I wish I could downpick like James Hetfield.

I wish I could downpick like James Hetfield.

I’m a middle-aged guy now, and maybe my friends and family think I’m weird, and…

I’m oddly obsessed with James Hetfield’s downpicking technique, and have been for more than 30 years. A quick Google search will reveal that I am not alone in this.

His downpicking abilities are legendary. It seems like they were already pretty much there when Kill ‘Em All came out, and they definitely were by the time they recorded “Creeping Death” on Ride The Lightening.

Heavy accented downpicked eighth notes at quarter=216BPM in “Creeping Death” and “Master of Puppets”. He’s not just fluffing over the string. He’s really digging into the string a lot of the time, and doesn’t drive his amps as much you might think.

So how does he do it? A lot of fast-twitch muscle fibers? Just super awesome hand-eye coordination? Born with the ability? Insane amount of practice? Slowly metronoming it up over a period of 1000 years?

I don’t know. But another quick Google search shows that a lot of people think that his pick grip might help facilitate things.

I’ve also read in a couple of places that some of the excellent percussive noise he gets might be caused by his right middle finger scraping the string, but I’m not sure whether or not that’s a thing or not. It seems to me just as likely that it’s caused by the pick scraping the string in addition to plucking it.

It kinda looks like he’s holding his pick like a pencil.

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