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Left Hand Overload (Guitar Lesson)

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Dennis Hodges

Left Hand Overload

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

Taught by Dennis Hodges in Metal with Dennis seriesLength: 62:36Difficulty: 3.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (00:33) Introduction to Lesson 5 Get comfortable, JamPlayers! Dennis is about to unleash the Left Hand Overload! This lesson has one single purpose: improvement of left hand technique. Exercises designed to improve finger strength, accuracy, dexterity, speed, endurance, and flexibility are all included here. These exercises are the key to shredding lightning fast solos.

Dennis covers a wide range of information in this lesson. Take your time and work through these exercises slowly. Always remember that playing music is not a competition or a race. In the long run, you'll be glad that you took the time to perfect these exercises.


If you ever experience any pain or discomfort of any sort while practicing any of the exercises presented in this lesson, immediately take a break. To begin with, practice these exercises for roughly twenty minutes a day as part of your warm-up routine. As your hands get stronger, and if time permits, gradually add more exercises to your practice routine.
Chapter 2: (05:38) Scramble Exercise Overview

This exercise is a variation on an exercise taught in Metal lesson 1. The exercise from lesson 1 followed a strict 1, 2, 3, 4 left-hand finger pattern. The current exercise switches up the order of these left-hand fingerings. Such exercises help develop left-hand finger control and independence. Matt Brown taught this same exercise in his Phase 2 Rock series. Many guitar instructors argue that this is the single best warm-up exercise. It sufficiently warms up each left-hand finger equally and slowly. The exercise accomplishes all of this while simultaneously warming up the right hand.


1. Even though this is purely a technical exercise, make it sound as musical as possible. Try adding some dynamics.

2. Keep all left-hand knuckles arched at all times.

3. Keep the thumb positioned perpendicular to the back of the neck. Keep the right-hand palm tilted slightly away from the neck. Watch Dennis carefully for a clear demonstration.

4. Move the pattern up a fret each time once you have ascended and descended the pattern.

5. Play as legato as possible.

6. Keep the fingers as close to the neck as possible at all times.

7. Focus on control and accuracy.

Mirror Form

Once you have completed all of the combinations Dennis has demonstrated, play each pattern backwards. For example, 1, 3, 2, 4 becomes 4, 2, 3,1.
Chapter 3: (09:14) Spider Walking Exercise Dennis presents a very common classical guitar exercise for the left-hand in this scene. Similar exercises can be found in Lee Ryan's technique anthology as well as Pumping Nylon by Brian Head. This exercise is commonly referred to as "spider walking," because the left hand resembles a crawling spider.

The exercise is designed to improve finger independence and flexibility. It may take a few weeks before you can play this exercise all the way to the low sixth string. Most beginners can only perform the pattern down to the fourth string. However, after practicing this exercise for a few weeks, you will begin to notice significant improvement.

Keep in mind that this was originally written for classical guitar. Classical guitars have a much wider fretboard. Consequently, the strings are farther apart compared to a steel string guitar. Practice this exercise on a classical guitar to receive the maximum benefit of this exercise. Also, the exercise was originally written in second position. Once you have mastered spider walking in fifth position, gradually shift the pattern down a fret at a time to maximize your reach ability.


1. Play as legato as possible.

2. Do not lift up one finger until the next finger is down. This will ensure that each note rings into the next. This creates the effect of two interwoven melodic lines.

3. Keep wrist and forearm movement to a minimum. Make all stretches with the fingers. It may take some time to develop this ability. Be patient with this exercise. Do not force an uncomfortable stretch! If you experience any pain, immediately stop what you are doing.

Note: It may be difficult to grasp exactly what is happening in this exercise from the lesson video alone. Refer to the supplemental content section for complete notation of this exercise.

Alternating the Pattern

The finger pattern in the exercise can be alternated for additional practice. Watch Dennis closely for a demonstration of this process.
Chapter 4: (07:09) Spider Riffing Exercise Rhythm guitarists such as James Hetfield and Dave Mustaine popularized a technique referred to as spider riffing. Mustaine recently taught a complete lesson regarding this topic in Guitar World magazine. Essentially, this technique allows you to shift rapidly between power chords without changing the position of the left hand. It also eliminates annoying string squeaks that occur when changing fretboard positions.

