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Tech Session

Iron Maiden

Issue #59

Maiden has continued with this line up to this present day, and with continuing growth in popularity have continued releasing albums, compilations and live albums. They have released a total of sixteen studio albums, their most reason being 'Book of Souls,' all of which feature their mascot “Eddie” in the album artwork. They have released a total of twelve live albums including the classic 'Live After Death' from 1985.
Jamie Humphries

Tech Session: Iron Maiden

In this issue's Tech Session, Jamie Humphries pays tribute to the triple-guitar onslaught of New Wave of British Heavy Metal pioneers: Iron Maiden.   

In the ever-growing genre of Heavy Metal, one band's popularity combined with immensely passionate fan loyalty is unrivalled, and that's Iron Maiden. Formed in East London in 1975 by bassist Steve Harris, Maiden are hailed as pioneers on the “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” along with other bands such as Def Leppard and Judas Priest. 

The band have consisted of various members, most notable include Paul Di’Anno on vocals, Dennis Stratton guitar and Clive Burr drums. The classic Maiden line-up has always consisted of Bruce Dickenson vocals, Steve Harris bass, Dave Murray guitar, Adrian Smith guitar and Nicko McBrian drums. Guitarist Janick Gers replaced Adrian Smith when he left for a brief period during the 90’s to pursue a solo career. Gers remained with the band when Smith re-joined the band in 1999. Another notable vocalist was Blaze Bailey from the band Wolfsbane, who replaced Dickenson during his six-year hiatus to pursue a solo career.

After signing a major deal in 1979, Iron Maiden went on to score massive success during the 80’s with such groundbreaking metal albums as their self-titled 'Iron Maiden,' 'Killers.' The band went onto to become one of the biggest bands in the world when Bruce Dickenson joined for the 'Number of the Beast,' which included the song "Run to the Hills," which is arguably one of the greatest heavy metal songs of all time. Other notable albums include 'Piece of Mind,' (the first album with Nicko McBrian on drums) which boasted such metal classics as; “Flight of the Icarus” and “The Trooper."

For the album 'Powerslave,' the band demonstrated a shift in their compositions, with longer arrangements featuring time signature and meter changes, a precursor for “Prog Metal." A great example of this can be heard in the epic “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”.

Another compositional shift for the band came with the introduction of keyboards on the album 'Somewhere in Time.' The band felt they had become stagnant and maybe a purpose shift in sound. This album included the catchy radio friendly “Wasted Years”. Maiden continued their progressive direction with 'Seventh Son of a Seventh Son,' which was the last album that featured Adrian Smith until his return for 'Brave New World' in 2000.

With the departure of Smith, Janick Gers joined the band with his debut recording appearance on 'No Prayer for the Dying' in 1990, which included “Bring Your Daughter… To the Slaughter," reaching number #1 in the UK charts.

Following the departure of Bruce Dickenson, the next two albums 'The X Factor' and 'Virtual XI' featured new vocalist Blaze Bailey, which unfortunately saw a drop in popularity for the band.

'Brave New World' saw the return of both Brue Dickenson and Adrian Smith, and with Janick Gers being kept in the band, saw Maiden unleash their three-guitar lineup that we are familiar with today.

Maiden has continued with this line up to this present day, and with continuing growth in popularity have continued releasing albums, compilations and live albums. They have released a total of sixteen studio albums, their most reason being 'Book of Souls,' all of which feature their mascot “Eddie” in the album artwork. They have released a total of twelve live albums including the classic 'Live After Death' from 1985.

Although the band's music has shifted in style during their long career their sound has stayed relatively consistent. They’re known for their twin guitar harmonies, “galloping” rhythms, and Harris’ unmistakable driving bass style. Influenced by hard rock of the 70’s, they’re style is derived from such bands as Deep Purple, Yes, Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath, Uriah Heap and UFO. Dave Murray’s guitars style features legato phrasing and Hendrix inspired bending licks, while Adrian Smith has a more melodic style, often using scale sequences and arpeggios as well as blues licks inspired by Pat Travers and Johnny Winters. Janick Gers is inspired by Ritchie Blackmore, and although his style is more improvised he is known for his melodic “hook” based lines that are very apparent on the 'Fear of the Dark' album.

For our Tech Session track, I have tried to compose a generic Maiden style piece that features some of the band's key composing tools. I have borrowed ideas from such classics as “The Trooper,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Hallowed be thy Name,” “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” and “Afraid to Shoot Strangers.” I have also tried to emulate all three guitarist’s styles, with three individual named solos. This is a big piece for a Tech Session, but a band as epic as Maiden deserve such a tribute.

