As well as for Eddie Munson in Stranger Things 4Metallica’s “Master of the Puppet” is, to me, “most metal ever. “I spent my teenage years studying the guitar obsessively, and Metallica was one of my biggest influences. Guitarist James Hetfield’s combination of vocals and rhythms and progressive song structure along with lead guitar chops Kirk Hammett gave me a lot to try and master. I was never fast or accurate enough to finish Metallica’s toughest tracks, but I was able to make a pretty good impression when I got into my game.
About 20+ years later, I decided to stay out of my game, having only played sporadically over the past decade. I’ve been trying to get back to fit and start, but nothing has been really difficult. Recently, however, the Finnish company Yousician came to my attention thanks to a partnership with – who else? – Metallica.
At a high level, the Yousician software will listen to your guitar playing and match it to the lesson or song you’re trying to play, giving you a higher score depending on how accurate you are. The app has courses and songs for guitar, piano, bass, ukulele and vocals, but my time is just for the guitar part.
For those who haven’t played before, there are countless introductory lessons – but the most interesting thing about Yousician for someone like me is the song arrangement. The app contains a lot of popular songs that, in my limited testing, have fairly accurate recordings that help you learn how to play along with the original recording. Queuing a song displays a continuous scrolling overview of the song; Play along with it and Yousician will try and let you know if you hit a chord right to the beat, whether you’re a little early or late or you blew it completely.
As far as I can tell, much of the music on Yousician has been recorded by session musicians – so you’re not playing along to the original Nirvana or Foo Fighters tracks, but a well-recorded rendition. , albeit a bit soulless. That’s okay, because these exercises work well enough to learn a song and then you can play along with the original once you’ve perfected it.
But the Metallica course is different, and much more engaging. Yousician has access to master recordings for the band’s 10 songs, which means you’re learning and playing along to the original songs you (probably) love.
However, Yousician’s Metallica section is not limited to learning specific songs. There are three courses to play through: Riff Life, Rock in Rhythm, and Take the Lead, each of which delve into a different aspect of the band’s music. In turn, each of those courses has several lessons that focus on a song and the skills needed to play that song. There are also videos featuring the band members talking about the overarching concept. While James and Kirk don’t actually teach you the songs, it’s still great to see them play up close and personal and hear about how they approach writing and performing.
For example, the “Rock in Rhythm” course has an entire section on lows, a stronger and more powerful percussion using your handpicks has defined the majority of Metallica riffs and spoken heavy metal music. shared. Watching James Hetfield execute some of his most intricate and fast riffs in absolute detail is a treat.
Interspersed with these videos are lessons that focus on a specific part of the song. The Riff Life course starts things off super simple, with key passages from songs like “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “Nothing Else Matters,” and “Enter Sandman.” These lessons follow a fairly standard format. First, you’ll listen to a separate guitar section to keep in mind, sometimes with a Yousician instructor guiding you through the song’s approach. Play it at full speed. Then, to complete the lesson, you perform the complete song.
For that last pick, Yousician offers multiple ways to move forward. If you’re a beginner, you can play simple versions of the song – but Yousician also includes full versions of the guitar rhythm track or a mix of rhythm and lead parts. If you’re just learning songs for the first time, you won’t want to jump right into those versions. But if you’re up for a challenge, the practice mode will helpfully break the song into sections like intro, verse, chorus, solo, etc. You can slow down the song, work on those parts, and then string the whole thing together. The application uses time stretching so that the pitch of the music is not affected.
As someone familiar with Metallica songs, I can say Yousician has done an impressive job with these full arrangements. I picked up some tricks and learned some improved ways to play these songs, even for very simple parts like the opening sequence to “Enter Sandman”. I’ve known that song basically since I first picked up the guitar, but Yousician notes that Hetfield plays the riff with his left hand in a rather unique finger position, something that’s not so simple but makes the notes echoes more clearly as you master it. .
The main guitar parts are also impressively detailed, considering how fast and complex some of Hammett’s solos can be. Here’s a case where I’m sure it helped to get access to Metallica’s key recordings for these songs; can isolate parts and slow things down making learning much more accessible and can also make a difference in the accuracy of transcriptions. While I can’t say that the notation for ultrafast solos like in “One” or “Battery” is 100% accurate, they should be good enough for a convincing performance.
Unfortunately, I ran into some problems when trying to tackle the aforementioned epic, “Master of the Puppets”. While I was working my way through my knockdown lessons, I was presented with the riff played in the main stanza. Whether through my own incompetence, Yousician not “hearing” me well enough or some other unknown issue, I simply couldn’t play the riff accurately enough to move forward. It was a fast track for sure, but even at slow speeds, Yousician consistently failed to notice that I was hitting the electric chords that slide anchored at the end of the riff. A colleague of mine previously tried Yousician and had a similar problem with the app not recognizing his play, which can be a huge mistake if you’re trying to get through each lesson.
I can’t say why this is happening with this particular attempt. Yousician did a great job hearing me play the intro to the song, which is also fast and quite complex in its own right. There seemed to be something specific to those slide chords that the app had trouble picking out. I don’t have enough practice to try to pull off the fastest solos the Metallica course has to offer, so I can’t say how well it will pick those up, but it did a great job at recognizing blows. fast, complex lick near the end of the “Fade to Black” solo. Yousician did a better job of packing when I plugged my guitar straight into my computer using the iRig 2 interface. But since I don’t usually have direct access to my computer, I didn’t set up any any amplifier or virtual effect, which means that playing isn’t nearly as enjoyable as using my amplifier.
Despite these occasional problems, I really enjoyed the Yousician Metallica course. Whether it’s worth the money is another question – Yousician costs $140 a year or $30 a month. It’s not cheap, but it’s less expensive than the private guitar lessons I took 20 years ago. Obviously, Yousician couldn’t tailor its lessons to me, but I was still impressed with the attention to detail and comprehensive nature of the Metallica course, and there’s a host of other things that I can play along. Between the accuracy of the recordings, the solid song selection, and the ability to slow down tracks for practice, there’s a lot to like here.
It was definitely going to be a great tool when I was learning guitar as a teenager – but in 2022, there are plenty of options for learning your favorite songs. That is probably the biggest draw with Yousician. Most people will probably be happy to watch video tutorials on YouTube and look up free transcriptions online. I just did a quick search for “Puppet Master’s Guitar Lessons” and found a bunch of excellent videos, including a multi-sentence video where the instructor spent ten minutes just performing the first two riffs. . It was a thorough, detailed lesson from someone who understood the song and Metallica’s playing in general.
That said, I still encourage Metallica fans to subscribe to Yousician monthly. The song selection ranges from simpler songs to some of their toughest stuff, making it useful regardless of your skill level. Video content is entertaining and informative; you don’t often see a band talking so candidly about their method of playing their instrument. And as good as some of the YouTube lessons are, being able to watch and play along with detailed transcriptions of extremely fast guitar solos makes for a much better learning experience. Those transcriptions combined with original Metallica tracks that you can slow down or speed up as needed are a great practice tool. For anyone looking to explore Eddie Munson’s inner self, Yousician’s Metallica course is a solid place to start.
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