Arts & Entertainment, Music

Deconstructing “Enter Sandman”


Lesson time 09:25 min

Delve deeper into the mechanics of songwriting with one of Metallica’s most beloved songs, “Enter Sandman.” The band breaks down the riffs of the song to reveal how the song was made and to unlock the key to its success.

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[MUSIC - METALLICA, "ENTER SANDMAN"] LARS ULRICH: Any songwriter will tell you the hardest thing is to write a simple song. But we lucked out. We were at my house in North Berkeley there in the summer of '90. And the first day, here's this riff. And then the challenge was kind of, write a song that's basically just the main riff. And if you notice, pretty much every part-- the intro, picking, the chords, the B part, the chorus-- the whole song is basically for all intents and purposes derived out of the main riff. And that was something that we had never done before. And we wrote that song basically in an afternoon. And I knew right there and then that was the opening statement of the next phase of Metallica and the next record. This is all your first, huh? - None-- none more-- LARS ULRICH: Pretty exciting, huh? (SINGING) It's the beast under your bed, in your closet, in your head. LARS ULRICH: It's just, the simplicity of that song, that is something that we still occasionally chase. [MUSIC - GUITAR RIFF TO "ENTER SANDMAN"] - That's the main riff. The main notes in that riff are A sharp, A. And so the picking part is derived from that riff. You're basically playing the same-- the same notes in the riff. You're just arpeggiating it like this. [PLAYS NOTES] Rather than-- so that's how that all comes about. - And then it goes up to-- - Yeah. Then it modulates. [PLAYS NOTES] Same-- yeah. Same figure. - I remember when you said, can that riff go somewhere else? You know, move it somewhere else? Like, it's not easy. But it ended up being OK. - Yeah. Yeah, the B part, the chorus, is really just those things in chord form. Yeah. (SINGING) Exit light. Enter night. Take my hand. We're off to Never Neverland. Ha, ha! - What's funny about that riff is that that's actually not the riff that Kirk sent over on his tape. When-- when Kirk sent it over, it had what I would call one of the front ones, and then it would go A, B, A, B, rather than A, A, A, B. And I suggested to Kirk, I said, just try and go A, A, A, B and only play the tail every fourth time instead of every other time. So maybe try to play it in the original form. - Yeah. So this is the original form. [PLAYS ORIGINAL RIFF] A and B. And so what Lars is suggesting, bunch of As and then B. [PLAYS RIFF] And what that does is it actually gives the listener more to grab onto. And you're getting more of that-- that great combination of notes and that-- that feel and that emotion and that heaviness. So you're actually giving more of the rift to the listener and then resolving it, which is always a better way to approach it. - And the tail is usually, this is the riff cycle done. You know, this is the end of the riff. Then you go back to it. So yeah, whenever you put the tail in-- sometimes the tail is just a little something to get you back to it. Other time...

About the Instructor

With 28 albums, 8 Grammy Awards, and a home in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Metallica have been creating iconic music together for over 40 years. Now, they’re teaching what it takes to build and sustain success as a group. Get an exclusive look into their process for songwriting, building an album, and performing, and how they took charge of their creative destiny so you can do the same.

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8x Grammy Award–winning rock band Metallica teaches you the keys to communicating, collaborating, and successfully creating as a group.

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