Megadeth – Hangar 18 Back Half Bass The Right Way

There’s no foreplay: we’re straight in, hitting you in the face with the big chords and the driving, straight ahead rock beat from Nick Menza.

This track is a classic and one of Megadeth’s most popular, a fixture in their live sets for years. It’s often the track that opens their live sets.

It does has its quirks though…

The second half of the song, which is what the bulk of this post/video is about, is both an upper body workout and a test of your finger dexterity as you try to riff the Chinese finger traps that Ellefson plays!

First, though, we need to take a quick look over the 1st half of the song and some common mistakes and issues in transcriptions.

Overall it’s pretty simple and I’ve transcribed it for both 4 and 5 string bass and will be putting images in to reflect both instruments.

*** It should be noted that the 4 string version is WAY harder to play when you get to the second half of the song! ***

The Available Tabs

The available tabs and sheet music for this song have major issues literally from even before bar 1!

Take a look at the pics below.

One is from an official score available for purchase at and the other is the “official” one from

Let’s start with the one that’s available for purchase as it’s the more heinous of the two. Straight out of the gate it’s tabbed for a 5 string (which is correct) but look at the tuning!

D-E-A-D-G! What the hell is that about?

Yes, the lowest note of the song is a D but a 5 string ALREADY has a low D on it. If all you wanted was a low D then you could just tab it out for a 4 string in Drop D tuning (as I’ve done and as has been done on the UG tab and plenty of other “official” sources).

Why would you confuse people by suggesting that someone either tune up the low B to a D or restring the low B to a second E string and then drop tune it?

Utterly baffling…

After that is the Tempo. Both tabs have it in the ballpark of 158-160bpm. It’s actually at 80/81bpm with a double-time feel.

This is evident when the riff opens out in the big A-Bb-B-C chord section of the intro when it falls back into it’s natural tempo.

Below is the Just The Riffs tab for 4 and 5 string bass:

In the “for purchase” tab you’re meant to do some wild string skipping to hit the A, the B♭, the B♮ etc as the riff rises even though you have all those notes available on the E string!

This is a classic example of “the right notes in the wrong positions” and is highly suggestive that this was tabbed out by a guitarist or a keyboard player (I really hope it wasn’t done by a bass player…)

On the 5 string, instead of playing an open A string and skipping to reach the stabbed notes as in the purchasable tab (and trying to control that open string!), the A is simply fretted at the logical 5th fret on the E string which produces a nice, comfortable, controllable A5 power chord shape.

On the 4 string I’ve tabbed it played at the 7th fret on the open low D. With the 4 string there’s the option of playing the open A as you’ll be hitting the A string for your B

Clean and simple.

Using that methodology as your base you can pretty much work out how to fret the rest of the intro and the verses.

(I’ve also added in the palm muting because Dave Ellefson is choking the living crap out of his bass to keep everything as tight and punchy as possible!)

A Quick Look At The 1st 3 Solos

The solos that follow the choruses are over an A-B♭-B♮-B♭/A-B♭-B♮-C progression. All pretty simple but there’s a cheeky little turn around at the end of the section when everything stops for the guitars to do their run down…

4 String Bass

5 String Bass

Solo 4's turnaround...

Things are slightly different as solo 4 leads into the second half of the song.

Instead of coming to a hard stop for the guitars to play their run down, you keep playing through on the C and up into a bar of 2/4 on a C# to lead into the next section…

It’s really quite elegant.

These are the only “tricky bits” of the first half of the song but, as you play through them, you’ll feel their flow and have no trouble with them. However…

That’s where the elegance stops though; from here on out it’s ferocious and spiky and angry…

4 String Bass

5 String Bass

A Song Of Two Halves. Literally…

This is where the wheels fall off and things descend into barely restrained chaos.

The entire feel of the song changes. Gone is the straight driving groove of the first half and in comes a feel that can only be described as “angular” or “spiky”. I don’t even know if there’s a type of music that uses the feel that it can be compared to!

I remember reading a transcription back in the day, in Bassist magazine if I recall correctly, that called it “Ragga-Rock” but I don’t have a clue what the hell that even is!!

Obviously, as it’s tabbed for both 4 and 5 string bass, there will be some fingering differences so pay close attention. I’ll be supplying pics for both 4 and 5 string as well as audio at tempo and slowed down (70bpm) to help illuminate what’s happening…

Some of the things in here you’ll think, “he really can’t be playing that?!” but he is.

No, really…

Note the Key switching that happens in this half of the song, between the Dm solo sections and Em Link riffs with the entire song finishing out in Em.

Brace Yourselves: Solo 5 Part 1.

4 & 5 string versions are exactly the same for this riff so I’ve only included a pic taken from the 5 string tab.

