADVANCED DEATH METAL riff. 

You just learned the dynamics of fast alternate picking for playing death metal on guitar. You’re going to implement that even more in this lesson.

Not only will you be moving around more on the fretboard. You’re also going to be performing this technique on more than one string. This is the part many will struggle with, so I encourage you to practice this riff over and over. 

You’ll end the riff by changing up your picking pattern with some fast downstrokes that land on a power chord. This is the perfect death metal exercise to get you acquainted with playing multiple techniques. 

Metal Riffs 22 Video


In this WICKED BENDS lesson you are going to learn how to play what is referred as bendy heavy metal guitar or guitar bending.

Bends are often reserved for guitar solos. But as you’ve learned in other lessons in this 30 Days of Metal Riffs series, you can implement these types of techniques into your rhythms to add more flavor and character to your metal riffs.  

The bend that’s happening in the vide in bending the note to reach the next note. The two guitar bends are:

  1. 9th to 10th fret on the D string
  2. 7th to 8th fret on the A string

If you’re not used to playing bends, especially in your rhythms, then take your time and make sure the bend sounds right (aka: bending to the correct note!). 

Metal Riffs 23 Video


Have you ever been listening to a metal album and notice that track 7 sounds like track 4, and track 4 is very similar to track 1? 

Much of that is due to every song started with the same note, or in the same key. 

I get it…it’s metal. So we want to play the heaviest notes available to us. But we need to realize that it’s ok if we start a song or two on the album in a different key. And that’s what you’re going to learn in this lesson. A metal RHYTHM IN F#

Instead of starting out the riff in E Minor (since that’s the heaviest note in standard tuning), you’re going to start this rhythm in F#. 

The riff is similar to Ozzy’s ‘Crazy Train.’  The notes will be different, of course. But it’s the same concept with starting on the 2nd fret and also playing that 4th and 5th fret on the next string. 

After the riff in F#, you’ll play a series of single notes, which are in that key. The goal here is to subtly use some different notes that what you may be used to play. This will help diversify your guitar playing abilities. 

Metal Riffs 24 Video


One of the most forgotten parts of a song is the song ending. The OUTRO

The outro is a crucial part of any metal song. You need a strong ending because that’s the last thing people will hear from that song and it could very well determine whether they listen to it again. So the outro should be strong.

This outro you’re going to learn is metal to the core. You’ll be palm muting and doing a lot of riffing.

Pay close attention to how it’s played in the video…

Metal Riffs 25 Video


You’ve just learned a killer outro; now it’s time to learn the other part of this crucial element to metal music. The INTRO

Intros are one of the coolest things about metal music. Many times metal bands will play a long intro that builds into the first verse.

This is also a time to display some awesome musicianship and win over the listener. If you’re captivated by the intro, you’re likely to hear the rest of the song differently and your brain is already predisposed to this being an awesome experience. 

There’s a lot of choppy riffs in this intro. And in the very beginning, you’ll notice there are some stops. This adds another dimension to your rhythm playing. 

Ready for the intro? 

Metal Riffs 26 Video

Lesson 27: SLOW TO FAST

Now it’s time to learn how to start out with a slow metal riff and go into playing a faster one. I don’t mean tempo change (the BPM is the same…I’m way too lazy to change that in mid-song). But the rhythm in the beginning to basically less notes going into more notes. Hopefully that makes sense!

In this SLOW TO FAST metal rhythm, you’re going to be playing the expected palm muting but also some open notes. That’s something we haven’t done a lot of. 

The purpose of this lesson is to get you used to making changes in your playing. It can be a challenge going from playing less notes to playing more notes (which involves faster finger movement on the fretboard). 

One suggestion I’ll make if you have a studio or any type of drum software is this:

  • Take a loop that is played in half time (slower paced)
  • Then add a loop after that played in full time (faster paced)

Just mimic what you hear in the video below. That will help you with timing. 

Metal Riffs 27 Video

Lesson 28: BAD ASS RIFF

I didn’t know what else to call this so I just named it BAD ASS METAL RIFF. Perhaps I was a bit inspired by a recent visit to a winery in upstate NY called Pompous Ass Winery! 

We can get away with the name of the because it’s a pure and unadulterated metal guitar riff. 

Learning this riff allows you to practice the core components of metal guitar. Though there’s a couple tricky parts. 

You’ll notice between the first two power chords after the palm muting, you have a very quick palm muted note before hitting that second chord. This takes a fast right-hand (or pick hand) downstroke technique. 

You’ll finish out the riff multiple notes that palm muted on and off. In the video you’ll hear that distinction. 

Metal Riffs 28 Video


Here’s something we haven’t covered yet. STRING SKIPPING. But this isn’t your normal string skipping guitar lesson.

If you recall several lessons ago you learned a metal riff that had you alternate picking between two strings. The same concept applies here but there’s a twist.

You’re not going to play the next string over. Instead, you’re going to be skipping that string. 

This may add a greater level of difficulty, but stick with it, practice and you’ll eventually get it down.

Playing this riff has that swinging effect, as you’ll hear in the video below. Mimic that rhythm when playing this string skipping riff. 

Metal Riffs 29 Video


Most know that Metallica is one of the reasons why I started playing guitar back in 1990 (if you want to know more about that, click on the ‘About’ section of this site).

So it’s not by chance that I’m giving you a METALLICA’ISH RIFF to learn. Actually, you’re going to learn three riffs in this exercise.

Now, I say ‘Metallica’ish‘ because these aren’t actual Metallica riffs. They’re riffs that very similar to theirs. So without me saying anymore, see if you can pick out the three songs that these riffs sound like.

Metal Riffs 30 Video


Just when you thought it was over, there’s a bonus! Now you’re going to learn how to play a FULL METAL SONG!

When I say full song, I’m referring to every component that makes up a metal song. I’ll break it down below…

  • Intro – This is the beginning of the metal song that builds into the next part.
  • Verse – After the intro, you start playing a riff that could be a verse (think of some cool metal lyrics in the background while playing this riff). 
  • Bridge – This part could also be the guitar solo section. Or you could have vocals here as well. Either way, it has a slightly different feel from the rest of the song.
  • Chorus – The intent with this part of the riff was to be big enough to accompany some metal vocals for a chorus line. 
  • Outro – The grand finale and ending to this metal song

There you have it, all the components for a full metal song. Of course you can add more pieces to this. In fact, once you learn these metal guitar riffs, I encourage you to make changes or add more notes! 

Bonus Lesson Video

What’s Next?

I hope you enjoyed my 30 Days of Metal Riffs series!

Here’s the thing…don’t just learn what I’m teaching you. Take it to the next level. Here’s what I want you to do…

  • Learn the lessons by going through them 1-by-1
  • Go back through each lesson again, but add 2-3 more notes to each riff!
  • Now experiment playing these riffs in different places on the fretboard

Doing this will make you a GRAND MASTER at playing and writing metal rhythm guitar parts! 

If you have questions, you can leave a comment below, or you can click on the video and leave a comment on the YouTube video.  

Keep it Metal,


Jason Stallworth

About the author

Jason is a melodic metal solo artist, songwriter, acoustic performer, and co-founder of Metal Mastermind.

Related Posts

Jason Stallworth Newsletter

- Get exclusive updates and behind-the-scenes content

- Motivation and encouragement

- Oh, and I'll send you a free song from my latest album!