Metallica’s Kirk Hammett: Pentatonic Scale Harder Than Fans Assume

Metallica lead guitarist, Kirk Hammett, recently opened up about his views on guitar techniques and his preference for the pentatonic scale in an exclusive interview with Total Guitar. While some critics argue that Hammett relies too heavily on the minor pentatonic scale, the guitarist has a different perspective, asserting that the pentatonic scale is more challenging and expressive than many fans assume.

While the pentatonic scale consists of only five notes, Hammett argues that this limitation forces guitarists to be more creative and intentional with their choices. This perspective aligns with his overall approach to music, which emphasizes playing for the song rather than showcasing technical skills

Hammett stated:

“What’s more appropriate is coming up with melodies that are more like vocal melodies. And guess what? The best scale for mimicking vocal melodies is the pentatonic.”

He went on to defend the scale’s simplicity and challenge, explaining:

“It’s actually harder to say stuff with pentatonics because you don’t have that many notes. It’s easier to play modal. I will challenge anyone on that.”

In the same interview, Hammett also addressed criticism directed towards his solo on “Lux Æterna,” the first single from Metallica’s new album, 72 Seasons. Despite some fans and fellow musicians deeming the solo as his ‘worst,’ Hammett remained defiant, stressing the importance of playing for the song and in the moment.

Hammett’s perspective on the pentatonic scale highlights the ongoing debate between technical prowess and musical expression in the world of guitar playing. The Metallica guitarist emphasized the need for musicians to prioritize the integrity and lasting power of their music over showcasing their technical abilities.

In addition to discussing the pentatonic scale, Hammett shared his thoughts on other guitar techniques like sweep picking and arpeggios. He argued that these techniques can sometimes sound more like exercises or warm-ups than actual music and praised musicians like Joe Satriani, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Paul Gilbert for their ability to use arpeggios expressively.

As the conversation around guitar techniques and musical expression continues to evolve, Hammett’s stance on the pentatonic scale serves as a reminder that sometimes less is more when it comes to creating memorable and impactful music.