Essential Techniques 1 (Guitar Lesson)

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Dennis Hodges

Essential Techniques 1

Learn a variety of essential techniques commonly used in the metal genre, including palm muting, string slides, and chord slides.

Taught by Dennis Hodges in Metal with Dennis seriesLength: 36:52Difficulty: 2.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (00:30) Lesson Overview This is the first installment of a two-part lesson dealing with essential techniques in the metal genre.

These techniques include palm-muting, finger slides, and chord slides. You will also learn the rules concerning sharps and flats. Dennis presents this material in the context of some fun, metal exercises.
Chapter 2: (06:31) Note Review, Sharps and Flats Review Time

At this point, you must have the locations of all the natural notes on the fretboard memorized. If you do not, take this time to review this information. It can be found in the lesson 1 video and accompanying lesson information section. As the lessons in this series progress, Dennis will refer to notes by their letter names instead of their fret/string location. If you don't know the names of all the notes, you will get lost quite easily!

Dennis begins his review of natural notes with the open B string. Starting with B, determine the remaining natural note names and their locations on this string. The next note in the musical alphabet is C. If you remember where the half steps occur in the musical scale, you know that C is a half step above B. Consequently, the note C is located one fret above B. The next half step occurs between E and F at the 5th and 6th frets.

Sharps and Flats

The first sharp/flat on the B string occurs at the second fret. This is due to the whole step interval between the first and third frets. This note can be labeled as either C# or Db. It is labeled as C# in notation when it follows a C natural. It is written as Db when it follows a D natural. These rules are applied simply to make a notated piece of music as easy to read as possible.

Follow along with Dennis as he explores the remaining sharp notes on the fretboard. Once again, keep in mind where the half steps occur in the scale. There are no sharp notes between two notes that are a half step apart.

Dennis repeats the same process with flat note names. This time however, he starts at the 12th of the B string where the upper octave of the note "B" is located. The note Bb is located one fret lower at the 11th fret. Remember that flats are used in descending lines, and that sharps are used in ascending lines. Watch as Dennis locates the remaining flat notes on the B string. These notes are in the same locations as the sharps you found earlier.


At this point, repeat the process Dennis demonstrated with the remaining strings. Say each note aloud as you play it. This will help you learn and memorize the fretboard in a much more efficient manner. Add this to your daily warm-up exercises.
Chapter 3: (06:13) Palm Muting an Individual String Palm muting is arguably the most important technique in the metal genre. Palm muting produces the low, chugging guitar sound in your favorite metal songs.

The Mechanics of Palm Muting

The key to successful palm muting technique is proper positioning of the picking hand. The thumb muscle and palm area must rest slightly off the bridge towards the pickups. If you rest your palm on the bridge, the string will continue to ring normally. If you move your palm too far towards the neck, the string produces a choked, dead sound. It may take some experimentation in order to find the perfect palm position. Remember to let your ears guide you when learning when learning a new technique. Listen to your favorite players, and imitate the sounds you hear. If it what you are doing sounds bad, make some adjustments and try again. Like Dennis mentions, the vibration produced by the string is not muted altogether. Rather the tone is slightly muffled to create a chunkier, more aggressive sound.

Exercise 1

This exercise contains a measure of open quarter notes played on the low E string followed by a measure of palm muted quarter notes. Begin the first measure with your palm wresting on the bridge. Immediately after picking the last quarter note in this measure, move your palm into position for the second measure. Practice this exercise as slowly as necessary. Your first priority is to keep the rhythm steady at all times. Also, strive for the best tone possible at all times. Play this exercise with distortion as well as a clean tone. Also, repeat this exercise on the open A and D strings. You may have to adjust your hand slightly when palm muting these strings.

Exercise 2

Many metal riffs feature a single muted string punctuated by power chords. Diamond Head's "Am I Evil?" is a prime example. Metallica's "Creeping Death" is another. Exercise 2 will get you acquainted with this style of metal rhythm playing. Once again, play this exercise as slowly as necessary. Keep the rhythm clear and concise at all times.
Chapter 4: (07:42) Palm Muting Chords In addition to playing single strings while palm muting, many riffs also feature muted power chords. When palm muting two strings simultaneously, no readjustment of the right hand position is necessary. As Dennis points out, it is almost impossible to mute just one string with the edge of your palm. However, you may need to grip your pick more tightly when strumming through two palm-muted strings.

