James Hetfield On His Playing Style, ‘I’m Like A Barbarian When I Play’


Metallica frontman James Hetfield recently talked about his guitar-playing style in a conversation with the famous instrument manufacturer Ernie Ball. The singer said he is a little bit of a ‘barbarian’ while playing.

James Hetfield is best known for his unique and powerful singing voice that moves Metallica’s sound to the next level. While his songwriting is also a prominent feature of the vocalist, his signature rhythm guitar playing also receives praise. It is one of the most significant components of the band’s style. Hetfield is using the down-picking rhythm style, which he helped to pioneer.

He successfully sings without losing consistency while he keeps his rhythm guitar playing fast and precise. His distinctive guitar work is a big part of his overall style as a heavy metal icon. The singer recently collaborated with Ernie Ball for his first-ever signature set of guitar strings, Papa Het’s Hardwired Master Cores. The limited edition of the guitar strings comes in a green metal tin with custom artwork designed by Hetfield.

In a new video promotion for Ernie Ball, James Hetfield reflected on his playing style and the influences that shaped his guitar. He revealed that his playing mixes various genres, including punk and heavy rock. He said he is like a ‘barbarian’ while playing. The singer is mainly interested in the riffs since he thinks they are the keystones of any song. Hetfield mentioned Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi and the Ramones founder Johnny Ramone who helped him develop his down-picking style.

Hetfield’s words on his playing style:

“As far as my playing style, it is a mismatch of a bunch of different stuff. I’m a barbarian when I play. I’m always interested in the riff. It was the foundation of the song. Tony Iommi is ruling the song with his riff, and everything else joins him. You know, Johnny Ramone, lots of down-picking, just fast down-picking. That helped develop my style, so it is a combination of punk rock and heavy rock at the time, turned into just the down-picking style and melody along with it.”

You can watch the video below.