Four Kerry King-style rhythm guitar workouts

Wage war on the fretboard

Four Kerry King style rhythm guitar workouts
(Image: © Chris Schwegler/Retna Ltd./Corbis)

Kerry King has one of the tightest, most aggressive rhythm styles in thrash, so we've written four Slayer-style exercises to help you nail his technique.

First up, we're looking at the aggressive riffi ng style of track such as War Ensemble, which, ironically, should be performed with a relaxed, fluid picking technique.

Next, we show you how to recreate some of Slayer's more chaotic-sounding riffs, by playing short chromatic lines with rapid alternate picking.

Moving on, we have a riff using quintessential Slayer intervals: the b2nd and the b5th, from tracks such as Seasons In The Abyss. Our final riff showcases a typical Slayer rhythm trick: the down-up-down 'reverse gallop' riff.


This is bread-and-butter Slayer-style aggressive rhythm work.

Keep your pick hand moving in eighth-note downstrokes; the upstrokes should fall naturally in between without adjusting your movement.

Ex1 tab (right-click to download)


You can replicate the vibe of Slayer's chaotic riffs using runs of chromatic notes (notes that are one fret apart), as shown here.

The 16th-note rhythm allied to machine-gun drums at 150bpm are also key.

Ex2 tab (right-click to download)


The b2nd and b5th are crucial intervals in thrash; play through this riff and you'll soon be using these dissonant sounds in your own riffs.

Here, the b2nd is the F note and the b5th is the Bb (E is the root note). Notice the change of texture as the final three notes ring together for even more dissonance.

Ex3 tab (right-click to download)


This riff kicks off with a staple Slayer-style trick: the fast 32nd-note 'down up down' single-note line.

It is played at some speed, so you'll need a steady pick hand and you may prefer to practise slowly to begin with. The remainder of the riff uses the chromatic scale to create an unsettled tonality.

Ex4 tab (right-click to download)

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