Spider riffing is usually applied to two power chords that are one fret apart. For example, you could apply this technique to a progression moving from B5 to C5 on the low sixth string. For B5, use fingers 1 and 3 like you normally would. Then use fingers 2 and 4 respectively for the C5 chord.

Spider Riffing with "Open" Power Chords

Alternate fingerings are often used when an "open" power chord occurs in a progression or riff. "Open" E5 to F5 is a very common movement in the metal genre. These chords typically imply a dark Phrygian tonality. When changing between these chords, use finger 2 for the note B in the E5 chord. Then, use fingers 1 and 3 for F5.

E5 to G5 is also a very common chord movement in metal. In this situation, use finger 1 for the B note in the E5 power chord. Use fingers 2 and 4 respectively for a G5 power chord.

Spider Riffing Exercise

Note: Tablature to this exercise is listed under "Spider Walking Part Two" in the "Supplemental Content" section.

Dennis begins this exercise in 7th position. Make sure that you practice this exercise in all of the lower positions as well.

Also, practice the exercise with hammer-ons and pull-offs. Strum the first chord, then hammer-on to the second chord. Then, pull-off back to the first chord. Finally, hammer to the second chord once more. This creates a short trill between two power chords.
Chapter 5: (10:26) Octave Riffs Guitarists have used octaves since the instrument was invented. However, jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery realized the full potential of playing octaves of the guitar. Wes frequently played an entire solo section or melody line with octaves.

What Is an Octave?

By now, you have probably learned that the upper octave of each open string is located at the 12th fret. For example, take a look at the lowest string. When played open, this string produces the pitch called "E." When this string is fretted at the 12th fret, it also produces the note "E." This note is said to be one octave higher than its open string counterpart.

Typically, octaves are played simultaneously on two separate strings. These octaves are not located on adjacent strings like power chords. Rather, a muted string occurs between the two notes that comprise the octave. For example, an octave shape can be played on the 6th and 4th strings. In this situation, the fifth string is muted.

Octave Technique

Most players prefer to use fingers one and three when playing octaves. Some guitarists such as Kirk Hammett, Dave Navarro, and JamPlay's Matt Brown prefer to use fingers 1 and 4 when fretting an octave shape. This allows you to sneak the third finger onto the middle string for a thickly voiced, three-string power chord shape. Both fingerings are perfectly acceptable. Spend a significant amount of time experimenting with both fingerings to determine which one you are more comfortable with. Regardless of which fingering you feel more comfortable with, the first finger always mutes the middle string in the octave shape. Lightly touch the middle string with the first finger to ensure that it remains muted.

Octave Practice

This exercise will get you acquainted with shifting octaves around the neck. Play this exercise with a clean tone to ensure maximum clarity and accuracy. This exercise is played on all possible string sets. Notice how the fingering for octave shapes changes once the D and B strings are reached.

When playing octaves on higher string sets, mute the lower strings that are not included in the octave shape with the middle finger. This will prevent the lower strings from ringing in case you accidentally strum improperly. This technique also allows you to tremolo strum octaves much faster. Like Dennis demonstrates, it is more difficult to strum rapidly when the picking hand's range of movement is limited.
Chapter 6: (06:40) Kirk Hammett Warm-up Exercise This exercise is designed to synchronize the picking and fretting hands while making string crossings.


1. This exercise is not designed for speed building.
2. Rather, strive for clarity and rhythmic accuracy at all times.
3. Play this exercise as legato as possible, but don't let the notes ring over one another.
4. Only allow the notes to ring once you have perfected the exercise in the aforementioned manner. Anytime you can be creative with your practicing and exercises, go for it! This will help you improve your understanding of the guitar much faster and will also develop the connection between your brain and hands.

