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How to Write Thrash Guitar Riffs?

How to Write Thrash Guitar Riffs?

Thrash metal is a subgenre of heavy metal that emerged in the 1980s, characterized by fast tempo, aggression, and complex guitar riffs. It is often associated with bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax. One of the defining elements of thrash metal is its intense guitar riffs that drive the music forward.

As a guitarist, writing thrash metal riffs can be challenging but also highly rewarding. In this guide, we will explore the process of creating thrash guitar riffs and provide tips to help you enhance your skills.


Become familiar with Thrash Metal

Before diving into writing thrash riffs, it is crucial to have a deep understanding of the genre and its unique characteristics. Immerse yourself in the world of thrash metal by listening to a wide range of influential bands. Pay close attention to the intricate guitar parts in each song, dissecting the techniques and patterns employed by skilled guitarists. By exploring the nuances of thrash metal, you’ll be equipped with a solid foundation to create your own powerful and authentic thrash riffs. So, take the time to study, analyze, and absorb the essence of this exhilarating genre, and let your creativity soar as you unleash your own thrash metal creations.[1]

Become familiar with Thrash Metal

Learn guitar scales, chords, and note locations

To write powerful and captivating thrash guitar riffs, it is of utmost importance to possess a strong understanding of guitar scales, chords, and note locations on the fretboard. Immerse yourself in the intricacies of commonly used scales in thrash metal, such as the minor pentatonic and natural minor scale, allowing yourself to explore their unique tonalities and unleash your creativity.

Delve into the realm of chord progressions, experimenting with various combinations and patterns to create a signature sound that resonates with the intensity of thrash metal. Master the art of lightning-fast chord transitions, enabling you to effortlessly traverse the fretboard and execute complex progressions with precision and fluidity.

In addition to scales and chords, don’t underestimate the importance of familiarizing yourself with different techniques and nuances that can further elevate your thrash guitar riffs. Embrace the challenge of navigating the fretboard with ease, seamlessly incorporating intricate note choices, bends, slides, and palm muting into your riffs, unlocking a whole new level of dynamic and expressive possibilities.

Remember, the journey to becoming a master of thrash guitar riffs is one that requires dedication, practice, and continuous exploration. Embrace the process, push your boundaries, and let your passion for thrash metal guide you towards creating riffs that will ignite the energy and intensity of every listener.[1]

Learn alternate picking and downpicking techniques

Thrash metal, a subgenre known for its fast-paced and high-energy guitar riffs, requires mastery of specific techniques to achieve the speed and precision necessary for crafting these intense musical passages. Two crucial techniques for aspiring thrash metal guitarists are alternate picking and downpicking.

Alternate picking involves the skillful combination of upstrokes and downstrokes to play notes in rapid succession. This technique allows for a seamless flow and ensures that each note is articulated with clarity and accuracy. On the other hand, downpicking is a technique that involves using only downstrokes to create a more aggressive and powerful sound. The relentless force of downpicking adds a distinctive intensity to thrash metal riffs, contributing to the genre’s raw and dynamic appeal.

To develop proficiency in these techniques, dedicated practice is necessary. Designing exercises and scales that specifically target alternate picking and downpicking can help in building the required muscle memory and dexterity. Start with slower tempos and gradually increase the speed and complexity of the exercises as you progress. Focus on maintaining a steady rhythm and clean execution, ensuring that each note rings out with precision and clarity.

As you continue to refine your skills, the goal is to reach a point where these techniques become second nature, effortlessly integrating them into your playing style. With diligent practice and perseverance, you can unlock the full potential of alternate picking and downpicking, enabling you to create blistering thrash metal riffs that captivate listeners and showcase your technical prowess.[1]

Learn alternate picking and downpicking techniques

Be determined and creative

Writing thrash guitar riffs requires determination, passion, and creativity. It is a journey of exploration and self-expression that allows you to push the boundaries of traditional playing techniques and unleash your inner musical genius. Don’t be afraid to experiment with unconventional note choices or incorporate elements from other genres into your riffs.

Allow inspiration to strike by exploring different chord progressions, scales, and techniques. Record your ideas and listen back to them frequently, fine-tuning and refining them until they become a cohesive and impressive thrash riff. Remember that creating music is a continuous learning process, so never stop exploring and experimenting.

