Metal is a music genre that has progressed in many phases over the years. It’s not always an easy genre for beginner guitarists to learn either.
To master metal music on a guitar takes excellent command of the staccato, mastering power chords, palm-muting, and forceful rhythm that comes complete with very deliberate stresses. The harmonic traits of true metal songs are also beyond the reach of ordinary mortals playing the ordinary guitar. You’ve got chromatic progressions, tritone, and modal scale to boggle your mind and put your fingerstyle to the test.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of songs you know and love that are great starting points for you to learn how to play metal music on your guitar. Let’s take a look at some songs with easy guitar riffs to get you well acquainted with the basics of metal guitar playing. Some of the songs on this list will be a little more “Hard Rock” whereas some would be considered more modern “Heavy Metal”. Each of these songs and bands were considered “metal” during the period they were released and played a critical role in the development of the metal genre as we know it today.
So, which metal songs should you learn to play first? I suggest check out the easy metal guitar songs listed below.
Here is a List of Easy Metal Guitar Songs
1. Lonely Day by System of a Down
This is one metal song that is perfect for those who are new to the genre or are beginner guitarists. The song has 5 chords – G, Am, F. C, and E7 – that anyone can play with ease. However, if you do wish to give it that true metal effect, you might want to transpose it to a chord set that allows for fascinating fingerstyles.
The intro and the verses of Lonely Day are best played arpeggio style. It is not that very complicated. It gives you the chance to practice your finger coordination and reinforce finger memory. The chorus couldn’t be easier. You can play it using the most basic of strumming techniques and the sound that you’ll produce will still be as beautiful as the original. Play the song and you’ll see.
2. Rooster by Alice in Chains
This alternative metal song sounds more like grunge or alternative rock. However, the song’s tempo is quite fast for a slow rock – at 144 BPM. It has a guitar riff that is mid-paced and heavily downtuned. This is what makes people think that Rooster is an alternative rock and not metal. This is good news for beginner guitarists as Rooster is one of the easiest metal songs one can play.
You’d be glad to know that this song only has 4 easy chords to occupy your mind. You have E, C, G, and A that are very elementary. Now, I didn’t say that you should play the song like a kid. It would be best to learn the correct strumming techniques of the song to play it like the pros.
3. One by Metallica
Metallica’s quite popular when it comes to thrash metal. You get that very distinct fast percussive beat that complements the guitar riffs in the low registers. However, you would be surprised at how amazingly ‘mellow’ the heavy metal band’s 1989 song, One, is. The tempo makes it more like a slow rock. However, music experts say this song is one of the band’s most popular pieces.
It helps that the song only has 108 BPM. This should make it relatively easy for beginner metal guitarists to execute the different riffs. Focusing on the rhythm will make it easy for you to perform the solos of the song. This piece does require nimble fingers and a few sliding techniques to give it that very nice sound. Fingerpicking is an absolute must.
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4. Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple
There are many ways you can measure the genius of an artist. The ability to write a fantastic composition is one of them. And if you can also play the very same piece that you composed, then you’re such a musical genius. This is exactly what music-lovers think about Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore. Not only is he a phenomenal guitarist, he is also a magical songwriter. That’s what you get when you play Smoke on the Water.
Known for its harmonized parallel fourths and use of an ingenious 4-note blues scale, this 1971 song remains one of the most iconic pieces to ever learn your guitar playing skills from. The bass-heavy riff is perfect for beginners as there are no complicated fingerstyles needed. You’re welcome to add a few fingerpicks if you want. However, mastering the basics is often enough to play this song like a rock star.
5. Iron Man by Black Sabbath
The power chords of this song are a must-learn for anyone who dreams of making it big as a metal superstar. The guitar riff, especially in the opening of the song, is so phenomenal that many artists draw inspiration from it in the creation of their own songs. You’ve got to admire the genius of Osbourne, Iommi, and Butler as they bring together a composition that will blast its way through the all-time greats.