Visually, this exercise can be quite confusing at first. Follow Dennis' explanation closely and study the tablature to memorize the exercise.
Chapter 7: (09:13) Exercise to Improve Flexibility This exercise originally appeared in Petrucci's former Guitar World column. This exercise and many others like it can be found in Petrucci's technique book, Rock Discipline.


1. Once you feel comfortable playing the exercise in the position that Dennis demonstrates, gradually move the pattern to lower positions on the fretboard. The wider frets will help improve your fret-hand reach.

2. Practice this pattern on all six strings.

4. Play as slow and evenly as possible. Don't even attempt to play this fast. You might injure yourself.

5. Keep the previous finger held down when ascending and descending. This will help with synchronization. This will also help you produce a legato sound.

6. You may need to start this exercise even higher on the neck to start out with. However, always make sure that you are challenging yourself. If it feels too easy, slide the exercise back a fret towards the nut.
Chapter 8: (04:13) Practice Riff #1 Throughout the next several scenes, Dennis teaches some metal riffs that contain the essential techniques taught in the "Essential Techniques" and "Left-Hand Overload" lessons.

Riff #1

This riff features a slow, sludgy groove reminiscent of Black Sabbath or Morbid Angel.

Dennis plays the riff in the key of E minor. It features the b5 blues note of this key (Bb). The minor blues scale is a favorite scale choice of many metal guitarists when composing riffs. The minor blues scale is often combined with other minor scales such as the natural, harmonic, and Phrygian scales within a single riff.

Notice how the F# note in bar two is bent up a half step up. The bend occurs on beat three and is then released on beat four. Essentially every other pitch in this measure is the note "G." Beats two and four should sound as F#.
Chapter 9: (03:38) Practice Riff #2 This riff combines a low palm muted pedal tone played on the low E string. A pedal tone is a note that remains static over changing harmony. Pedal tones are frequently played on the low string in conjunction with changing power chords. The low pedal notes can be played using all downstrokes. This will make the riff sound as heavy as possible. However, as you speed up the riff, you may need to switch to alternate picking.
Chapter 10: (03:59) Practice Riff #3 Riff #3 features some wide stretches on the low E string. This riff also gives you a great opportunity to work on tremolo picking.

When tremolo picking the rhythm must remain perfectly even. Begin by playing eighth notes at this tempo. Once you feel comfortable, gradually move the metronome up a notch at a time. Then, return to the original tempo and tremolo pick in triplets. Next, repeat the process with sixteenth notes then sextuplets.
Chapter 11: (01:40) Practice Riff #4 The final riff in this lesson is a Dave Mustaine-esque riff that focuses on spider riffing. Make sure that you adhere strictly to the left-hand fingerings Dennis indicates in the lesson video.

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.

LukadjurdjevicLukadjurdjevic replied

Please teach us the riff 5:46

jtang812jtang812 replied

i like this teacher, he is funny!

Yanni711Yanni711 replied


Yanni711Yanni711 replied


RickKala43RickKala43 replied

Testament adds lots of Octaves in their songs.

RickKala43RickKala43 replied

This is a GREAT exercise for me. This is the type of stuff I struggle with. Math and Movement hahaha.....Thank you!

LarryGoodLarryGood replied

You mentioned the practice riffs are tabbed out. I don't see them in the supplemental section for some reason, though I see all the material for the previous segments of Lesson 5. Can you help? Thanks.w

LarryGoodLarryGood replied

Never mind ! I see them, Sorry. !!

yumosyumos replied

Hey, where is the GP6 file?

deb.cawleydeb.cawley replied

This is an older video lesson that we didn't have GPX files for, we will look into seeing if we can get some for it.

Rockwell77Rockwell77 replied

I've been playing for a long time and never knew about spider riffing. I will be practicing this technique for hours....awesome!

capaverycapavery replied

why don't have in pro 6 file

khannakhanna replied

awesome lesson

devonm13devonm13 replied

man i getting my middle and pinkie to work together is a epic battle

xxbryce10xxxxbryce10xx replied

Was the third riff the toss out riff?

