“Master of Puppets” is a song by the American heavy metal band Metallica, released in 1986. It’s renowned for its intricate guitar work and is considered one of the most iconic songs in the history of metal music. The song showcases a mix of fast, aggressive riffs and melodic interludes that make it a challenging yet rewarding piece to learn on the guitar.

For aspiring guitarists, learning to play “Master of Puppets” can be a significant milestone. Its complex structure and techniques offer an excellent opportunity to improve their skills, particularly in the realm of heavy metal.

Mastering this song not only provides a sense of accomplishment but also helps in understanding the intricacy of Metallica’s musical style.

It’s a testament to the versatility and power of the guitar as an instrument, demonstrating how it can drive both melody and rhythm in a song.

Understanding the Song Structure

“Master of Puppets” is a song with a complex structure that showcases Metallica’s musical prowess. It’s essential to understand this structure to learn how to play the song effectively on the guitar.

The song can be broken down into several distinct parts:

  1. Intro: The song begins with a clean, melodic intro that builds up to the first heavy riff of the song. This part is characterized by its iconic hammer-on and pull-off techniques.
  2. Verse: The verse features fast, palm-muted power chords followed by a more melodic section. This part requires precise timing and rhythm to execute correctly.
  3. Chorus: The chorus of “Master of Puppets” is a slower, more melodic section with a strong emphasis on down-picking. It’s important to keep the rhythm steady during this part.
  4. Interlude: The interlude is a clean, arpeggiated section that provides a contrast to the heavy riffs in the rest of the song. It requires careful finger placement and picking technique.
  5. Solo: The solo in “Master of Puppets” is a showcase of lead guitar techniques, including fast alternate picking, bends, and slides. It’s a challenging part of the song that requires advanced skills.
  6. Outro: The outro returns to the heavy, aggressive style of the intro and verse, ending the song on a high note.

Understanding the structure of “Master of Puppets” is the first step in learning how to play this iconic song on the guitar. Each part offers unique challenges and techniques that will help you grow as a guitarist.

Required Equipment

Playing “Master of Puppets” requires not just skill, but also the right equipment. Here’s a look at what you’ll need:

  1. Guitar: The song is played on an electric guitar. Metallica’s James Hetfield used a Gibson Explorer for the original recording, but any quality electric guitar should suffice.
  2. Pick vs Fingers: “Master of Puppets” is primarily played with a pick. The aggressive down-picking and fast palm-muted sections are easier and more accurately executed with a pick. However, the interlude might require some fingerpicking, so being comfortable with both techniques is beneficial.
  3. Amplifiers: An electric guitar amplifier is essential to achieve the heavy, distorted tone characteristic of this song. A tube amplifier is often preferred for its warm, dynamic sound, but a solid-state amplifier can work as well.
  4. Pedals: To mimic the song’s original tone, you might need a few guitar pedals. A distortion or overdrive pedal is crucial for the heavy sections of the song. Additionally, a wah pedal is used in the solo section to add expressiveness.
  5. Other Accessories: A guitar strap for playing while standing, a tuner for ensuring your guitar is correctly tuned, and a metronome for practicing timing and rhythm can all be helpful.

Tuning Your Guitar

The correct tuning of your guitar is crucial when attempting to play “Master of Puppets.” The song is played in standard tuning, which means from the lowest (thickest) string to the highest (thinnest), your guitar should be tuned to E, A, D, G, B, E.

Here are the steps to correctly tune your guitar:

  1. Start with the Low E String: This is the thickest string and should be tuned to the lowest E on your guitar. You can use a tuner or a reference pitch from a piano or tuning fork.
  2. Tune the A String: Press down the 5th fret of the low E string, this should give you an A note. Play this note and the open A string (the second thickest string) together. Adjust the tuning peg for the A string until both notes sound the same.
  3. Tune the D String: Similar to the previous step, press down the 5th fret of the A string for a D note. Adjust the open D string (the third thickest string) until it matches this note.
  4. Tune the G String: Press down the 5th fret of the D string for a G note. Tune the open G string (the fourth thickest string) to match this note.
  5. Tune the B String: This time, press down the 4th fret of the G string for a B note. Tune the open B string (the second thinnest string) to match this note.
  6. Tune the High E String: Press down the 5th fret of the B string for an E note. Tune the open high E string (the thinnest string) to match this note.

Learning the Main Riffs

“Master of Puppets” is known for its aggressive and intricate riffs. Here’s a breakdown of the main riffs and some tips to master them:

  1. Main Riff (Intro/Verse): This iconic riff starts with a series of power chords in a fast, down-picked rhythm. It includes a quick hammer-on and pull-off section that requires precision and speed. Practice this part slowly, focusing on keeping your down-picking consistent and your fretting fingers precise.
  2. Pre-Chorus Riff: This riff is a rapid series of palm-muted open E notes followed by power chords. The key here is maintaining the rhythm while switching between palm-muting and full strumming.
  3. Chorus Riff: The chorus features slower power chords with a melodic lead line over the top. Work on synchronizing your picking hand with your fretting hand to ensure the notes ring out clearly.
  4. Bridge Riff: This is a complex riff featuring palm-muted notes and power chords. Start slow and gradually increase your speed as you become more comfortable.

