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Watch Matt Heafy give an hour-long video lesson in how to play his favourite Trivium riffs

Matt Heafy has sat down with GibsonTV to talk about his favourite Trivium riffs and how to play them. In the latest episode of Riff Lords, the Trivium frontman breaks down the secrets behind the riffs, and explains some of the creative decisions behind them, and there are plenty of lessons to take into our own playing.

The riff from Ember To Inferno – the title track from Trivium’s 2003 debut album – makes an excellent case study for metal guitar players playing in a single-guitar band. When that was written, the Florida metal stalwarts were a three-piece, before Corey Beaulieu joined up later in the year. With more space in the mix to fill, Heafy had to stretch out his parts.

“A big thing with me was making parts that had rhythm and lead guitar essentially built into one part,” says Heafy. “It’s a thing that I developed out of necessity because we didn’t have two guitar players. We couldn’t find a second guitar at the time and having that marriage of rhythm and melody within the same part I think is quite interesting. It’s a way you can realise you can rely on one guitar player versus having two in the band.”

Matt Heafy

(Image credit: Future / Guitar World)

Heafy is more than generous with his time, sharing his insights into Suffocating Sight, Incineration: The Broken World, Into The Mouth Of Hell We March, Betrayer, What The Dead Men Say, and In The Court Of The Dragon. 

You don’t need to be a Trivium fan to get something out of this either. Heafy’s rhythm chops are phenomenal, and he does well to demystify rhythmic groupings that can cause confusion.

Some of these are real knuckle-twisters, quite literally. Into The Mouth Of Hell We March, performed on his seven-string Epiphone Les Paul Custom signature guitar, using octave chords that are big stretch made easy courtesy of a broken pinky.

“I remember writing this intro section on a [John] Petrucci seven-string – the one we did the Crusade on – on a park bench in Copenhagen. It was just a nice day and I decided to make something that sounds very ominous and metal. There’s a lot going on in this track.

“You can see there’s a lot of pinky stuff happening. My pinky looks pretty crazy like that because I actually broke it in high school with a guitar player friend of mine, who was in the band Mindscar. We found one set of boxing gloves, and I wore the right one and he wore the left one, he punched this pinky and it broke. But the way it was broken it healed in a way that it goes much higher than it should, so when I’m playing with leads or you can see that it goes so much higher than it’s supposed to.”

Now, Heafy might have used this to his advantage on chord voicings that would make Andy Summers wince, but breaking the pinky on your fretting hand is to be avoided at all costs. There are plenty of other ways to hack your rhythm guitar game, as Heafy helpfully explains. Check it out at the top of the page.

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.