Spock71Spock71 replied

I think maybe the first?

vilevile replied

wow,I've been playing for awhile and never even heard of spider walking.I've just been sliding my hand all around.I'll definitely practice this.

sdlatsonsdlatson replied

One of my favorite videos yet! You rock Dennis!

jeremyprice88jeremyprice88 replied

Dennis thanks so much... you must have been teaching for a while, because you know how Im going to mess up the exercise before I do it, and correct me! Great job man!

garrettwayne72garrettwayne72 replied

Dennis The freakin' Mennis ROCKS!!! toughest lesson yet!

thesnowdogthesnowdog replied

Why do I always read these lessons as "Overlord"?

punisher11292punisher11292 replied

The intro made me laugh so hard, this guy is a nutter.

kalabajabakalabajaba replied

doesnt apply to this lesson but i finally got down pinch harmnics tryin to to the spider walk!!!!!!!!!!!!

dan85dan85 replied

LMAO!! on the 2nd scene when you said "It's kinda like a computer dying or something" It cracks me up when you say random stuff like that. Great lesson by the way!

dzendek1dzendek1 replied

Favorite Dennis saying I tell myself now when I get carried away. "Don't Be a Hero"

thunderhorsethunderhorse replied

Spider walk= arm pain

satchfansatchfan replied

The Kirk Hammett warm up is in Joe Satriani's ''Guitar Secrets'' book. Steve Vai passed the exercise on to Joe. I am very familiar with it. They use it for Right hand warm up.

steven ringersteven ringer replied

why do you keep coughing?

slayer111slayer111 replied

Bong hits!

xidryxidry replied

The spider thing really cool:)

steven ringersteven ringer replied

wes montgomery? i know a wes mousseau and a josh montgomery. coincidence?

lordxxgoldlordxxgold replied

4:25, that was totally a Suffocation riff, haha Great lessons so far

lordxxgoldlordxxgold replied

ah nvm. I was thinking of the riff in the middle of Liege of Inveracity. Similar, though.

jrjiijrjii replied

Hey Dennis, what pedal are you using?

darklife666darklife666 replied


dinaldinal replied

'DENNIS'... what i'm gonna say.... it's great man.. this lessons really helps me to build up my strength..and also you are so cool..and clear. thats what I want.. you are a very good teacher to me.. and i really wanna thank you.. "AYOBOVAN" [long life]

nrebinknrebink replied

Hey Dennis, really enjoying your lessons so Cheers :) On the Octaves riff practice I mute all strings with my Index as I find it easier. Can you see any probs with that method?

eclipse31eclipse31 replied

yet again a flawless lesson, love playing the second practice riff

JustinSletcherJustinSletcher replied

Hmmm... Im stuck you read in a mag that if theres pain you should stop... but i read a mag earlier and it said ''No pain, No gain'' lol...

chase_1995chase_1995 replied

My left hand is pain. thankyou Dennis!

rubisamarubisama replied

"If you've never done the splits, why would you be able to all of a sudden?" LOL. Good point though, it highlights the importance of warm-ups.

mritalian55mritalian55 replied

Hi Dennis, I'am a 54 year old fart trying to play the guitar, I've always loved it. You're lessons are great, keep up the good work and I'll keep on practicing. Hey, maybe when I'am 65 I might be able to catch up to ya. Na!

graphitegalgraphitegal replied

Well the beginning certainly wakes you up lol !! I'm just starting out and trying to get my fingers stretched, pinkie in particular weak. And your approach is very refreshing.

bijanbwbbijanbwb replied

Awesome. Perfect impression of Dave Mustaine... without the self loathing and bitterness.

nsibleynsibley replied

Amazing lesson Dennis, and the best intro to a lesson ever haha

J.artmanJ.artman replied

This is a GREAT lesson. So much useful exercises to add to your arsenal of workouts. Thanks Dennis!

cyanide cloudcyanide cloud replied

Oh lawd. I laughed so hard at the beginning!