Riff @ 115bpm

Riff @ 70bpm

Next up we come to the first of the really quick turnarounds…

*** Something to bear in mind about these turnaround riffs: they may seem to use pretty intense and extra fiddly fingerings but it’s all about keeping your fretting hand in roughly the same place to make sure you can stick the landing back on the high D to start over again. ***

Solo 5 Turnarounds 1 & 2 - 4 string bass

Solo 5 Turnarounds 1 & 2 - 5 string bass

solo 5 turnaround 1 @ 115bpm

solo 5 turnaround 1 @ 70bpm

solo 5 turnaround 2 @ 115bpm

solo 5 turnaround 2 @ 70bpm

Link Riff Version 1

The Link Riff that follows is the connective tissue between solo 5 and solo 6. The notes are the same here but the fretting is significantly different between 4 and 5 string so keep an eye out…

I’m calling this Link Riff Version 1 because the Link Riff comes around again after solo 6 but the end of the 4th bar is, surprise surprise, different…

Note the staccato dot under the last note (the G). It’s marked here so you know that you need to hit that note and hightail it back to the high D to begin the Dm section for solo 6!

Link Riff v1 between solos 5 and 6 - 4 String Bass

Link Riff v1 between solos 5 and 6 - 5 String Bass

Link Riff v1 Btwn Solos 5 & 6 @ 115bpm

Link Riff v1 Btwn Solos 5 & 6 @ 70bpm

Solo 6

Then we’re back to the spiky Dm solo riff for solo 6.

Note that in the 1st turnaround Ellefson plays something different compared to what he played on solo 5.

In all honesty this is probably a simple mistake given the speed and fiddlyness of what’s being played.

For the sake of completeness, it’s tabbed out and presented below:

Solo 6 Turnaround 1 - 4 String Bass

Solo 6 Turnaround 1 - 5 String Bass

Solo 6 turnaround 1 @ 115bpm

Solo 6 turnaround 1 @ 70bpm

Solo 6 turnaround 2 is the same as before which leads into…

Link Riff version 2

The first 3 bars of the 2nd Link Riff here are exactly the same as before, it’s the turnaround that’s different as it’s not leading back to D for another solo but into a new Link Riff that begins on G.

Link Riff v2 Turnaround - 4 String Bass

Link Riff v2 Turnaround - 5 String Bass

Link Riff v2 turnaround @ 115bpm

Link riff v2 @ 70bpm

Link Riff with Quarter note triplet feel ending

The next riff is where the tempo notches up (now 120bpm) and we switch from complex and interesting melodic solos into more shreddy territory.

First, though, we have to get through a bludgeoning riff that has a big quarter note triplet feel at the end for emphasis (but it’s not actually quarter notes as we’ll see…)

Note the palm muting here; again, Ellefson is really choking down on the sound to give it maximum punch.

Link Riff with qtr note tiplet feel - 4 String Bass

Link Riff with qtr note triplet feel - 5 String Bass

Link Riff Qtr note triplet feel @ 115bpm

Link Riff Qtr note triplet feel @ 70bpm

It’s tempting to think of the last part of this riff as being 3 G notes in a Quarter Note Triplet arrangement but they’re not.

It’s 8th notes and 16th notes with dots and ties.

The best way to count this bars is like this:

1-2-3-4  1-2-3-4  1-2-3  1-2-3  1-2

If you count it like this you’ll get the feel of it in no time.

Playing this on the 4 string requires a lot more left hand work than it does on the 5; you have to go back and land on the 2nd fret on the E string to get what would be the open E on the 5 string.

Solos 7 Through 10: Shredfest!

Finally some good(ish) news: the next chunk of the song, even though it gets faster and faster as it goes, is exactly the same thing 4 times around.

Ellefson doesn’t tweak his turnarounds, doesn’t faff about with anything: he’s just rock solid and blisteringly quick.


Solos 7 - 10: 4 String Bass

Solos 7 - 10: 5 String Bass

solos 7-10 @ 115bpm

solos 7-10 @ 70bpm

The Outro/Solo 11!

On the face of things, this feels like an extension of what’s just gone before but it’s slightly different.

I takes the first 4 bars but instead of going straight into the palm-muted riff with the triplet feeling end, it loops back and repeats and then hits the G for the big finish (with Nick Menza going bonkers on the kit)!

outro solo 11 - 4 String Bass

outro solo 11 - 5 String Bass

Outro solo 11 @ 124bpm

outro solo 11 @ 70bpm

And that is it. That’s the back half to one of the biggest beasties in the history of metal.

11 solos, driving rock into spikey whatever-the-heck-that-is style stuff and then super Chinese finger trap riffing that gets faster and faster until you pass out!

I hope that this has been useful; in the meantime, May The Riff Be With You.