Mastering the bends of this song should give you enough confidence to tackle other metal songs for the guitar. It can be tricky. However, it is entirely possible to execute the song like the masters of metal if you put enough attention to the fingerstyle, hammer-ons, pull-ups, and other techniques in your guitar playing arsenal.
6. Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin
If you feel like you’re not yet ready to play metal songs using the classic fingerstyle of the genre, then you should consider this Led Zeppelin classic of 1969. It only has 3 chords and the pretty easy ones, too. However, strumming the chords will never give the song the power it deserves to be classified as a metal song.
I know some of you will argue that this Led Zep song is not metal. It is harder rock. You’re right. However, the only real distinction of a metal from a rock song is the presence of distortions in the former. You can add all the distortions you want after you’ve mastered the fingerstyle of this song. I presume you’re not going to play it like absolute newbies. This is easily one of my favorite easy metal guitar songs to play.
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7. Electric Funeral by Black Sabbath
Appearing in the same 1970 album as Iron Man, Electric Funeral is another Black Sabbath creation that will have you headbanging throughout the day. The intro of the song is as electrifying as Iron Man. There are plenty of amazing solos prior to the verses, the bridge, and the outro. It makes this song a spectacular ride for anyone who aspires to be a metal guitarist.
Beginners can play this metal song using an easy strumming pattern. However, if you’re aspiring to be the next Tony Iommi, then you should always go fingerstyle. The patterns are easy enough if you have nimble fingers and sufficient mastery of basic notes. This piece is going to be an exceptional tool for determining whether you’re cut out for metal or are best reserved for slow rock, country, or pop.
8. Back in Black By AC/DC
With only seven chords to think about, Back in Black should be an easy one to master. That is if you are only content with playing the basic strumming technique. This 1980 song has elements of heavy metal and hard rock that appeals to fans of both genres. Like all songs that rely on sound effects to give the notes more character, Back in Black commands plenty of fingerstyle.
The fingerplay on the fretboard can also be quite taxing to absolute beginners. The riffs also require plenty of sliding and bending. It’s the perfect exercise to warm up and loosen your finger joints. It may seem a very tricky piece to master using the fingerstyle. You can learn this song if you focus enough on the basics of the musical piece.
9. You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ By Judas Priest
I find this 1982 metal song as an easy piece to learn and master. It has that catchy duh-duh-duh intro that will have you headbanging even before the song gets to the first verse. The song also provides a very carefree and happy feeling that you’ll be compelled to play this Judas Priest song over and over. It is a very nice piece for aspiring metal guitarists to learn.
Getting the intro guitar riff shouldn’t be difficult at all. It’s the addition of the high notes after the bassline that you will have to pay attention to. The bassline is quite easy as you will only be fingerpicking the 6th chord. Be mindful about the correct tempo of this song and you should be able to play it very well.
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10. Master of Puppets by Metallica
This 1986 thrash metal piece from Metallica has got to be one of the most butt-kicking songs you can ever play on the guitar. Its percussive beats are as powerful as its low-register guitar riffs. You’ve got to love the shredding-style of the lead guitar that creates an amazing layer over the song’s tonal structure. It’s an aggressive piece that you can somehow temper using your guitar.
Always a phenomenal exercise for the fingers, Master of Puppets is the go-to piece for any aspiring heavy metal guitarist. The low register notes can effectively take the place of your bass guitar. The slides and the hammer-ons are awesome exercises, too. They’ll have you ready for other heavy metal pieces. Do take note that this song has a very fast tempo of 212 BPM.
11. This Means War by Avenged Sevenfold
Get ready to flex the muscles of both your picking and fretting fingers. This 2013 heavy metal song has one of the most electrifying riffs ever to flood the airwaves of the 21st century. Never mind what other people say about the song being nothing more than a ripoff. It has enough elements to keep your fingers busy, your mind preoccupied, and your ears stuffed with electric guitar goodness.
Fingerpicking is an essential skill that guitarists will need to develop over the course of their guitar playing journey. This song provides plenty of opportunities for mastering the technique. There’s palm-muting, too. The slides, pull-ups, and bends will also be excellent techniques to add to your skill set. You can play this on an acoustic guitar; although, it will lack the personality of an electric instrument.