Bars 1-6 Kick off our track with clean intro inspired by “Hallowed Be They Name”. The tempo of the intro is 90bpm. The key centre here is E minor, with a single E notes being played by the bass and second guitar on the backing track. The min guitar performs a series of diatonic 3rd intervals on the 5th and 2nd strings. I would suggest using both pick and fingers to perform this section.

Bars 7-8 see us switching to a distorted tone performing the chords of C5, A5 and D5, concluding with a short E Aeolian scale sequence descending in groups of four. Also take care here with the tempo, as it raises to 108bpm.

Bars 9-16 kick off with our main riff that featured a palm muted “galloping” E5 power chord riff, with accented beats using the chords of B5 and D5. The riff features slight variation based round the chords of G5, A5, D/F# and D5. This section is reminiscent to the feel and tone of “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”.

Bar 17 concludes the first half of the verse with a slightly longer descending scale figure, Take care here as the rhythm of the run swaps from 16th notes to 1/8th notes, with the final note tying over into the first bar of the next half of the verse.

Bars 18-25 illustrates the second half of the verse, which is the same as the previous verse. The only tricky section is bar 18, where the final not of the previous bar ties over, resulting in a “push” into the beginning of the second verse.

Bar 26 concludes the verse with another descending scale sequence based around E Aeolian. Once again this run mixes both 16th and 1/8th note rhythms, shifting down the neck.

Bars 27-33 introduce our chorus section. Here we see the chords of C5 and A5, with notes linking the chords together. Bars 29-30 include an E minor riff played in harmony with a second guitar. The chorus concludes with the chords of C5, D5 and B/D# leading us to the next section.

Bars 33-36 introduce a new section inspired by “Phantom of the Opera”. Take care entering this section as the tempo jumps up to 155bpm. We kick off with chord stabs using the E5 chord. This is followed by a guitar and bass triplet unison run ascending up in 5ths.

Bars 37-44 include our new riff, which is a fast triplet E minor riff. This riff also features a tricky open string pull of figure as well as the chords of D5, A5, G5, and D/F#.

Bars 45-52 illustrates the second half of the riff, and sees the min guitar transposing up a 4th interval, performing in harmoney to the original riff played by the second guitar.

Bars 53-54 feature a link section, with the guitars performing accented chord stabs following the bass and drums. The chords used here are D5, A5, E5 and C#/E#. Take care with this rhythm, as we are playing a broken ¼ note triplet stab.

Bars 55-58 include our new section inspired by “Afraid to Shoot Strangers”, and include a Janick Gers style melody outlining the accompanying chord progression. Take care when entering this section as the tempo drops to 75bpm.

Bars 59-62 include a harmony of our Janick Gers solo, with the original line being performed by the backing guitar.

Bars 63-70 introduce a new riff and a new tempo, the tempo increasing to 215bpm. This section is inspired by “The Trooper”, and includes the same progression as our previous section. This section features a Dave Murray/Adrian Smith harmony melody line. You should also notice that this section has modulated to F# Aeolian, with the melody using notes from the F# Aeolian mode.

Bars 71-78 include a Dave Murray style solo, which demonstrates his use of melodic fluid legato phrasing and Hendrix inspired string bends.

Bars 79-86 illustrates an Adrian smith style solo, and includes open string legato lines, as well as pedal tone and pentatonic runs.

Bars 87-89 conclude our track with some stabs performed at the 14th fret of the 3rd and 4th strings, following the drum chocked cymbal accents.

Getting The Sound

When it comes to tone, although all three guitarist have their own specific voice and tone, they use the classic strat and Marshall combination. Dave Murray favours his signature Fender Strat whilst Adrian Smith has his own signature Jackson Super Strat. Janick Gers favours Strandberg and Fender Strat’s.

All three guitarists use the Marshall JMP1 valve midi preamps, and a selection of Marshall heads. For our Tech Session I used my own custom built Music Man Axis Supersport, built to celebrate with 20th anniversary as  Music Man endorsee. The guitar includes  DiMarzio Satch Track in the bridge and Injector single coil pickups neck and middle position.

I plugged into my MESA Boogie JP2-C head which was running into a Two Notes Torpedo Studio digital load box/Speaker emulator. I used n impulse response of a closed back V30 Marshall cab with a single SM57 mic.

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