tommygunntommygunn replied

ouch while doing the spider walk i was doing great until you said to move the ring and index while leaving the pinky and middle in place, its like i command you to move and they just mock me and dont move then the other two fingers get scared and move instead but after lots and lots of hard work i think i have whipped them into submission oh and great lessons love your sence of humor

jestersdanc3jestersdanc3 replied

Haha, I love it when you mess up. Your just like, "Ha..."

hegshot87hegshot87 replied

Man these exercises help alot. its cool to see you play for your church dennis cuz eventually thats where i want to play. These lessons will have me there in a while. thanks man and keep em coming

willyowillyo replied

1st riff sounds like metallica without the pinch at the end

metalheadmclovinmetalheadmclovin replied

Dude the exercise is really helping with my playing. I always had trouble with my pinky but now its starting to go away.

drag0n izlegenddrag0n izlegend replied

BTW Today's MMy b-DAY!!!!! I'm 15!

drag0n izlegenddrag0n izlegend replied

I started in September and this site is really helping me. Thanks dennis.

impulseimpulse replied

Hay Dennis I'm wanting to write a song because I have a drummer friend and we put a band together and I watched this video and I think that it helped me but I need more. Do you have any advice to start writing and making our own song?

mclovinmclovin replied

where are the riffs "tabed up" and yea, i totally agree with David, i have never improved like this :D

dennis.hodgesdennis.hodges replied

check out the supplemental content, they're labeled "practice riffs"

russojmcrussojmc replied

Great lesson. Definitely one of the best instructors here, makes me glad I joined.

BuckNastyBuckNasty replied

Dennis Hodges you are great! These are the kind of lessons I was looking for. Thanks man. I WANT MORE LESSONS!!!!!!!

hgnativehgnative replied

your a wicked guitar player dennis

kimikimi replied

I got to say Dave and Dennis have improved my playing so fast with these lessons, the pratice things i was like, errr this is tiresome, doing the same thing over and over, but then i went to play something the other day and it just clicked, all the practice actually paid off and i was hitting notes i couldn't hit before, this monster of a lesson is my next one to get down! Thanks Dennis!

rubyistrubyist replied

Hodges is very clearly The Man.

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied

nice job dennis!!! your going to make them all into super metal monster players before they know it!!!

dennis.hodgesdennis.hodges replied

yikes! 62 minutes! I hope everyone has some free time.

cdawsoncdawson replied

This lesson crushed my weekend, and took 1.5 days just to render :) All good though, I think it is a great lesson overall.

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.

Basics of MetalLesson 1

Basics of Metal

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

Length: 33:00 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Power Chords and RhythmLesson 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
Essential Techniques 1Lesson 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 FREE
Essential Techniques 2Lesson 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
Left Hand OverloadLesson 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
Rhythm and TimingLesson 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
Time Signatures Part 1Lesson 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
Time Signatures Part 2Lesson 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
Rhythm Pt. 2Lesson 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
Right Hand OverloadLesson 11

Right Hand Overload

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

Length: 52:11 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Dennis Hodges

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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Greg J.

"With Jamplay I can fit in a random session when I have time and I can go at my own pace"

I'm a fifty eight year old newbie who owns a guitar which has been sitting untouched in a corner for about seven years now. Last weekend I got inspired to pick it up and finally learn how to play after watching an amazing Spanish guitarist on TV. So, here I am. I'm starting at the beginning with Steve Eulberg and I couldn't be happier (except for the sore fingers :) Some day I'm going to play like Steve! I'm self employed with a hectic schedule. With Jamplay I can fit in a random session when I have time and I can go at my own pace, rewinding and replaying the videos until I get it. This is a very enjoyable diversion from my work yet I still feel like I'm accomplishing something worthwhile. Thanks a lot, Greg


"I believe this is the absolute best site for guitar students."

I am commenting here to tell you and everyone at JamPlay that I believe this is the absolute best site for guitar students. I truly enjoy learning to play the guitar on JamPlay.com. Yes, I said the words, ""enjoy learning."" It is by far the best deal for the money.

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