Riffs 1 and 2

Both of the riffs demonstrated in this scene are designed to get you acquainted with playing muted power chords. Almost every song in the metal repertoire features this technique. Consequently, significant time should be spent developing these abilities. Play each riff slowly with a metronome. As you feel more comfortable, gradually increase the speed of the metronome.
Chapter 5: (09:24) Individual String slides Slides are one type of "slur" that can be played on the guitar. Slurring is a musical technique that produces a legato feel. Legato means that each note in a phrase rings for its full value. Each note rings directly into the next, resulting in a smooth and connected sound. The remaining forms of slurs, including hammer-ons, pull-offs, and bends are discussed in the following lesson.

Proper Slide Technique

To properly perform a slide, the sliding finger must firmly depress the string against the frets during the entire duration of the slide. The sliding motion must be quick and deliberate as well. If you release pressure from this finger, the string will cease to vibrate. However, you don't want to put too much pressure on the string. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting hung up on one of the frets.

Slide Exercise 1

This exercise involves sliding up and down the fretboard a half step at a time. Longer slides are slightly more difficult to perform.

When practicing through this exercise, you must make sure that both notes under the curved slur line are rhythmically identical in value. Most beginners have the tendency to cut the first note short. Also, make sure that both notes are equal in volume. Finally, adhere strictly to the left hand fingering that Dennis demonstrates.

Slide Exercise 2

Unlike Exercise 1, all of the slides in this exercise are comprised of a whole step (two frets). Also, you must change strings throughout the course of the exercise. Make sure that the picked note and the target note are the only notes heard. If you hear the F# note when sliding between F and G, then you are sliding too slowly. Once again, stick to fingering indicated in the exercise tablature. If you follow the same sliding guidelines listed under Exercise 1, you will master this exercise in no time.
Chapter 6: (06:54) Chord Slides Sliding power chords or octaves up and down the neck is a favorite rhythm guitar technique of many metal guitarists. Some prime examples of this technique are Pantera's "Slaughtered," "Mouth for War," and "Shedding Skin." White Zombie guitarist J Yuenger used this technique to great effect in the song "Electric Head Pt. 2 (The Ecstasy)."

Chord Slide Exercise

Like Dennis mentions, the most important component of sliding chords is keeping your fingers in the proper formation throughout the entire slide. Most beginners tend to let their third finger collapse inward when sliding a power chord or octave shape. As a result, the third finger ends up coming short by a fret.

This exercise features chord slides of different intervals. The first measure is comprised of two power chords that are one half step apart. Dennis has chosen to start this exercise with a B5 chord at the second fret. Practice sliding power chords up and down in half steps in other areas of the fretboard as well. If you are having problems with the half step slide at the second fret, you may find it easier at around the tenth fret. Do not proceed to the next measure until you have completely mastered the current measure. Each measure gets successively harder as a result of increasing the slide length.
Chapter 7: (00:31) Outro and Lesson 4 Preview This concludes the first segment of Essential Metal Techniques. In the next lesson, Dennis discusses techniques such as bending, hammer-ons, pull-offs, and pinch harmonics. In the meantime, keep practicing your slides and palm muting!

Video Subtitles / Captions

Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

PJBuckleyPJBuckley replied on May 3rd, 2016

I've been on Jamplay since Christmas 15. I've learned more from my new favorite teacher, Dennis Hodges... Thanks Buddy Great lessons.

bikerbomberbikerbomber replied on February 9th, 2016

If I get enough up votes maybe we can convince Dennis to change his profile picture to this lesson's thumbnail photo.