12. Breaking the Law by Judas Priest
You’ll have friends flocking over the moment you play the opening guitar riff of this 1980 heavy metal song. Without the doubt, the riff is one of the most recognizable licks you can ever execute on your guitar. That is why beginner metal guitarists always make it a personal mission to learn the song. It also has a chorus so rhythmic that it forms the second hook of the song. The bridge allows you to unleash the guitarist beast in you.
Like all metal songs that place a lot of emphasis on low register notes, Breaking the Law has a characteristic bassline that will have your fretting fingers moving in a frenzy. It takes practice to get the correct sequencing and positioning of the fingers to strike the correct note.
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13. The Trooper by Iron Maiden
The galloping rhythm of this 1983 heavy metal song is one of the musical piece’s most striking characteristics. It is very different from the usual upbeat rhythm of most metal bands of the 1980s. This endeared the English band even to heavy metal fanatics across the Atlantic. I’ve got to admit that Adrian Smith and Dave Murray’s harmonized guitar lead riff put so much color into the song’s groove.
Now, don’t think for a second that playing The Trooper is like strumming Baa Baa Black Sheep. The fingerpicking is quite easy that even beginners can play it with relative ease. It’s the fingering techniques that will push your limbs to the hilt. Learn the tricks well and you should be able to add a few more elements to the song.
14. Seek and Destroy by Metallica
Seek & Destroy has a riff that is a lot easier to execute than what Metallica wants you to believe. Of course, this is a very different matter if you’re an absolute newbie to the world of guitars. Even then, the fingerstyle of this 1983 thrash metal song is less complicated than other heavy metal songs out there. You can take a chair, devote a few hours at a time to learn this song, and by the end of the third day you should already be playing it like a seasoned guitarist.
What makes playing the riff so easy is the fact that it produces a wonderful melody. And to think that one characteristic of heavy metal songs is that they don’t have a recognizable melody. This one does. And if you add the punchy bassline, you’ve got a song that’s worth playing at parties.
15. Hot for Teacher By Van Halen
The first minute of the song is a full-on instrumental. The first 30 seconds of this song is a drum solo followed by the next 30 seconds of incredible guitar playing by the great Eddie Van Halen. This is a music piece that can serve as the ultimate test of one’s command of finger coordination and flexibility. While beginners can play the song in the modest 120s to 140s, this heavy metal song is best played at 240 BPM.
Ten chords should be easy enough for most people. It’s the reading of the tabs that can be very unnerving. That’s why most beginners would rather start learning the song at their own pace. You may not be able to appreciate the harmonics of the song. However, picking up the pace later should do the trick.
16. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Metallica
There are a lot of things that you can learn from this 1984 heavy metal song. The different parts of the song require different techniques of playing the guitar. The intro and verses are easy. The chorus will require some sort of willful fingerpicking. It’s the guitar solos that can be very punishing to the uninitiated. Thankfully, there are learning videos that show you how you can master all these techniques in the shortest time possible.
And when you do get to master the different techniques, you can truly say that you’re a heavy metal guitarist. You can begin including a wah pedal to your guitar and focus on the addition of heavy distortion in the song. This should make it very exciting to play.
17. Raining Blood by Slayer
With a big, scorched earth intro, Raining Blood is not for the faint-hearted guitarist. It has a backwards gallop-like vibe that Lombardo describes as a double-kick. The intro is surprisingly catchy. Play it once and the whole neighborhood will be following. The song’s core guitar riff allows it to lunge to life. It uses 10 of the genre’s most recognizable notes to give the music piece a bit of familiarity.
You should know that Hanneman built the riffs on atonal chromatism. This gives the song a structure that closely resembles what the lyrics depict – sickening. What surprises most people is that the song is terrifyingly evocative, despite its almost hellish message. Can you play this piece on your guitar? Sure, you can. You’ve got to be patient, though.
