Metallica – Blackened Part 2

That Main Riff

Much like the very first bar of the song this riff has been confusing people and being played wrong for years.

The general thinking about this riff is that it starts on the open low E string and it’s in 7/4 and still at 182bpm. Again, this is wrong.


From SheetMusicDirect

We saw that the first bar of the song ends with that pickup note (the low E) and that means that the downbeat, the ONE of the riff shifts onto the 7th fret E on the A string instead!

Furthermore, we are still in the 92bpm range that we established in the first bar and the Time Signature is NOT 7/4, it’s alternating bars of 3/4 and 4/4.

I know, that adds up to 7 so why isn’t it in 7/4? Well, there are clear downbeats that outline defined bars.

What makes things trickier is that the accent in the 4/4 bar switches in the back half!

The 7th fret A string E is a very, VERY weak note (it’s almost a dead note!) as you need to get down to the 1st fret A string B♭ super quick and hit it hard to make the accent land.

Once you get that riff done there’s an open E note that is the pickup (as we saw at the end of the first bar) to set the whole riff in motion again. It’s also a really weak note so don’t worry about really sounding it out.

The shift from the 7th fret E down to the B♭ is really hard to land…

Again, in the abstract it’s quite hard to grasp this “feel” so here’s 4 bars of it with an approximation of Lars’ Drum part on it too (plus the empty click bar for tempo and time context)

Hopefully, now that you can hear it with the snare hits on the beat you can really feel how the 7th fret A string E note is “the one” and NOT the low E note as per nearly all other transcriptions.

This also gives us the chance to say something that you don’t get to say very often: Lars is on the one! 😂

Counting Backwards

To show this idea of the intro being in 3/4 and the main riff alternating between 3/4 and 4/4, if we take Lars’ snare hits and extend them back to the beginning of the very first riff we can see exactly where the “one” really is.

For this I’m including a guide guitar part (I’m not even trying to approximate Metallica’s tone here, it’s simply to fill in the blanks while Jason isn’t playing).

Pay close attention to the snares and the way they line up on the one of each bar and how that lone 16th note, in both the first bar and in the main riff, is a pickup note…

Here’s the same riff slowed down at 64bpm. Listening to this at a slower tempo I hope you can really hear what’s happening where and when.

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