Southern CashSouthern Cash replied on February 2nd, 2016

The plane, the plane, i guess i'm off and flying now! LOL

Southern CashSouthern Cash replied on February 2nd, 2016

I thought this was a metal class, not basic guitar.

telmoroquetelmoroque replied on June 27th, 2015

the spider technique that was mentioned in the previous lesson is pretty hard do do accurately. been doing the chord slide exercise with the pinky and middle finger to improve the strength with those fingers, lets see how the spider runs in a couple of weeks. Thanks for the lesson!

grburgessgrburgess replied on May 5th, 2015

"then we go to A, still at the same place". I remember that A well, my old friend A on the 10th fret of the B string!

mikehabadamikehabada replied on April 9th, 2014

Dennis, so theorically, how are these E G A and B flat fundamented in the circle of fifths, excuse my ignorance.

grburgessgrburgess replied on May 5th, 2015

B, E, A, D, G, C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, B, E, A, D, G, C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, B...... just repeat it to yourself until you overlearn it. Look at fret 7 across the fret. Just remember that between strings 2 and 3, it's thirds, not fourths

snake venomsnake venom replied on August 6th, 2013

I wish there were chord charts with position numbers at the bottom of the screen to supplement with the instructor's fingers. I find that easier to follow that looking at his fingers alone.

shytigershytiger replied on May 2nd, 2013

What's up with the F-16 Falcon fly-by? I was thinking that had to be for the folks who were falling asleep. Love the Hammer flying V...Jim Matheos from Fates Warning has one very similar when I saw them way back when.

tidwellmmatidwellmma replied on March 17th, 2013

So should I be able to pick out all of the natural notes between open and 12th fret by now, without even having to think about it, or is it ok as long as I can find them. I can name them with no problem as long as I start with the open string and go in order.

dennis.hodgesdennis.hodges replied on March 25th, 2013

well, I don't know how long you've been working on it so I can't say if you should have it by now or not. I would expect that after a couple of weeks it should be happening more naturally as long as you're paying attention to what frets you're playing as you're going over the note names, otherwise the two parts won't really be connecting.

tidwellmmatidwellmma replied on March 17th, 2013

So, what is this plane everyone is speaking of? Guess I missed it.

dennis.hodgesdennis.hodges replied on February 12th, 2014

scene 4, 5:12

handsfromasshandsfromass replied on October 23rd, 2012

i didn't get why there's an airplane at the background :D

bloodspillbloodspill replied on March 23rd, 2012

Start Learning Songs to help you get better with this Lessons... songs like slayer,Metallica, Megadeth

astonaston replied on March 19th, 2012

I like how qiuckly these lessons progress, most take an overly long time to explain things over and over, we can just pause and rewind. Great excersises and practical techniques. Thanks!

cyborgrabbitcyborgrabbit replied on January 4th, 2012

Great lesson! I'm becoming pretty good with the power chords now. The more I do it the less I have to think about doing it. I can switch from the E to A string power chords as one whole unit now without messing up my fingers. hah, I'm so proud of myself. :)

lostinmusiclostinmusic replied on November 21st, 2011

Ouch! for your split finger...Great lesson though.

brandonl15brandonl15 replied on September 29th, 2011

great lesson dennis!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

jimmy_pbjimmy_pb replied on March 11th, 2011

what is the tuning and FX he use

graffittigraffitti replied on February 9th, 2011

amazing lesson man... metal expert

redingtonredington replied on December 23rd, 2010

Dude, did I see a plane fly behind you? I know I did. Sweet lesson.

darklife666darklife666 replied on December 20th, 2010

thanks alots denis

scottmv1scottmv1 replied on July 22nd, 2010

great lesson.....

0427owen0427owen replied on July 29th, 2010

x2 ........ palm muffling ha ha

raoelraoel replied on May 10th, 2010

Men I learn fast as hell with Dennis,Keep it up

pedro_garciapedro_garcia replied on November 22nd, 2009

I need an answer as soon as you can Dennis: I want to buy my distortion pedal, but I don't know which to buy because I would like to play some metal like Metallica but also some rock like Guns'n'Roses and in some cases some Pop-rock... so, wich one can fit my needings? a classical distortion, a metal distortione, ...? Reply my comment please

viterviter replied on January 25th, 2010

Boss Metal zone MT-2 :P

hoovsterhoovster replied on March 22nd, 2010

I cant get the right distortion with the Boss and Marshall amp like I want so maybe another distortion pedal might be better...

hoovsterhoovster replied on March 22nd, 2010

Why do they call it sharps and flats instead of like b/c or e/f or a/b or c/d .... you get the picture...