Maintain the intensity and energy that defines thrash metal while creating riffs that are uniquely yours. With hard work, dedication, and a never-ending supply of creativity, you can become a master of writing thrash guitar riffs that will leave listeners in awe. So, pick up your guitar, embrace the challenge, and let your passion for thrash metal guide you towards creating iconic riffs that will stand the test of time.[1]

Play songs by other Thrash Metal bands and mess around with their riffs

One of the most effective ways to enhance your skills in writing thrash guitar riffs is to immerse yourself in the vast repertoire of influential thrash metal bands. By diligently learning and playing songs from these bands, you not only acquire a deeper understanding of the genre’s techniques and nuances but also get inspired by their distinctive styles.

However, the journey doesn’t end with merely playing covers. To truly excel, you should experiment with different variations and techniques, exploring the possibilities within their riffs. Feel free to add your own creative spin to the songs, allowing your unique musical identity to shine through. This process not only helps you develop a keen sense of what constitutes a great thrash metal riff but also enables you to seamlessly incorporate those defining elements into your very own compositions.

So, grab your guitar, dive into the rich tapestry of thrash metal, and let your musical journey unfold, as you grow and evolve as a skilled thrash guitarist.[1]

Play songs by other Thrash

When you have a basic riff put together work with it until you decide it is acceptable

Writing thrash guitar riffs is a craft that requires time, patience, and persistence. It’s not about settling for the first riff that pops into your head. Instead, it’s about dedicating yourself to refining and perfecting it until every aspect of the riff is satisfying.

To start, immerse yourself in playing the riff repeatedly. Allow yourself to experiment with different variations, exploring the vast possibilities hidden within each note’s timing and execution. As you do so, pay close attention to the nuances and intricacies that make the riff unique.

Don’t forget to record yourself playing the riff. Listening back to your recording will provide you with an objective perspective to assess its strengths and weaknesses. Be honest with yourself during this process, as it will allow you to identify areas that need improvement. Use this feedback as fuel to make necessary adjustments and continue honing the riff.

Remember, even the most iconic thrash guitar riffs didn’t come to life in a single stroke of genius. They underwent multiple iterations, evolving and transforming until they reached their final versions. Embrace the journey and trust in your ability to craft a riff that will stand the test of time.[2]

If you are in a band, play your riff for the rest of your bandmates and get their opinions on the riff

Being in a band provides a unique opportunity to collaborate and create music together. When writing thrash guitar riffs, it can be incredibly beneficial to share your ideas with your bandmates and get their valuable input.

Play the riff for them and listen attentively to their feedback. They may have suggestions on how to improve certain sections or add elements that could enhance the overall sound. Be open to their ideas and incorporate them into your riff, if applicable.

Moreover, playing the riff together with your bandmates can help you fine-tune its execution and timing, ensuring that it blends seamlessly within the context of a song. This process allows for a stronger sense of unity and cohesion within the band’s sound, leading to more dynamic and powerful performances.[2]

If you are in a band, play your riff

When you have a riff that sounds good but maybe isn’t fast enough, use the double picking form to increase its pace

Thrash metal is known for its blistering speed and intense energy, making it crucial to have riffs that match this intensity. If you find yourself with a riff that sounds great but doesn’t quite keep up with the genre’s standards, try incorporating double picking into your playing.

Double picking involves quickly alternating between downpicking and alternate picking, resulting in a faster and more aggressive sound. Practice incorporating this technique into your riff until you can play it with precision and speed.

Remember, double picking is a skill that takes time to develop, so be patient with yourself. With consistent practice, you’ll soon be able to effortlessly add this technique to your arsenal of writing thrash guitar riffs.[2]

Also make sure to know that not all Thrash riffs are fast

While speed is a defining aspect of thrash metal, not all riffs have to be played at breakneck speeds. In fact, some of the most iconic thrash guitar riffs are played at slower tempos, focusing more on technique and groove rather than sheer speed.

So, don’t limit yourself to just fast-paced riffs. Experiment with different tempos and rhythms, allowing yourself to explore the full range of possibilities within the genre. This will not only help you develop a well-rounded skill set but also add diversity and depth to your compositions.

Remember, there is no one formula for writing thrash guitar riffs. Embrace your creativity and let your passion guide you towards creating riffs that are uniquely yours.[2]

Have fun and be open to anything

At the end of the day, writing thrash guitar riffs should be a fun and fulfilling experience. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to create something perfect or groundbreaking every time you pick up your guitar.

Allow yourself to experiment and have fun with different techniques, rhythms, and styles. Be open to trying new things and incorporating different influences into your playing. This will not only keep things interesting and exciting for you but also help you grow as a musician.[2]

Making it more interesting

Writing thrash guitar riffs is an ever-evolving process, and as a guitarist, you should always strive to push the boundaries and challenge yourself. Don’t be afraid to take risks and think outside the box when creating your riffs.

