Metal is awesome fun to listen to, and it’s great to play on guitar too! It can be intimidating for beginners to the style, or to beginner guitarists in general – it’s often extremely fast, and can seem like it needs an impossible level of skill to play!
Nevertheless, it’s one of the most popular and influential genres of guitar-based music, and can be a lot of fun for anyone. And, of course, there are some great songs that are perfect for someone who want to learn how to play metal!
What better way to learn about metal, and some of its greatest songwriters, than to learn how to play some classics?
Some of them are actually surprisingly easy to play – and, in addition to being great songs to learn to make you a better player, are SO MUCH FUN to turn up loud and rock out to!
With that said, here’s a list of 15 of the best songs for learning metal! You’ll read about some of the best metal songs, and some useful techniques for playing them! Rock on!
Judas Priest – Breaking The Law
Breaking The Law, from Judas Priest’s 1980 masterpiece British Steel, is one of the most hard rocking songs ever – an absolute banger that everyone loves.
It’s one of their most famous songs for lots of good reasons – not least is the fact that it’s so simple and catchy!
Breaking The Law is proof that Judas Priest are master songwriters – and that it doesn’t take the most complex riffs to make the most awesome song.
There’s nothing too flashy in this song, but there is some serious business riffage.
It opens with a cool but very easy guitar line on the A and low E strings – the signature riff of the song. It’s so easy you could learn it on your first day of playing, and yet it’s still an awesome riff!
One of the best things about learning this song is just how many useful techniques are in it for beginners.
It teaches you how to play simple melody lines, powerchords, muting – and it’s always good to play something simple like this to work on your timing too! After all, if it’s so easy – there shouldn’t be any excuses for more advanced players, right?
Megadeth – Symphony Of Destruction
Megadeth aren’t exactly known for making easy songs! They’re a band more typically known for amazing guitar playing, pushing the limits of thrash guitar through their career.
However, Symphony Of Destruction has one of the simplest main riffs of any metal song! That doesn’t make it any less of an absolute beast though – it also has one of the hugest sounds of any metal song.
One powerchord and a few notes – and some muting. That will get you through all of the verses of Symphony Of Destruction!
As always, pay attention to timing and muting – you need everything to sound super right. No notes ringing out when they shouldn’t – the bass and drums need room to be effective in this track, which means knowing when the guitar shouldn’t make noise!
Symphony Of Destruction would be nothing without that pumping bassline, so you need to get out of the way for it!
The bridge and chorus are going to be a bit harder to play, however – but they’re so awesome, they’re well worth pushing yourself to learn!
And, for a long term goal, the solo – just be aware that Marty Friedman never messed around a day in his life. Definitely a lot of work to put in on that one!
Metallica – Seek And Destroy
One of Metallica’s earliest songs, Seek And Destroy is also one of their coolest, and a fan favorite.
Bouncy and extremely catchy, this shows that even in their early days, when they were primarily a thrash metal band, Metallica knew how to write a total crowd pleaser.
The opening riff will stick in your head for days if you’ve never heard it before! This is an old-school classic that always gets heads banging.
Seeing as the song opens with two tightly palm-muted notes, you need to be able to do really tight muting to get the right sound. If you’re not too good at palm-muting, this is a great song to learn how it should sound with a relatively slow riff.
You should be able to hear the contrast between muted and unmuted notes quite easily. You’ll learn about hammer-ons and pull-offs too!
Get that muting right and this is going to sound tight and amazing. You might have trouble with some sections of the song, depending on your skill level, but even playing just some sections of this metal classic is an awesome thing to do!
It’s a lot of fun, and if you’re just getting started, it’ll help you develop a lot of useful core skills for metal guitar.
Black Sabbath – Children Of The Grave
Children Of The Grave has one of the biggest, most awesome riffs in metal history. From 1971’s Master Of Reality album by Black Sabbath, this song is one of the most memorable metal songs of all time.
It’s a rifftastic beast too! So much fun to play on any instrument – as well as having awesome guitar riffs, it has a powerful, driving bassline, and absolutely amazing drums. However, it’s guitar that we’re here for!
Tony Iommi, the guitarist for Black Sabbath, famously had an accident in a factory that resulted in him losing his fingertips.
One of the outcomes of this was that it led him to often using lower tuned guitar strings, in order to play with greater ease – lower tunings mean the strings are under less tension, and require less force to play.
This means that you’ll be tuning your guitar down to play this one properly – down to C# standard. From thickest to thinnest string, your tuning will be C#, F#. B, E, G#, C#.
All of your chord shapes stay the same in this tuning – they’re just playing lower notes now. For instance, any E minor chord you played in standard tuning is a C# minor chord in this tuning. Metal bands use lower tunings like this all the time!
Rammstein – Rosenrot
Rammstein, the Neue Deutsche Härte titans, have a knack for making absolutely colossal sounding metal. Their riffs are often easy to play, and they’re usually really, really catchy.
Rosenrot is a great example – and while it’s a primarily bass led track, it has some cool riffs that are worth the wait.
You’ll be using a lower tuning than standard – from thickest to thinenst, tune your strings to C, G, C, F, A, and D.