Here are some tips for mastering these riffs:

  • Start Slow: Start by playing the riffs slowly, focusing on accuracy rather than speed. Gradually increase your speed as you become more comfortable.
  • Use a Metronome: A metronome can help you keep time and ensure that you’re playing the riffs at the right tempo.
  • Practice Down-Picking: “Master of Puppets” is known for its aggressive down-picking style. Practice your down-picking to get the right sound and feel for the song.
  • Work on Palm-Muting: Many of the riffs in “Master of Puppets” use palm-muting to create a heavy, chuggy sound. Practice your palm-muting technique to get this sound right.

Mastering the Verses

The verses in “Master of Puppets” are a combination of speedy power chords and intricate lead lines. Here’s a step-by-step guide to playing them:

  1. Power Chords: The verses start with a series of fast, down-picked power chords. Make sure your fretting hand is comfortable moving quickly between these chord shapes.
  2. Lead Lines: After the power chords, there is a melodic lead line that requires precise finger placement and picking. Practice this part slowly until you can play it accurately.
  3. Transition to Pre-Chorus: The verse ends with a transition to the pre-chorus, which involves a quick change from the lead line back to the power chords. Work on this transition to make sure it’s smooth and seamless.

Here are some tips for practicing the verses:

  • Slow Down: Start by playing the verse slowly to ensure you’re playing all the notes correctly. Gradually increase your speed as you become more comfortable.
  • Use a Metronome: A metronome can help you keep time and ensure you’re playing the verse at the correct tempo.
  • Practice Transitions: The verse involves several transitions between power chords and lead lines. Spend extra time practicing these transitions to make sure they’re smooth and seamless.
  • Break It Down: If you’re having trouble with the verse, try breaking it down into smaller parts. Practice each part individually before putting them all together.

Conquering the Chorus

The chorus in “Master of Puppets” is a complex section that combines slower power chords with a melodic lead line. Here’s how you can conquer it:

  1. Power Chords: The chorus starts with a series of power chords played at a slower tempo than the verse. You’ll need to focus on your down-picking technique here, ensuring that each strum is clear and precise.
  2. Lead Line: Over the power chords, there’s a melodic lead line that adds depth to the chorus. This line requires good control over your fretting hand to play the notes accurately.

Here are some techniques for playing the chorus effectively:

  • Control Your Picking: The slower tempo of the chorus means you’ll need to have good control over your picking hand. Practice your down-picking technique to ensure each note rings out clearly.
  • Practice the Lead Line Separately: The lead line in the chorus can be tricky. Try practicing it separately from the power chords until you’re comfortable with it, then combine it with the chords.
  • Work on Transitions: Moving from the fast-paced verse to the slower chorus can be challenging. Spend extra time working on this transition to make sure it’s smooth.
  • Use a Metronome: As always, practicing with a metronome can help you keep time and ensure you’re playing the chorus at the correct tempo.

Navigating the Interlude

The interlude in “Master of Puppets” is a change of pace from the aggressive riffs and power chords that dominate the song. It’s a melodic, slower section that requires a different set of skills. Here’s a guide to navigating it:

  1. Melodic Line: The interlude features a clean, melodic line that’s played on the higher strings. This part requires precision with your fretting hand and a gentle touch with your picking hand.
  2. Chord Progression: Underneath the melody, there’s a simple chord progression. You’ll need to switch smoothly between these chords while maintaining the rhythm.

Here are some suggestions for mastering this part:

  • Slow Down: Unlike the rest of the song, the interlude isn’t about speed. Take your time and focus on playing each note clearly and accurately.
  • Practice Fingerpicking: If you’re used to playing with a pick, the interlude might be a challenge. Spend some time practicing fingerpicking to get comfortable with this technique.
  • Work on Chord Changes: The interlude requires smooth transitions between chords. Practice changing between these chords until you can do it smoothly and confidently.
  • Use a Metronome: Even though the interlude is slower, it’s still important to keep time. Use a metronome to ensure you’re playing at the correct tempo.

Tackling the Solo

The solo in “Master of Puppets” is a showcase of technical skill and musicality. It’s challenging, but with the right approach, you can learn to play it accurately. Here’s a detailed breakdown:

  1. Fast Runs: The solo begins with a series of fast runs up and down the fretboard. These require precision and speed from your fretting hand, as well as accurate picking.
  2. Bends and Vibrato: After the fast runs, there are several bends and vibrato notes. These techniques require good finger strength and control to execute accurately.
  3. Tapping Section: Towards the end of the solo, there’s a tapping section that requires coordination between your fretting and picking hands. This part can be tricky, but with practice, you can master it.

Here are some tips for playing the solo accurately:

  • Start Slow: As with any complex guitar part, start by playing the solo slowly. Gradually increase your speed as you become more comfortable.
  • Break It Down: If you’re having trouble with the solo, try breaking it down into smaller sections. Practice each section individually before putting them all together.
  • Work on Your Techniques: The solo uses several advanced techniques, including fast runs, bends, vibrato, and tapping. Spend time working on these techniques separately to improve your overall performance.
  • Use a Metronome: Practicing with a metronome can help you keep time and ensure you’re playing the solo at the correct tempo.