One way to make your riffs more interesting is by incorporating different scales and modes into your playing. Experiment with modes such as Phrygian and Lydian, or scales like the harmonic minor and diminished scale. These can add a unique flavor to your riffs and help you create something truly unconventional.

Additionally, try incorporating different techniques into your playing, such as tapping, sweeping, or string skipping. These techniques not only make your riffs more challenging but also add diversity and texture to your sound.

Ultimately, the key to writing interesting thrash guitar riffs is to constantly challenge yourself and explore new techniques and styles. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and create something unique and exciting.[1]

Making it more interesting

Arranging the Riffs

Once you have a collection of riffs that you’re happy with, it’s time to arrange them into a captivating and well-structured song. This process involves carefully deciding which riffs will serve as the verse, chorus, bridge, and other sections, considering their unique characteristics and musicality.

A common approach is to start with an attention-grabbing intro riff that sets the tone for the song and instantly captivates the listener. This riff acts as a musical hook that draws the audience in from the very beginning.

Moving on to the main riff, which serves as the foundation of the song, you want to ensure that it is memorable and catchy, creating a strong musical core that holds the entire composition together. This riff often repeats throughout the song, providing a sense of familiarity and continuity.

As you arrange the other riffs, it is crucial to consider factors such as dynamics and contrast. Varying the intensity, volume, and complexity of the different sections can create an exciting musical journey that keeps the listener engaged. The contrast between sections can provide moments of tension and release, making the song feel dynamic and compelling.

Remember, while a great riff can be the starting point, it doesn’t guarantee a great song. The arrangement of your riffs is just as important in creating a cohesive and engaging piece of music. By carefully crafting the structure and flow of your song, you can create a musical experience that captivates and resonates with your audience.[1]


How do you write a catchy guitar riff?

Writing a catchy guitar riff involves experimenting with different rhythms, melodies, and techniques. It’s important to start with a strong foundation or “hook” that will grab the listener’s attention. From there, you can add variations and create contrast to keep the riff interesting and memorable. Don’t be afraid to try new things and think outside the box when creating your riffs.

What techniques are used in thrash metal guitar?

Thrash metal guitar playing often involves fast alternate picking, palm muting, and aggressive downpicking. Other techniques commonly used include double picking, hammer-ons, pull-offs, and tremolo picking. Experiment with these techniques to create a dynamic and intense sound. Exercise exercises are essential for building up your speed, accuracy and stamina when using these techniques.

How to write a Metallica riff?

Writing a Metallica riff involves studying and analyzing the band’s music to understand their style and techniques. Some key elements of their riffs include fast tempo, aggressive downpicking, and use of power chords. Experiment with incorporating these elements into your own playing, while also adding your own unique touch to create a distinctive sound.

How do you structure a riff?

Structuring a riff involves deciding which parts of the riff will serve as the verse, chorus, bridge, etc. It’s important to consider factors such as dynamics and contrast when arranging your riffs. A common approach is to start with an intro riff that sets the tone for the song, followed by a main riff that serves as the foundation. From there, you can arrange your other riffs accordingly to create a cohesive and engaging piece of music. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different structures and arrangements to find what works best for your song.

Does Metallica use chords?

Yes, Metallica uses chords in their music. However, they often use a specific type of chord known as power chords which consist of just the root note and fifth scale degree. This creates a heavy and distorted sound commonly associated with thrash metal. Additionally, Metallica also incorporates full chords and arpeggios into their music to add variety and depth to their riffs.

Does ACDC use power chords?

Yes, AC/DC also uses power chords in their music. Power chords are a common element in rock and metal genres, and they provide a heavy and driving sound to the music. AC/DC is known for using simple chord progressions with power chords, often relying on the root and fifth notes to create a catchy and memorable sound.

Useful Video: How to write THRASH METAL Riffs


Writing thrash guitar riffs is a creative and exciting process that requires experimentation, skill, and an open mind. Remember to have fun and be open to trying new things, as this will help you create unique and interesting riffs. Don’t be afraid to incorporate different scales, modes, and techniques into your playing to add diversity and texture to your sound. When arranging your riffs, consider factors such as dynamics and structure to create a cohesive and engaging song. Keep practicing and exploring, and you’ll continue to grow as a musician and riff writer. So go forth, pick up your guitar, and start shredding those thrash riffs!

  1. https://www.wikihow-fun.com/Write-Thrash-Guitar-Riffs
  2. https://stringsofrage.com/songwriting/how-to-write-a-metal-rhythm-guitar/