Is Enter Sandman by Metallica Hard To Play?

Enter Sandman, a hit song by Metallica was released in 1991. It quickly became one of the biggest heavy metal hits of all time. Everyone heard the opening riff at least a hundred times in their life.

If you play a guitar, this song probably crossed your mind. Is it hard to play?

Enter Sandman is not so hard to play. It requires an intermediate level of guitar playing. Guitar solo is not that hard, either, especially in comparison to other Metallica’s solos. Enter Sandman is perhaps among the ‘easier’ songs in Metallica’s repertoire.

In this article we’re going to analyze parts of the song. We’re going to point out what guitar techniques are used in each part. And what do you need to know before attempting to learn this song.

Let’s go!

Techniques Used In Enter Sandman

These are guitar techniques used in Enter Sandman.Those are also techniques you have to exercise and master before learning this song.


Downpicking is a guitar technique that’s used in this song. Who would’ve expect that, ha?

James Hetfield is perhaps the most famous downpicker of all time. Almost every Metallica’s song has downpicking. But luckily, Enter Sandman’s tempo is quite ‘slow’ in comparison to other Metallica’s hits.

Its tempo is 123 bpm (beats per minute). That’s fairly slow for Metallica. Anyway, the good news is that 123 bpm is slow enough for any intermediate guitar player to endure.

Downpicking is a notorious guitar technique when it comes to physicality. It demands a big amount of physical strength and stamina to downpick throughout the whole song. But again, Enter Sandman is not a fast one, so it’s not difficult at all to catch up to the tempo of downpicking.

Anyway, if you’re new to downpicking, I strongly advise you to take a look at this article (from this site). See how you can develop your downpicking (or downstroking) technique quickly and painlessly.

Palm Muting

It’s impossible to play Metallica and not sound bad without using a proper palm muting technique. Actually, a palm muting is inseparable part of downpicking. So, these two techniques are interrelated.

Make sure you know how to palm mute a distorted guitar. Without proper palm muting, the notes continue to ring on, and that sounds muddy, sloppy and bad, overall.

Palm muting demands some practice, but it’s not that hard technique to master. Play around with your guitar, and you’ll quickly ‘get it’.

Enter Sandman Analysis – Part by Part

Let’s briefly analyze every part of the song in terms of difficulty and complexity.

Beginning – Clean Guitar

It starts with the clean, repetitive par. It’s basically a main riff, only in a clean, softer way. It’s not hard to play that part, at all. All you have to have is basic level of finger dexterity and alternate picking.

It is played on three lower strings. It’s not fast nor it requires for you to have anything more than basic guitar skills in your hand.

Let’s move on further.

Heavy Buildup

After the clean part from the beginning, the song starts to buildup. It becomes heavy. It is some kind of anticipation that’s going on, until it resolves into the main riff.

How hard it is to play this part? Not that hard.

As it’s been stated above, you have to pay attention to downpicking and palm muting. But again, this is really not fast song (by Metallica’s standards).

Main Riff

Main riff comes as a finale after a buildup that preceded it. The riff is loud and recognizable.

The difference between main riff and buildup is that the main riff rings out, while a build up is somehow “stifled”. That’s the atmosphere.

So, basically, a main riff is just like a buildup, but with ringing out. That first struck of an E power chord in the riff is ringing out.

Next three notes are little muted with palm. It takes some time for a guitar player to find out the right amount of palm muting for this riff. But with practice, you’ll be able to master this riff in a matter of days (or in one day), depending on your existing skills.

The last part of the riff is just movement between G, F# and E power chord. It is a combination of palm muting and sliding. To slide from one fret from another is among the easier guitar techniques. Make sure you practice sliding a bit. But in this case it’s not that much of a slide. (from 2ndto 3rd fret)


When James Hetfield is singing, a guitar is doing a heavy, downpicking rhythm. Again, you need to nail down that downpicking technique.

Also, it sounds very tight, as every Metallica’s song sounds. But it’s not hard at all to play it, because, again, it’s not fast at all.


Bridge that comes before chorus is just 4 bars long. It consists of notes being played tight, with palm muting technique.

Not hard at all.


Chorus is a ‘ringier’, and more power chord-ish version of the main riff. It’s loud and tight. Not complex nor hard.

Guitar Solo

Enter Sandman’s guitar solo is perhaps one of the best solos written and performed by Kirk Hammet. And if we compare the solo from this song to other Metallica’s solos, it is one of the easier solos in their repertoire.

But it is also one of the best Metallica’s solos. It is catchy, and upbeat. Of course, it has a LOT of wah effect.

Here’s what you need to know before learning the solo.

String Bending

Almost every rock/metal solo has a lot of string bendings in itself. Knowing how to bend a string is a must know technique.

It requires a certain amount of finger strength to bend a string properly. Make sure you know how to perform string bending before you try playing this solo.

Read more about it, here.


Vibrato is a guitar technique that’s extremely important. Without vibratos, your playing stays boring and dull. Vibrato is an expression of feeling.

Try to imagine any guitar solo without it. All those great guitar solos would sound bad, immediately. Make sure you know how perform basic vibratos, as it’s a prerequisite for learning this solo.


Another technique that’s used 99,99 % of the time in rock and metal music is legato. It consists of pull off’s and hammer on’s. In general, you cannot consider yourself more than a beginner guitar player if you don’t know how to perform this technique.

Enter Sandman’s solo is not the exception. You have legato in it, and you have to know it (at basic level) to proceed learning the solo.

Here’s the most important exercise for legato development.

Pentatonic Scale Shape

Pentatonic scale is a scale that has 5 different notes. It is a bedrock of a blues, rock and even metal music. Kirk Hammet is heavily relying on this scale, although it is not the only one he use.

Enter Sandman’s solo is a typical pentatonic metal/hard rock solo.

It is therefore very advisable to know about fundamental pentatonic shapes on a fretboard. Knowing pentatonic shapes will dramatically improve the learning process. This solo is not the exception.

Make sure you acquaint yourself with pentatonic scale and pentatonic shapes. Trust me, it will make you learn things much quicker.

Additional Tips

Here are a few additional tips on how to learn Enter Sandman. If you comply to those rules, you’ll learn it in a shorter period of time. Also, these are the general tips that will help you develop your playing skills, in a broader sense.

1. Use a Metronome

As it’s been said, this song is one among the slower songs by Metallica. Nevertheless, if the rhythm is too fast for you at first, I strongly advise you to use a metronome.

Metronome is a powerful tool. If 123 bpm, which is the tempo of Enter Sandman, is too fast for you, don’t worry. Just slow down the tempo on metronome.

For example, you may be comfortable playing the song at 90 bpm, or 100 bpm. Whichever tempo gives you comfort, go for it. Play the song at that tempo you chose. After a while, speed it up a little.

Soon, you’ll be able to play a song at original tempo without any problems. Just be patient and start slow.

2. Take a Rest

This is often overlooked advice. Taking a rest is crucial for any learning process. Sometimes, only a 5 minute rest is needed. Sometimes 1 hour rest is the best choice. But sometimes, you’ll have to rest for a day.

Take a rest when you feel your fingers had enough. They may be getting sore, or you just don’t have nerves to learn anything new at the moment.

That’s perfectly fine. Taking a rest is an integral part of learning process. Learning Enter Sandman is not exception to the rule.


I hope this article gave you some valuable information. If that’s the case, I’m more than happy about it. If you’re interested, check out some other related articles on this site. Such as…

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed being here. If you have any additional questions, feel free to see other issues being discussed on the site.

Cheers, and rock on!

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