80s Style Metal Guitar Riff

Latest Album Heavy Metal Workout II

The 80s brought us a new era of complex guitar playing and melodic riffs. And of course a plethora of hair bands, which I openly admit I was a big fan of. I want to share an 80s style metal riff I came up with the other day that represents that era of music quite well.

80s Style Metal Riff Tabs:

80s Style Metal Riff

Lesson starts at: 0:40

80s Rock & Metal Styles

The mid to late 80s consists of my beginning phases of becoming a musician (it was 1991 when I actually picked up the guitar), and some of my greatest musical influences. I started out with Metallica’s Master of Puppets (1986), …And Justice for All (1988), and Joe Satriani’s Flying in a Blue Dream (1989). Those are the core albums that sparked my interest in playing guitar.

As I got deeper into hard rock and heavy metal music, I started listening to bands like Dokken, Queensryche, Scorpions, Def Leppard, Guns n’ Roses, Whitesnake, and too many more to name. One thing all of these bands have in common are extremely cool metal riffs.

I was somewhere between heavy metal and the hair bands in those days. Yes, I realize that most metal heads hated hair bands. But me being huge into melodic style music, a lot of their songs, especially the hair band ballads, just hit me. And despite the makeup and all, the guitar players were pretty amazing (yes, ‘pretty’ and amazing!).

80s Metal Guitar Riff

The riff you hear me playing in the video is something I came up with spur of the moment. I have metal songs and other riffs very similar to this one. The 80s rock and metal influence is prevalent.

Most of the heavier music I write is in the key of E minor because that’s the heaviest you can get without down-tuning. When I’m going for an 80s metal style riff I’ll often use the key of A minor, which is what I’m doing in the lesson here.

This key gives you more of that hard rock edge. I also noticed that when I’m playing more single notes in my rhythms at a higher key, those notes are a little more prominent and there’s a different tone that comes out.

80s Style Metal Riff - Jason Stallworth

80s Metal Guitar Technique

There’s a specific technique I want to talk about here that I didn’t mention in the video (this is why I have a blog; I always think of things like this after having published the video!).

When I’m playing single notes between power chords, I’ll often pick the string using the pick and the edge of my thumb. This is the same technique used for those squeals you hear is guitar solos. But I’m not necessarily looking for that drawn-out squeal. Rather, I’m going for a quick edgy tone. So I’m not using this technique as aggressive. And it’s a very quick on-and-off technique, if that makes sense.

More 80s Guitar Riffs Coming Soon

I plan to do some more 80s metal guitar video-blog lessons. This style is really the heart of my own music that I write. It’s my roots; it’s where it all started for me.

My own music has more of a modern and heavier feel but you will hear the 80s style in my playing mixed in with that. So stay tuned for similar riffs in the future on here.

Keep it Metal,


3 Comments on 80s Style Metal Guitar Riff

  1. Are esp guitars your choice for metal?thats what I use so just wondering if you think they are the best for metal ,love your videos

    • Thanks Donnie, I appreciate the support. I do love my ESP M1000 Deluxe. The EMG pickups have a lot to do with metal tones as well. I also have an Ibanez RG1570 I record with now and then. I actually used the Ibanez to record my latest album Heavy Metal Workout.

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