bluesy8593bluesy8593 replied on March 17th, 2010

hey reaal goodd lesson maan i finnd it eazzy too learrn from youu dennis thanxx

tammy7689tammy7689 replied on February 4th, 2010

great lesson dennis......i tried printing this out and it wont print out riff 2 on palm prints out everything but that little part

ragman547ragman547 replied on February 1st, 2010


swacswac replied on December 16th, 2009

i also like the metal face !

swacswac replied on December 16th, 2009

i find palm muting easy now , i never used to be able to understand it, but now i can, thanks dennis!

kb46kb46 replied on October 23rd, 2009

didnt understand palm muting until I watched your made it easy to follow thanks

tranaeustranaeus replied on August 26th, 2009

Dennis, lessons still great as usual :D One question, is it important to keep the guitar between the legs and holding it in a 45 degree angle? Because I have been holding it in a lying position over both of my legs.

ace1123ace1123 replied on August 26th, 2009

He's holding like that because many people find it difficult to hold v-guitars over both legs because of the shape of the body. But with most guitars you just them over both legs

tranaeustranaeus replied on October 2nd, 2009

ok, thanks man. 8)

xxbryce10xxxxbryce10xx replied on October 12th, 2012

It is also done because holding a guitar in that position it is easier to shred, tap and legato

kevinpickellkevinpickell replied on July 31st, 2009

See the way he holds his guitar?.....body between his legs and the neck angled way up high?....that's the way most classical guitarists hold their instruments. I wonder if Dennis has some classical training in his background. I just ask because of the way he holds his guitar. This is probably the best way to hold a guitar while sitting, but most of us don't do it this way.

stratocristerstratocrister replied on July 29th, 2009

I like that he seens a bit high in every lesson xD

jacob francojacob franco replied on July 16th, 2009

>:D this is awesome

abatista5abatista5 replied on July 9th, 2009

PLane!! i saw the plane!! lol

J.artmanJ.artman replied on May 11th, 2009

Great lessons!

mclovinmclovin replied on August 11th, 2008

if the sound dissapears a little on the way back/up is it because I don't press down the strings as much as I did?

mclovinmclovin replied on August 9th, 2008

really good explenations about the muting :D wasn't as hard as I expected, however, why don't u put up the tabs in the text as well? I think it would be easier then, for me anyway :D. But that's just me.

kvdalykvdaly replied on April 18th, 2008

Thanks (finally!). I can't wait for #4!

kevinacekevinace replied on April 22nd, 2008

Wait no more. It's already up!

teewiiteewii replied on April 18th, 2008

great lesson. the editing is the best =)keep it that way ;) i certainly enjoyed the metal face! haha

rblgeniusrblgenius replied on April 18th, 2008

I'm waiting for the more advanced stuff to come around :)

mbeurymbeury replied on April 17th, 2008

haha when i went back to the main page after viewing this lesson i saw the picture of dennis' face and it made me come back here and comment immediately. that face is hilarious haha wow

rblgeniusrblgenius replied on April 18th, 2008

LOL i thought the same exact thing haha

toolfan88toolfan88 replied on April 18th, 2008


VinnyBVinnyB replied on April 17th, 2008

I can hear the crowd at Wembley Stadium chanting his name. Den-nis! Den-nis! Den-nis! Den-nis! "I wanna thank everyone for coming out to see The Hodge today." YEAAAAHHH!!

cookjcookj replied on April 17th, 2008

man, fantastic lesson Jamplay and dennis. great camera work and even jets in backdrop. 'that's what i'm talkin about' guys. looking forward to lesson 4. great job all!

ronin808ronin808 replied on April 17th, 2008

great job man. keep it up

kevinacekevinace replied on April 17th, 2008

Woot! Awesomeness.

jboothjbooth replied on April 17th, 2008

Good lesson Dennis!!

mattbrownmattbrown replied on April 17th, 2008

I love the editing and the lesson! Go team Akron!

maddeemaddee replied on April 17th, 2008

Kick azz!!!!