18. The Ocean by Led Zeppelin
Most people think of The Ocean as a very powerful rock n’ roll piece. However, the very nasty guitar riffs, compliments of Jimmy Page’s jagged fireballs, make this 1972 Led Zeppelin piece a good heavy metal song. It has demonstrative characteristics that we all associate with heavy metal. There’s plenty of clatter, too. The killer coda can be overbearing to some people. But it’s also what gives color to this piece.
Pam-muting and finger sliding are very common features of this song. They’re great techniques to include in your skill set. Sliding the low E should make you feel more like a superstar than a budding metal guitarist. Don’t forget the fingerpick. These are all essential tools that anyone who dreams of becoming a heavy metal guitarist should have.
19. Monkey Business by Skid Row
The intro guitar riff of this 1991 heavy metal song may not be as compelling as those composed by other bands. Nevertheless, it has a groove and rhythm that can catch anyone’s attention within the first few seconds of the song. Monkey Business marks the band’s departure from glam metal, which is ripe with guitar riffs and hooks that draw inspiration from pop music. This is a song that is heavy metal at its finest.
The midtempo of Monkey Business makes it easy enough for absolute newbies to execute the correct rhythm of the song. This also sets you for playing the fingerstyle in a more relaxed manner. As soon as you have the confidence to rip the tabs, then you can start playing the song in its original composition.
20. Jailbreak By AC/DC
Most of us associate AC/DC with hardcore rock and roll songs. However, this band from the Land Down Under doesn’t limit their creations to blues rock and hard rock. They also have phenomenal hits for the heavy metal genre. One of the band’s most popular heavy metal songs is Jailbreak, which the group released in 1976.
Playing this music piece is not that difficult. Perhaps the only challenging part for a beginner guitarist is performing the slides. The technique is not that difficult, although you will have to acclimatize your fingers to the pressure of the string as you move your finger along the string. You should also know how to hold the guitar pick properly and to use it with utmost precision. Palm-muting is also critical.
21. Crystal Skull by Mastodon
A guitar instructor friend of mine always include this 2006 progressive metal song in his list of instructional songs for beginners. I think it has to do with the amazing groove of the song that beginner guitarist find appealing. It also sets them up to perform other techniques.
This groove metal piece is an excellent finger exercise. You’ll feel as if your fretting fingers are clawing on the fretboard. What learners must focus on is the fingerpicking style. There’s no point playing the song if you’re going to strum all the strings. It must be very precise, strumming only those strings that need to be strummed. There are slides, too, that can test the flexibility and agility of your wrists. This makes the song a good piece for learning. If you’re looking for easy metal songs to play on guitar, this is a great song.
22. Milk Lizard by The Dillinger Escape Plan
There are guitarists who love infusing some of the elements of hard rock into their heavy metal songs. If you’re this kind of guitarist, then you’ll love Milk Lizard. This is an alt-metal song by The Dillinger Escape Plan, which the group released in 2007. It did perform well in the charts. However, it found substantial success in digital streaming platforms as well as online sites that offer digital downloads.
This song may not be a chart-buster, but it sure is a good song to include in your collection of must-learn metal guitar songs. The groove is electrifying, especially if you’re able to nail the fingerstyle and fingerpick of the music piece. Master the palm-muting technique as this gives the song its characteristic staccato feel.
23. Now You’ve Got Something to Die for By Lamb of God
Very few people can appreciate the overall composition and songwriting of a death metal piece. The vocals make the singer sound like Cookie Monster having a heyday in Sesame Street. The distorted guitar works are also more extreme than other subgenres of heavy metal. Now, just because this type of song is the most punishing form of heavy metal doesn’t mean you can no longer play this 2004 song by Lamb of God. You still can.
Most metal songs will test your fretting capabilities. This one will test your fingerpicking stamina. The song requires the very rapid picking of the strings, while your fretting fingers are either stationary on the fretboard or dancing all over it. What makes the song so badass is its singular focus on the low registers.
24. Mercury by Clutch
There are plenty of easy-to-learn killer guitar licks on the 2005 opus of Clutch. One of the simplest that you can learn as a beginner is the core guitar riff of Mercury. It has some of the simpler licks in Clutch’s album that beginners should find easy enough to execute. The thing here is that you will be able to train your ears in listening to the ever-present influence of classic blues in other genres like heavy metal.
