Today we continue our new series of showcasing isolated guitar tracks of famous songs, taking a look at Metallica’s Master of Puppets! In this post we’ll be covering the song structure and how to begin approaching learning this song.

Track Notes:

It’s important to note that this is an advanced to expert level song. Beyond that, the next important note is that almost the entirety of the heavy parts are played with classic thrash metal downpicking – meaning, no alternate picking whatsoever! This gives the track a heavy chugging vibe, which is very dynamically different from alternate picking those sections. However – accomplishing this entire song with downpicking is truly an accomplishment in thrash metal guitar. Even playing it with just alternate picking is quite the feat, and should be your starting point!

Song Structure: 

Before playing this one, understanding the song structure is key! This is a mammoth song not only in performance, but also in song structure – yet, underneath the chaos is a pop-song format. That pop-song format begins after the intro, at 0:52 and ending at 3:30, and then takes a break for a gorgeous, melodic interlude section until 5:12. Next, there is a transitionary section until 5:43. Then, the song returns to its verse riff for a guitar solo until 6:10. Finally, the song begins to return to a pop song format, with two combined bridges spanning until 6:39, and then returning to a main riff followed by verse three.

Long story short – you can anchor yourself to the song structure by looking at the “pop-song format” running between 0:52 to 3:30, and 6:39 until the end ! Once you’ve gotten that far and begun to interpret the intricacies of the middle of the song, there are many added sections to keep an eye out for – namely the G5, F#5, to E5 sections, and the “Master! Master!” sections. 

Playing the Parts:  

– The main guitar riff that first occurs from 0:22 to 0:50 uses one finger per fret.
– The first instance of “Master! Master!” at 1:46 is a great spot to catch your breath – the chorus is somewhat relenting for picking.
– The choruses incorporate some bars at different time signatures making for a disjointed rhythm – play by feel at first to get used to it!
– The rhythm guitar beginning at 3:30 rings throughout, so make sure your fingers are holding down the chords. This section is played underneath the lead guitar until the interlude ends at 5:06.
– The most difficult rhythm section of this song is from 6:10 to 6:21. Above all other sections, we recommend you use YouTube’s slowdown feature to ensure you’ve gotten the groove. This is also the only section of the song where some alternate picking is used, to hit the sixteenth notes!
– The last unique rhythm section of the song uses the E Minor scale, used as Major Scale Pattern #1 at the second fret, running from 6:21 to 6:39. 

Other Resources:

Metallica has many different official recordings of this song other than the studio version, most of which are in Eb tuning. Playing along with either of the live Symphony versions or the Through the Never concert film recording give a slightly different flavour while still giving the same challenge! Here’s one last quick tip – the first half from the live 1999 S&M album is actually a slightly slower tempo, in addition to being an incredible interpretation.

Can you play this song with all of its nuance and downpicking, or are you playing an easier version that’s “close enough”? We challenge you to get more detail and to push yourself to get all of it no matter how long it takes!

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