SylviaSylvia replied on April 17th, 2008

it was great to see some theory info and how it relates to the guitar. Good stuff. Thanks Dennis.

rblgeniusrblgenius replied on April 17th, 2008

FINALLY! THe next lesson! I liked the editing especially on the overview. Rocking stuff!

Metal with Dennis

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Get ready to rock in this metal lesson series with Dennis Hodges. From 80's Metal to modern Dennis loves it all.

Lesson 1

Basics of Metal

Dennis covers important guitar basics such as note names and technical exercises.

Length: 33:00 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 2

Power Chords and Rhythm

Dennis introduces power chords and basic rhythm concepts. Both subjects are very important to the metal genre.

Length: 22:00 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 3

Essential Techniques 1

Learn a variety of essential techniques commonly used in the metal genre, including palm muting, string slides, and chord slides.

Length: 36:52 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

Essential Techniques 2

Metal lesson 4 brings you some info on hammer-ons, pull-offs, trills, bending, and the infamous pinch harmonics.

Length: 45:25 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 5

Left Hand Overload

Dennis delivers left hand techniques and exercises, with topics including spider walking / riffing, octaves, stretching and 4 practice riffs.

Length: 62:36 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Rhythm and Timing

While using a metronome, Dennis covers essential techniques and exercises to obtain great rhythm and timing.

Length: 35:00 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 7

"Metal Poisoning"

Written just for JamPlay and his Metal series, this song will allow you to put all your techniques to use in a musical manner.

Length: 28:54 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 8

Time Signatures Part 1

In this lesson Dennis teaches the following common time signatures: 3/4, 4/4, 6/8, 9/8, and 12/8. Dennis explains each signature and provides a short example for illustration.

Length: 33:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 9

Time Signatures Part 2

This time around Dennis explains odd time signatures. Similar to Part 1, he uses a musical example to illustrate each new signature.

Length: 45:07 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

Rhythm Pt. 2

Dennis continues his metal series with part two of his look at rhythm and timing.

Length: 56:24 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 11

Right Hand Overload

This lesson is the long lost sibling to "Left Hand Overload."

Length: 52:11 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only

About Dennis Hodges View Full Biography For better or worse, Dennis Hodges cannot stop playing music, and (he hopes) will never stop playing music.

Growing up in Flint, Michigan, Dennis had a tremendous passion for drawing. He couldn't stop copying moves from bands he saw on MTV, though, and it didn't help that his parents filled the house with Santana, Stevie Ray, and Allman Bros. (on real records, no less!) so it wasn't long till he got his first guitar. It was junk. Within a few weeks his parents traded in a poor acoustic for a less junky 3/4-size electric.

Dennis started lessons right away at the age of 8. He still remembers hating it for awhile, and not taking it seriously until he was 12. He is thankful his parents forced him to practice early on and kept paying for lessons, even though rational thinking should have stopped them after a year.

Around this time drawing became less important, and guitar consumed all his attention. After 6 years of lessons he parted ways with his teacher and, after trying out two others with no results, decided to continue alone. His nerdistic tendencies paid off, as he put in hours working on picking and left hand exercises and learned as many Randy Rhoads and Kirk Hammett solos as he could.

Luckily, there were playing opportunities at school talent shows and church. Dennis was playing bass at his church when he was 13, helping to hone his performance skills in a group setting.

In high school, Dennis joined the marching band on sousaphone for all 4 years. It was as awesome as you could expect. He was also fortunate enough to be in several different metal bands, still play at church, and get the incredible opportunity to play guitar for many local community theaters. This kept his sight-reading in shape and gave him an appreciation for different styles of music (and paid pretty well, from a high schooler's perspective).

In 2001, Dennis came to Bexley, Ohio to study guitar at Capital University with Stan Smith. His studies emphasized jazz and classical guitar. Here his metal past merged with a deeper understanding of the instrument and music in general, and the basis for most of his teaching style was set in motion.

Dennis now plays guitar for Upper Arlington Lutheran Church every Sunday, for St. Christopher in Grandview, Ohio, with the youth group, and also plays for touring Broadway shows that stop in Columbus. Occasionally, he plays weddings and private parties, and he is starting a new cover band with some friends, called Dr. Awkward. He is blessed to have his understanding and supportive wife Kate, and is glad to be at JamPlay!

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