Note that there are two C strings – this is because the whole guitar is tuned two steps down from standard, and then the lowest string is downtuned another 2 steps.
This gives it a much lower note, which can sound really thick and chunky. It also lets you play powerchords with just one finger, which is great for metal – lots of bands use this!
Judas Priest – Living After Midnight
Oh yes. What an absolute banger this is – and so much fun to play too. Living After Midnight is yet another song that might endanger your friendship with your neighbors – especially if you’re living the dream with that giant Marshall stack.
Yet another song from the British Steel album – the fact that 3 of the best songs on it are also very easy to play surely must be one reason why guitarists have loved Judas Priest for decades.
Not only do they do great songs, but quite a few of their songs are great for beginners to learn!
Of course, for more advanced players, there’s Painkiller – just listening to the drum solo at the start should clue you in that Painkiller is a MUCH more intense song to play. Judas Priest didn’t always make it easy on us!
Another simple powerchord riff here, backed up by powerful yet simple bass and drum sections. That’s one of the best bits about playing this song – waiting for your time to come in while that drumbeat counts you in!
A great song, great fun to play, and one every metalhead should learn.
Metallica – Enter Sandman
Metallica’s 1991 self titled album, most commonly known as the Black Album, made them a global phenomenon. With riffs like these, it’s no surprise!
Enter Sandman is probably the most famous Metallica song, and it’s a classic that every metal fan knows. It sounds absolutely huge, and is an absolute blast to play!
It starts off with a clean section – nothing too hard here, but watch out for your fingering. You need some notes to ring out, so don’t accidentally mute them by lifting off too early or by accidentally touching the string while it’s sounding a note.
If you’re using a pedal to change to an overdriven sound for the next part, practice your timing – get this right and the transition will sound awesome!
Oh, and make sure you get your palm muting nice and tight on the chuggy bits – you want them to sound as heavy and precise as possible.
As always, timing is everything – the key to making this sound so big is in playing it precisely. Get locked in with the other instruments, and bang your head if it helps!
Black Sabbath – Paranoid
Going back to the band that started it all – and what a song they made in Paranoid.
Far from being the album filler that Black Sabbath reportedly considered it during recording, Paranoid was an instant classic, and is one of the most rocking songs ever recorded.
And, that means, of course, that it’s a great song to play on guitar! It’s pretty easy and a lot of fun too.
Paranoid isn’t one of Black Sabbath’s heaviest songs, but it’s big, loud and fun. You’ll be playing powerchords on the lowest three strings, with some muting, of course – listen to the track for the muting!
The main riff is played using a technique called hammering-on. This means that you pick a note, and then fret a higher note on the same string without picking again.
You can do this in reverse too – picking a note you’ve fretted. and then “pulling off” your finger to play a fretted lower note on the same string, without picking again. Unsurprisingly, this is called a “pull-off”!
The main riff uses hammer-ons for its signature sound – picking every note just doesn’t sound the same! Practice these, as they’re an essential guitar technique – another excuse to learn Paranoid!
Iron Maiden – Fear Of The Dark
Iron Maiden have always had a talent for making great sing-along songs – and awesome play-along songs too! Fear Of The Dark is an amazingly fun song to play. It’s got a lot of guitar in it, unsurprisingly – and the riffs are great for beginners to learn!
The track opens with a really cool muted harmonized guitar line – learn both bits to really understand the song! Harmonies like these are all over the place in Iron Maiden songs.
After that, there’s a really cool clean section, that builds up tension for when the song really explodes. Play it cleanly, and pay attention to when you need to kick the distortion in!
You’ll be using powerchords during the verses and choruses, of course – not that that’s a problem! They’re one of the cornerstones of metal guitar, after all.
As is often the case in metal songs though, the lead parts – they’re something you’re going to really have to work on!
Metallica – For Whom The Bell Tolls
This is one of Metallica’s easiest songs to learn, but easily one of their best! From 1984’s Ride The Lightning album, this is an absolute beast of a song.
Full of huge sounding powerchords and fun palm-muted chugs, it’s an absolute blast to play, and is one of the first songs many metalheads learn.
It’s another song that’s got a lot of things that are great for a beginner to learn, and yet still remains an awesome song to play no matter your skill level!
For Whom The Bell Tolls uses a lot of lingering powerchords, so you’re going to need to make sure they ring out for exactly as long as they should – no more, no less.
You can always “cheat” with a bit of reverb – after all, there’s reverb on the guitars on the track! Don’t go overboard though – this is metal, so the guitar sound needs to be pretty in your face.
There’s some cool lead bits in here too that can be a great way to get introduced to playing a bit further up the neck! Just remember that the lead bit right at the start is actually done on bass – you should normally just be playing powerchords then.
Up to you, though – have fun!
Oh – be aware that the album version is tuned up a little higher than standard. So, you might want to find an E standard version on YouTube.
Judas Priest – Grinder
Judas Priest here again, with another absolute classic. Grinder, another track from British Steel, is another simple song to play – and another great one to turn up loud and rock out to.
It’s really, really fun to play, and seems to get more fun the louder you turn it up! Remember to be nice to your neighbors, of course.
