Metal chords

Rock guitarThis article focuses on playing heavy metal on the guitar and gives you instructions about chords that are ingredients in the metal style. What you should know is that chords and chord progression in the usual sense doesn't fully apply to heavy metal, which is often riff based. Nevertheless, is chords part of the underlying harmony. But since chords are not the end goal, this guide includes playing examples that shows how to apply chords in a "metal context".

Power chords and modifications

Power chords combined with palm muting (sometimes on an open string played amid chords) and with a lot of distortion on the amp will make it sound metal.

Standard power chords


  • F#5 chord diagram 244XXX


  • A5 in close position 577XXX


  • B5 in close position 799XXX


  • C5 in close position 81010XXX

This is only four examples, but the shapes are movable. If needed, go to power chords main section. There are other ways to play these chords, for example without octave doubling or with open strings involved. But these three-note versions are suitable for metal. Go to metal lesson for see the chords in action.

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Distorted rock beyond power chords

To mix it up and create a diversity of note colors; to make it a little more "sophisticated", we can add some other chords that either can be combined with power chords or work alone.


  • C/E chord diagram


  • Em chord diagram


  • F/A chord diagram


  • Am chord diagram

Progressions including some of these chords:

C/E – Em – C/E – Em

Am (X025XX) – F5/C (X335XX) – G5/D (X557XX)

The second "package" of beyond-power-chords ideas (with a reminiscent of Foo Fighters):


  • Dsus4/G chord diagram


  • Esus4/A chord diagram


  • E5/B chord diagram

Relevant progressions:

E5 (022XX) – C/E – Dsus4/G

Another concept:

E5 (X79XXX) – Esus4/A (579XXX) – D5 (X57XX) – Dsus4/G (357XXX)

Yet another concept with double stops and three-strings sus chords:

D5/A (XX77XX) – Dsus4/A (XX778X)

You may want to check up the alternate Drop D tuning in which these chords can be practiced with less stretch for the hand.

Notice that 077XXX is also an Esus4 alternative that works great in the metal context.

Well-known songs

Run to the Hills

Artist: Iron Maiden
Album: The Number of the Beast (1982)


E5 - A5 - D5 - E5 C5 - D5 - G5 - A5 (intro)

Comment: Only one or two strokes per chord. The progression is repeated twice and the second time is the final chords G5 - D5 instead of G5- A5.

Living after Midnight

Artist: Judas Priest
Album: British Steel (1980)


E5 - D5 - A5 - B5 (intro & chorus)

Comment: A recommendation is to use the 5th string as bass throughout the whole sequence.

We're Not Gonna Take Take It

Artist: Twisted Sister
Album: Stay Hungry (1984)


E5 - D#5 - C#5 - B5 (intro)

Comment: Two strokes per chord.

Heavens on Fire

Artist: Kizz
Album: Animalize (1984)


G5 - Bb5 - G5 - Bb - C - Bb - C - Bb - G5 (chorus)

Comment: The progression is repeated two times on the first two occasions in the song and six times the last time.

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