You’ll also be strumming most of the time. Only in certain sections of the song will you have to employ a few neat fingerpicking techniques. The fingerstyle on the fretboard are also not as furious as what other heavy metal songs dictate. That’s all you need to play this piece.
25. The Devil’s Orchard by Opeth
Drawing inspiration from the antics and musical genius of Alice Cooper, Opeth set out to create a name for themselves in the genre of progressive metal. The group eventually embraced progressive rock, but not after releasing one of their most creative pieces in 2011. The Devil’s Orchard is not a piece for absolute beginner guitarists. The riff alone can be quite complicated to master.
Nevertheless, it is still achievable with commitment and perseverance. What’s tricky is that your ears may tell your brain that the song is in a Middle Eastern scale. The fact of the matter is that the song is in a harmonic minor scale. Focus on the song’s intro guitar riff. This should make you feel more confident about playing the rest of the song.
26. Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne
Many felt sad when Black Sabbath sacked Ozzy Osbourne for his drug- and alcohol-fueled erratic behavior. So, when Ozzy released his very first album as a solo artist, many expected him to deliver. And deliver, he did. This 1980 heavy metal song not only performed well in the charts. It was also one of 40 greatest heavy metal songs. Not bad for someone who got kicked out from a band.
One of the best things about Crazy Train is its iconic guitar riff. While riffs are more popular in rock and roll songs, this heavy metal piece also has plenty of licks. Beginner guitarists will have plenty of riffs to include in their range of guitar licks. You’ll also love exercising your fingers.
27. Rock You Like a Hurricane by Scorpions
This is another exciting heavy metal song that you can use to take your palm muting skills to the next level. And even if you’re not yet familiar with this technique, this 1983 Scorpions signature song will teach you how. The music piece features a lot of syncopated and on-the-beat stabs that will have your brain guessing. And here’s the secret. If you are already familiar and can play power chords with precision, then executing this song’s guitar riff is a piece of cake.
The riffs of the song are memorable. I dare not play this song because I find it almost impossible to wash the riffs off my brain. It is very captivating. It’s exactly what you need to learn the ropes of heavy metal guitar playing.
28. Ace of Spades by Motorhead
They don’t call Ace of Spades a speed metal for nothing. At 280 beats per minute, you’ll find yourself furiously playing every note of this 1980 Motorhead classic. It is an exercise in futility for many beginner guitarists. For those who can conquer the fingerbone-breaking fingerpicks of the song can give themselves more than a mere pat on the back. Executing this piece just like Lemmy did deserves the highest possible accolades.
The intro may be simple. However, like I already mentioned, it’s the tempo that can be unforgiving. Getting the rhythm right is crucial. You will also have to mentally and physically prepare yourself to play the guitar starting on the 12th fret. It’s not convenient. But it’s what makes this song unique.
29. Erotomania By Dream Theater
Dream Theater is not known for making easy-to-play heavy metal songs. However, there are sections in Erotomania that are within the skill level of a beginner guitarist. Keep in mind that this is an instrumental piece that lasts a little under 7 minutes. That’s plenty of time for different guitar playing techniques to learn from.
The main riff should never be a problem as it is simple and quite repetitive. Think of it as a necessary finger warmup exercise and you should be okay. Your brain may tell you that playing the 5/4 riff is difficult. The trick here is to leave just enough space between the riff’s two halves. What is important is not to be intimidated. Just practice the piece over and over to get it right.
30. Cat Scratch Fever by Ted Nugent
If you have already mastered Smoke on the Water, Cat Scratch Fever is the next logical song to learn to play. This song by Ted Nugent has a riff that is almost like the Deep Purple piece. You can play the riff of this song with one finger. After all, most of the guitar that we use in our playing are tuned in fourths. The melody is also easy on the ears.
It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if you can start rocking this piece like the pro in a matter of a few days. The song does require finger coordination, flexibility, and utmost agility. It is easy to feel like your fingers are dancing, complete with that occasional bends that give the song a nice tone.