Based around simple powerchords in A minor, this is an easy song that will still need you to pay attention a little bit – the most challenging part of this song is making sure that you mute the strings well.
You don’t want them to ring out and sound bad when they should be silent. Palm muting the chuggy bits too, that’s key to getting the right sound.
Like pretty much all Judas Priest songs, there’s a killer solo later on too – but that might be one for more advanced players. Still, it’s something to work towards!
Grinder is an awesome song to play, and the fact that players of all skill levels can have fun playing it is so cool!
Rammstein – Mein Land
This is another great Rammstein song, that really shows off their skills as satirists, as well as their humanitarian beliefs.
It’s also an absolute unit of a song, with badass guitar parts that are easy to play, but sound absolutely massive! And it has a really silly, surf movie themed video, which you absolutely have to check out.
You’ll be using the same tuning as for Rosenrot – C, G, C, F, A, and D, from thickest to thinnest string.
You might notice your strings are less tight than when playing in standard tuning – depending on what string gauge you’re using, you might want to consider using thicker strings when using low tunings.
Of course, these make it tougher to play when going back up to standard!
Black Sabbath – Iron Man
A behemoth of a song, with riffs to match! This is one of Black Sabbath’s most popular and beloved songs, and a great one to bust out the guitar to. A simple, catchy riff, that you can learn in minutes – and it’s not even too hard to sing along to! Don’t be shy – have some fun!
Still, we’re here for the riffs, not the vocals or lyrics, as fun as they are. You’ve got some cool bends right at the start, that are impossible to do unless you know the trick.
Iommi is bending the lowest note on his guitar – but how, if he’s not fretting anything? Well, he’s actually bending it behind the nut, closer to the tuners.
That way, he can bend the open E string – without a whammy bar! It’s not a huge bend, but it is a very cool sound, and it’s key to getting the intro of Iron Man right!
Simple powerchords here from Tony Iommi, but with only three instruments in the band, every note and beat is significant. Get your timing right and you’ll sound badass – lock in with the bass and drums, as well as following Tony Iommi!
Metallica – My Friend Of Misery
My Friend Of Misery, another track from Metallica’s Black Album, is another great metal song that’s easy to learn! It’s got some trickier bits, of course, but they’re something to work towards – and, for the most part, it’s actually pretty easy!
And, you’ll be backed by some of the most prominent bass work ever recorded by Metallica’s Jason Newsted – and on this track, he sounds amazing. It’s not a very fast song, but the riffs are massive, and a lot of fun to play.
You’ve got some simple chords at the start – A augmented, into the A5 powerchord. Don’t be scared by the names – these are simple chords to fret. You’ll only be playing 3 strings, and only fretting 2 of them!
Then, it’s on to a razor-sharp melodic riff. Yet another instance where your muting is important – get it nice and tight for the right sound! Timing, too, is crucial – get fully locked in with the band if you’re playing along!
There’s a nice clean section to learn too – and a cool set of melodic solos if you’re looking to push yourself a little!
Iron Maiden – The Wicker Man
The Wicker Man is another awesome Iron Maiden song, with catchy riffs that are really fun to play.
It’s crazy to think that this song came out in the year 2000 – it’s proof that Iron Maiden could write an amazing song in their classic style even after two and a half decades together!
The song opens with a simple but killer riff – the drums and bass smashing together with the guitars to make this sound absolutely colossal. With three guitarists already playing on the track, what’s the harm in adding a fourth?
Grab your guitar and get banging on those chunky 5th chords – the “real name” for powerchords.
You can even have a go at the vocals if you like – although Bruce Dickinson, the singer, has an unforgiving mastery of the vocal arts, which makes him difficult to keep up with!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It Hard To Learn How To Play Metal?
No – not to start, anyway! It’s no different from any other sort of music, in that it has its own conventions and standard techniques that need to be learned.
There are metal songs that can be played by beginners relatively easily, and there are also pieces that are difficult for even the best players – and, of course, pieces covering all difficulties in between!
Anyone can learn metal – but just as with jazz, classical, pop, or any style of music – there are depths to it for even the most accomplished musicians to explore.
Do I Need An Expensive Amp Or Guitar To Play Metal?
No! All you really need is some distortion – preferably quite a bit of it, but don’t overdo it! While you can of course get guitars, amps, and speakers that are better suited for metal, you don’t need them to learn how to play metal.
You will, however, fail to get a sound that’s even close if you don’t have distortion or overdrive.
You can even get a great metal sound from software now – there are amazing amp and speaker simulators, and even free ones can sound absolutely killer!
You’ll need an audio interface and recording software to use these, but there are great inexpensive solutions for both that will get you amazing metal tones.
How Do I Palm-Mute?
Press the palm of your picking hand against the bridge of your guitar while you’re picking. Notice how it still makes a note, but it’s a shorter note that doesn’t ring out?
That’s what palm-muting does! It’s an essential metal technique – practice playing palm-muted and unmuted notes to get a feel for how it sounds different.
Playing and learning metal can be a lot of fun! This article has given you some amazing songs to learn – so get rocking!