Tag Archives: backwards rock

Backwards Rock: It Beat

Well, we’ve reached the tenth installment of Backwards Rock. Crazy how a simple idea could get this far and yet still not feel finished, huh? Believe me, I have quite a few more ideas hanging around. So, what should we tackle for the tenth track? Of course – the King of Pop’s first (incredibly successful) attempt at a rock song. Here ya go – the main riff to “Beat It”… backwards.

It Beat

I skipped those weird seven synth notes at the beginning of the original. Don’t wanna waste your time too much… This one turned out kinda weird, but I think it still works. Placing the big accents on the off-beat can really mess with these things – I had to tab it out in Guitar Pro to make sure I was playing it right. Enjoy, let me know what you think, and I’ll see you next time.

Backwards Rock: Level New A

Aaah, here we are. Took me long enough, didn’t it? They were only my favorite metal band for a few years. The combination of groove, aggression, and chops made Pantera really stick for me. There are so many good Pantera options for the Backwards Rock machine – which one do I choose? Well, this time around, I chose a simple riff that was guaranteed to work. Here’s the opening section from “A New Level”… backwards.

Level New A

See? Works great! I didn’t quite get the Dime tone (specifically, I didn’t scoop out enough midrange), but it still works pretty well. To give it that early-1990s sound, I put quite a bit of reverb on the drums. Just seemed like the thing to do… I had to record the drums on this one a few times because I kept playing too loudly and the microphones kept clipping. Oops… Enjoy, let me know what you think, and I’ll see you next time.

Backwards Rock: Name in the Killing

When you spend any time studying rock guitar, one band that will inevitably come up is Rage Against The Machine. Often imitated but never duplicated, they’re one of the most important metal bands to come out of the 1990s. They didn’t release a lot of material, but their first album almost singlehandedly launched a subgenre. So, uh, that’s gonna count for something, doesn’t it?

Like I’ve mentioned before, some riffs work really well for Backwards Rock and others turn kinda bizarre. I’m pretty sure this one falls into the “bizarre” category, but that’s ultimately up for you to decide. I give you: The main riff to “Killing in the Name”… backwards.

Name in the Killing

One weird thing I encountered while recording this: I used a click track and they clearly didn’t. This is why my “quiet” section is faster than theirs – they slow down a little when the vocals enter. Go figure, huh? Enjoy, let me know what you think, and I’ll see you next time.

Backwards Rock: Stew Brain

Today we tackle a super-easy Green Day riff. Sure, this may seem like a bit of a low-hanging fruit – that’s probably why I didn’t think of this riff right away when I started making these. But when I mapped it out, I quickly saw why this was a good pick. When beat One becomes the “and” of Four, the simple becomes much more complex. I give you: The easiest riff in Green Day’s catalog…backwards.

Stew Brain

The displacement is really what makes this track for me. Everything sounds all nice and normal, like nothing’s weird at all… until the drums kick in. For guitar nerds: I accidentally left my pickup switch at the middle position. Knowing that Billie Joe Armstrong typically used a Stratocaster at the time they recorded this song, I decided to keep it anyway. Enjoy, let me know what you think, and I’ll see you next time.

Backwards Rock: dionaraP

I had to tackle this one, didn’t I?! This classic early metal song was just screaming for the backwards treatment. In fact, I went beyond what I normally do for this one – instead of one riff from the song, I did two. So, here you go: The introduction and the first verse (without the words) to “Paranoid”… backwards.


One thing I have been doing on my Instagram is I’ve been posting quick videos of me recording the guitar parts to these little experiments of mine. When I went back and watched the video of me recording this song, I realized I had played the intro wrong. Oops! So, within the week of posting that video, I went back and redid the guitars. In retrospect, I’m glad I did that… Also, I tried to keep the feel of the rhythm section as close to the original as I could. Bill Ward (drums), in particular, has such a unique style for metal that I couldn’t help but try to mimic it. Enjoy, let me know what you think, and I’ll see you next time.

Backwards Rock: Tripper Day

It’s about time I get to The Beatles, isn’t it? They’re only one of the most important pop bands of all time. Of course they should get the Backwards Rock treatment! And what better bit to play backwards than their classic / cliche-guitar lesson riff – the beginning to “Day Tripper”.

Tripper Day

This one was pretty easy to put together, all told. The most difficult part was the bass, since Sir Paul matched the pitch instead of playing the riff in his own octave. The weird panning scheme – Drums on the left? Really? – is my best attempt at matching the original stereo mix of the song. Enjoy, let me know what you think, and I’ll see you next time.

Backwards Rock: Spirit Teen Like Smells

When I came up with Backwards Rock, the idea was simple. Let’s take some classic rock riffs and play ’em in reverse! Some would be far easier to do than others – like, say, a classic heavy metal riff that’s coming soon – and some would turn out a little bizarre. I’m pretty sure today’s segment falls into the “bizarre” category. I give you the main riff from the iconic early-90s song “Smells Like Teen Spirit”… backwards.

Spirit Teen Like Smells

The thing that saved this riff from turning boring – and also helped keep everything in line – is the generous helping of muted string hits. That open string chord in the middle (it’s in the original, you just don’t really notice it) feels incredibly out of place when you play the riff backwards… which is what happens when you take a thing you don’t think about on the “and” of 4 and place it on beat 1… Also, I kept the drums close to the original, which included the opening fill. Enjoy, let me know what you think, and I’ll see you next time.

Backwards Rock: Water on The Smoke

As most of you may know, I have been teaching music lessons for a number of years. Since I started teaching guitar, I’ve learned a ton of rock riffs, forgotten them, and picked them up again. For older beginners, starting them off with a few easy riffs to ease them into playing but still sound cool tends to work well. Of those, the most common is likely “Smoke on The Water” by Deep Purple.

So how would that riff sound backwards? Well, wonder no more!

Water on the Smoke

Surprisingly, this one was pretty tricky to map out. If I had ignored the rests, this would’ve sounded much different… and decidedly less interesting. As a former boss of mine said: “Rests are people too.” Enjoy, let me know what you think, and I’ll see you soon.

Backwards Rock: Puppets of Master

So what’s better than backwards rock? Backwards metal. And what better metal band to throw backwards than Metallica?! That was all I needed to put this one together. I present: The opening riff to “Master of Puppets”… backwards!

Puppets of Master

In the backwards rock catalog, this one falls under the category “easy to learn, hard to master”. I cheated on the performance – I used alternate picking instead of nothing but downstrokes – because James Hetfield is possibly not human. And, of course, I kept the bass and drums similar to the original. Enjoy, let me know what you think, and I’ll see you soon.

Backwards Rock: Enemy Worst Own My

Sometimes I get ideas while watching TV. Some ideas are great, others are dumb. I’m not sure where this one falls, but I guess that’s for you to decide. But anyway, I was watching That Big Football Thing when Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy” was used as bumper music to cut to commercial. After I mentioned it on Twitter, I got an idea: How would that main riff sound when played backwards? So, now I present the first in a series I’ll call Backwards Rock.

Enemy Worst Own My

A word on the process: I mapped out the original riff (on graph paper, no less) then wrote it in reverse – i.e. beat four in measure four is now beat one in measure one. The bass and drums were not mapped out, but I played them with the original track in mind. Please enjoy, let me know what you think, and I have a few more of these that I’ll be posting soon. See you next time!