MUCH HAS BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT
learning scales, sweeping arpeggios, and shredding
speed runs. These are important, but
while working on a new Rock House program
with Eric Peterson of Testament, I realized
that there is an equally important part of a
successful metal band that often gets overlooked:
right-hand rhythm techniques.
Peterson is a founding member of Testament,
and while he does play leads and can certainly
shred, one important role he plays in the band
is using his picking hand to create dynamic
metal rhythms that really drive the tunes. I have never seen a player with such intricate
control and power in their picking hand. Aspiring
guitarists should take note of this and not
spend all their time learning to shred. You also
need to dedicate time and practice to righthand
strength and coordination exercises.
In this lesson I’m going to show you two
song sections Peterson included in his
instructional program as picking exercises.
These examples will get you on your way
to a well-trained right hand. Ex. 1 is a section
inspired by the song “D.N.R.” from
Testament’s CD The Gatherings. The deal
with the notation is, a chord with two
slashes on the stem means pick four times,
chords with one slash on the stem should
be picked twice. It all adds up to sixteenthnotes,
but the chords come at you faster in
the final bar. Start slow and practice to a
metronome. That’s the only way to achieve
what bandmate Alex Skolnick calls “Eric’s
Ex. 2 is a speed-picking riff inspired by
the chorus section of “Wolfhunt” off the
Rapture CD by Peterson’s side project, Dragonlord.
In this two-part song section,
Peterson weaves through a winding riff with
the control of a master. Pay close attention
to the second half where he hits the open
low string to keep the riff dark and heavy.
Eric’s right hand is like a machine gun with brutally consistent alternate picking. I’m
sure you will be feeling the pain after jamming
this riff for a while!
These examples are a good starting point
but it takes a lot of practice to become a truly
great rhythm player. You can find the video
sections that correspond with this lesson at
rockhousemethod.com. Happy shredding!
John McCarthy is the creator of the Rock