Survival Of The Lowest: Gristle McThornbody

Today, we start our Survival Of The Lowest series with a look at one of the first tunes I ever wrote on my 8-string guitar – “Gristle McThornbody”. I’ll talk about this song again later this week for a different reason (hint: scales), but let’s have a listen now:

I’ll put words to this song someday, I swear.

So let’s talk about the bass line. I can either de-tune my bass to keep that octave relationship (and risk playing what would feel like rubber bands on an instrument that would be impossible to keep in tune) or just double the riffs in the guitar’s own octave (and really have to stretch since that low F-sharp is at Fret 2 on the bass’ E string). Since neither of those seemed appealing, I went with Option Three: doubling the guitar’s octave when I had to (i.e.: almost every part where the guitar was below fret 5 on string 8) and dropping down to my own territory when I could.

Here’s the main riff. Guitar is on the top, bass is on the bottom. Riff is in 6/4 time:


As you can see, the first five notes of the riff can be played in that normal octave relationship – the first note is C, which, when played down the octave, is the lowest fretted note on a 5-string bass in standard tuning. Those last four notes – all F-sharp – force the bass up to the same octave as the guitar…

And here is the verse riff – also the only part of the song in 4/4:


Guitarists, here’s a good riff to work on if you feel like you’re not using your fourth finger enough on the fretboard. We all have a choice to make on this one – either change position or use finger four. For me, that choice has changed – I switched positions on the recording but use finger four when I play it now.

The advantages of adapting like this are twofold. For one, it gives the bass player some space, which can be an issue in metal. The other big advantage is movement – you can play both of these riffs on bass while barely changing positions. When you play finger style with no extra effects like I do, these – especially the former – make a ton of difference.

If you have any questions, fire away in the comments. Otherwise, thank you for reading and until next time: keep playing and You Shall Be Heard.


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