Perfecting the Outro

The outro of “Master of Puppets” brings a powerful close to the song, combining elements from earlier sections and introducing new ones. Here’s a step-by-step guide to playing it:

  1. Recapitulation: The outro begins by revisiting some of the themes from the intro and verse, but with a twist. Make sure you’re comfortable with these parts before moving on.
  2. New Riffs: After the recapitulation, there are some new riffs that require fast down-picking and precise fretting. Practice these riffs slowly until you can play them accurately.
  3. Final Chords: The song ends with a series of powerful chords. Make sure you can transition smoothly between these chords to bring the song to a strong close.

Here are some practice suggestions for this section:

  • Slow Down: As always, start by playing the outro slowly to ensure accuracy. Gradically increase your speed as you become more comfortable.
  • Recap: Spend some time revisiting the parts of the song that are repeated in the outro. This will help you transition smoothly into the new material.
  • Work on Transitions: The outro involves several transitions between different parts. Spend extra time working on these transitions to make sure they’re smooth and seamless.
  • Use a Metronome: A metronome can help you keep time and ensure you’re playing the outro at the correct tempo.

Playing the Full Song

Combining all the parts of “Master of Puppets” into a cohesive whole is the final challenge. Here’s some advice for putting it all together:

  1. Revisit Each Part: Before attempting to play the full song, make sure you’re comfortable with each individual part. Spend extra time on any sections that are giving you trouble.
  2. Practice Transitions: Moving smoothly between different parts of the song is key to playing it successfully. Practice the transitions until you can do them without thinking.
  3. Play Along with the Song: Once you’re comfortable with all the parts, try playing along with the song. This will help you get a feel for how everything fits together.

Here are some tips for maintaining rhythm and timing:

  • Use a Metronome: A metronome is an invaluable tool for keeping time. Use it when practicing to ensure you’re playing at the correct tempo.
  • Count Out Loud: Counting out loud can help you keep track of the beat, especially during complex sections.
  • Tap Your Foot: Tapping your foot to the beat can also help you keep time. Try doing this while you play to improve your rhythm.
  • Listen to the Drum Beat: The drums can provide a helpful guide for maintaining the rhythm. Listen to the drum beat while you play to stay on time.


“Master of Puppets” is a challenging yet rewarding song to learn. It tests your skills in various techniques, from rapid down-picking to intricate finger-tapping, and it offers an excellent chance to improve your rhythm, timing, and overall musicianship.

Remember, learning any piece of music, especially something as complex as “Master of Puppets”, is a journey. It’s not about how quickly you can play the song, but how well you understand and interpret each part. Every time you pick up your guitar and practice, you’re making progress, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.

So, stay patient with yourself. Embrace the challenges and celebrate your victories, no matter how small they may seem. Above all, keep practicing. With time and perseverance, you’ll find yourself playing “Master of Puppets” with confidence and precision.

In the end, the joy of music comes from the process of learning and growing as a musician. So, keep exploring, keep experimenting, and most importantly, keep playing. Your dedication will pay off, and you’ll be rewarded with the unparalleled satisfaction of mastering this iconic Metallica track. Good luck!

FAQs about “How to Play Master of Puppets on Guitar”

What techniques do I need to know to play “Master of Puppets”?

The song incorporates a variety of guitar techniques, including down-picking, finger-tapping, bending, vibrato, and chord transitions. You’ll also need to be comfortable playing both rhythm and lead parts.

“Master of Puppets” seems fast. How can I keep up?

Start by practicing slowly and gradually increase your speed as you become more comfortable. Using a metronome can help you maintain the correct tempo.

I’m having trouble with the solo. Any tips?

Break down the solo into smaller sections and practice each part individually. Work on your techniques, such as fast runs, bends, vibrato, and tapping, before putting it all together.

The outro is challenging. How can I master it?

Spend time revisiting the parts of the song that are repeated in the outro. Practice the new riffs and chord transitions slowly until you can play them smoothly and confidently.

How can I make sure I’m playing the song accurately?

Besides practicing with a metronome, try playing along with the song to ensure accuracy. Also, focus on clean fretting and precise picking for a clear sound.

How long will it take me to learn “Master of Puppets”?

It depends on your current skill level and how much time you dedicate to practice. Remember, learning a song like “Master of Puppets” is a journey, so be patient with yourself and enjoy the process.

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I am an avid Mac-user, nerd, musician, freelancer, and gamer. Ask me about my collection of M:TG cards! I've also got a horrible habit of needing the absolute newest technological wonder, whether it's stable or not. If they made a home-version of the LHC, I'd have 2. Additionally, I've been playing music for the better part of 14 years. I'm self-taught on piano, guitar, trumpet, trombone, sax, clarinet, bass, drums and other percussion, and around 10 other instruments. I also spend quite a bit of time dabbling in synthesizers, sequencers, and samplers. I'm also founder of Quotelicious where I collect and share the quotes I love.


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