Dimebag Darrel’s Style

Written by Rob in 'In the Style of...'

Here’s an example solo in the style of Dimebag Darrel from the heavy metal band “Pantera”. Dime liked to use plenty of legato in his soloing, and his phrases would often be a mixture of pentatonic and chromatic lines.

Scroll down for the tab.

You can download the backing track from here.

Getting the Sound

Dime wasn’t a fan of using too many effects…that is, compared to many 80’s shredder guitarists!

To get his sound down, you’ll probably need a Dean Vendetta guitar into a Dime 100 head. This will set you roughly in the right ballpark, although, if you haven’t got the budget for that, I suggest at least getting his signature distortion and Wah pedal.

I have cheated just a little bit in the video, and used amp modelling software. However, I’ve made it model- as close as I can- the sounds of the equipment described above. I’ve also used a guitar with active pickups- which is almost essential for getting the right kind of heavy metal tone.

I think the sound on the recording is pretty close to Dime’s signature tone- even if it isn’t exactly the same!

Playing the Track

a track in the style of guitarist Dimebag Darrell

The Intro

The intro riff uses the E minor blues scale at the 4th position (3rd shape), and plenty of slides. I wasn’t planning on adding the slides at first, but they seem to make a lot of sense when I actually started playing the riff.

This riff is based on the main riff to Pantera’s ‘I’m broken’, with the descending idea. Essentially, we’re starting at the E on the 7th fret of the A string and descending down the scale before sliding down to the third fret and finishing with a slide back to the E.

I recommend using your third finger for the 7th fret, then your first for the 5th fret on the A string. You then descend chromatically through frets 7, 6 and 5 on the E string- using your third, second and then fourth fingers- before sliding to the 3rd fret.

If you then use your third finger to slide up to the 7th on the A string, it puts you in a better position to repeat the phrase.

The Verse

The verse riff is almost entirely played on the open low E string. This is the lowest note you can play in standard tuning, and is therefore the heaviest sounding. Listen carefully to the video to get the rhythm down properly, and you might need to use a noise gate to get it spot on.

One thing you don’t want here is any hum or buzz in between the notes! The riff will sound best with total silence between the groups of notes. For more riffs like this, check out the Pantera tracks ‘Psycho Holiday’, or ‘Cowboys from Hell’, where Dime uses palm-muted start-stop ideas under the vocals.

It gets especially difficult towards the end of the verse, where the challenge is to keep the power-chords and open E string notes separate at speed! The palm muted notes should be short and precise, and not mix with the B5 chords on the A and D strings.

The verse ends with an F sharp powerchord idea, and then a tricky syncopated descending line. Watch out here, as these chords are not on the beats. This sounds easy in theory, but can be more complicated in practise!

The Solo

The solo starts off with an idea which is a mix of the E minor pentatonic, and more chromatic notes. We start by bending the 7th fret on the D string up two frets to a B note. This is the fifth of the underlying E5 chord.

Then we bring this bend back down and pull off to the 5th fret (a C). This should be one smooth movement: bend-up, bend-down; pull-off. It might be worth practising that on it’s own until you have it down. Just remember to have your first finger on the 5th fret when you’re pulling off the 7th!

Then, we go up to the 7th fret of the G string (a D note). This lick is then repeated twice more, bringing the last note down by one fret each time. The line ends with a bend from the tenth fret on the B string, up two frets to an A note.

Up an Octave

Then we play the same thing again, but an octave higher. We’re on the G and B strings now, so the shape changes a bit- but this just the tuning of the guitar. It’s the same thing when you listen to it.

This line ends with a lick that I call the Paul Gilbert lick, but it is used by many other guitarists. Dime uses something similar to this in the solo to ‘Cowboys from Hell’.

Legato Stretches

Then we move on to another one of Dime’s favourite tricks: crazy stretches. This idea uses a shape on the 14th, 17th and 19th frets and plays across the neck in groups of three strings at a time, before going back two.

This is very typical of Dime’s more ‘lateral’ approach to soloing- not following a particular scale, but using a ‘shape’ to cross the neck. This is also a huge influence from Eddie Van Halen- although Dime seems to prefer stretching his picking hand to tapping most of the time.

Fitting the Rhythm of the Track

The end of this line is another chromatic idea that follows the offbeat riff underneath. Following the backing track like this can be a way to really sync up with and compliment the backing track or song. This is the exact opposite off a meaningless stream of fast notes for a solo.

The last line follows a similar pattern. This time we’re going across the fretboard in the other direction with a stretchy idea (frets 11, 12 and 15). Then we going chromatically up to the 22nd fret bend- again, following the offbeat riff in the backing track.

Then we’re back to the intro riff.

learn to play lead guitar now!

For more about Dime’s style of playing, check out my blog post, “How to Play like Dime”.

If you really want to get into playing lead guitar, my new book ‘Awesome Lead Guitar’ is out now. In it you’ll learn the most common scales and techniques that lead guitarists use with full scale diagrams and tabs!

Then, you can practise along with the 17 included full solo examples and backing tracks! Click here now for more.

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