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The song is in drop D tuning (DADGBE), which means you have to detune your sixth string by a tone (two frets). The track begins with a two-bar count in on the hi-hat followed by the whole band delivering this monstrous riff.
Keeping tight with the rest of the band presents a challenge because both guitars and bass play the same rhythm. Listen out for the hi-hats and drum fills to help you keep the pulse and come back in perfectly sync’d with the rest of the band after each pause.
Guitarists Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield use downstrokes throughout the riff. You can use ‘down, up’ style alternate picking if you prefer, but a constant downstrokes approach has more power and drive.
Start off by playing slowly, making sure that your timing is consistent and that you’ve memorised all the fingerings. As you gain confidence gradually, you can build up the tempo.
Get the sound
Select the bridge pickup to get bite and clarity when playing these distorted rhythm parts. Use a fairly thick pick for maximum control and definition of your downstrokes.
Palm-mute the strings during every rest. This keeps the pauses extra quiet and creates a tight, abrupt ending to each sequence of notes. Turn your reverb to zero: you need a completely dry sound for maximum clarity and impact.