31. Holy Diver By DIO
I personally love the opening riff of this 1983 heavy metal song. The punchy basslines give the song an impression of a galloping rhythm. It makes you want to dive right into the first verse of the song. Obviously, this galloping groove is what drives the whole song. If you learn this groove, then there shouldn’t be any reason for you not to be able to play Holy Diver.
While the galloping riff is simple enough, it does have a tricky aspect to it. Normally, a change in a guitar riff is so pronounced that you can easily make the shift to the next pattern without missing the beat. Holy Diver has very subtle riff changes that can be challenging to execute with precision if you have untrained ears.
32. Walk by Pantera
You know what makes heavy metal musicians so annoyingly ingenious? They can add a lot of flair to an otherwise simple song structure to fool the mind. Most of the heavy metal greats have very simple patterns. However, the techniques used in the actual playing of the patterns can make the song sound so complex. That’s how Pantera wrote Walk.
The song’s guitar riff only has 3 notes. However, the addition of a swing feels and a bit of syncopation produces a rather complex harmonic. You also get a very unusual first fret bend. Not many guitarists bend the strings near the neck as the strings are too stiff. Execute these tricks, however, and you can easily perform this 1991 groove metal song.
33. Skeletons of Society by Slayer
Want to learn a new trick you can incorporate in your guitar-playing? I suggest Slayer’s Skeletons of Society. It is easy to accomplish the main rhythm of the song with a few basic fingerstyles. However, if you want to up the ante of your heavy metal guitar playing, then you should try the half-a-spider chord trick.
It wouldn’t hurt if you decide to play the song in its preferred manner. The riff is easy enough to execute, although it will put a bit of a strain on your playing wrist. Knowledge of power chords will have you playing this song within minutes. If not, you can always use the piece as a stepping stone to learning some of the essentials of playing heavy metal songs.
34. Symphony of Destruction by Megadeth
This 1992 heavy metal song is one of the best-known songs of Megadeth. It would blow people’s minds away to know that the song’s first 5 seconds contain one of Mozart’s masterpieces, the Offertorium. It is a very surreal introduction to a song that is full of heavy metal guitar riffs. You can always disregard this section of the song, of course. Pay attention to the riffs of this song and you’ll learn that it is one of the easiest to learn.
The song is the ideal metal piece for polishing your ability to play with perfect timing. This Megadeth classic has razor-sharp cuts that give the song a palpable tension between the drums and the soul-reaching bass. Timing is critical in this piece of music.
35. Two Minutes to Midnight by Iron Maiden
One of Iron Maiden’s most successful songs, 2 Minutes to Midnight is a heavy metal classic that takes protest songs to a whole new level. The riff can be trickier to execute than some of the songs I listed here. It is never impossible, nevertheless. This is a music piece that can awaken your senses by having your fingers work through the strings at a frenzied pace.
Like many heavy metal songs, it’s the tempo that can spell the difference between getting the song right and giving up early in the game. If you can handle a song with a crazy 280 BPM tempo, then this song’s 188 BPM beat should be a cinch.
The heart and soul of any metal guitar song is the riff. Master the basic riffs of these metal guitar songs and you should be able to further improve your guitar playing skills. Be patient, however. Most of these songs don’t have tabs that demand a very different kind of musical understanding. You’ll be fine if you stay determined and committed to what you want to accomplish.
My name is Chris and I’ve had a passion for music and guitars for as long as I can remember. I started this website with some of my friends who are musicians, music teachers, gear heads, and music enthusiasts so we could provide high-quality guitar and music-related content.
I’ve been playing guitar since I was 13 years old and am an avid collector. Amps, pedals, guitars, bass, drums, microphones, studio, and recording gear, I love it all.
I was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania. My background is in Electrical Engineering earning a Bachelor’s degree from Youngstown State University. With my engineering experience, I’ve developed as a designer of guitar amplifiers and effects. A true passion of mine, I’ve designed, built, and repaired a wide range of guitar amps and electronics. Here at the Guitar Lobby, our aim is to share our passion for Music and gear with the rest of the music community.