Thunderstruck is one of the AC/DC’s biggest hits. It was released in 1990, as a lead single from the album The Razors Edge.
So, you want to impress everyone by playing this rock anthem (who doesn’t?). Still, you don’t know if you’re good enough to actually perform it correctly and properly. Is Thunderstruck really THAT hard to play?
Thunderstruck is not easy to play, that’s for sure. However, with regular practice, you can master it without problems.
If you’re a beginner, don’t try to play it. One must to be at least intermediate guitar player to be able to even begin learning that legendary Thunderstruck riff.
Check If You Are At Least Intermediate Guitarist
As it’s been said, you must be at least intermediate guitar player. How can you be sure you are? I wrote an article on this site with the list of things and conditions that make someone an intermediate guitarist.
Check this out first, and then proceed.
Here’s How To Learn Thunderstruck
Here, I’m going to present you essential tips you have to comply to in order to master Thunderstruck.
Let’s go through each.
1. Palm Muting
First, you’ll need to master palm muting technique. This means you have to learn how to mute the strings you’re not using at the moment. Otherwise, you’ll get mud and noise in your sound.
The crucial thing is to practice proper positioning of your picking hand. In this case, the main riff is played on a B string. That means that every other string has to be muted.
Especially adjacent strings, G and high E. Also, bass strings like low E, A and D can make trouble. Make sure you’re not scratching those strings with your palm.
The key is to make your hand stand still, while moving only tiny part of it – your thumb and your index finger.
After some time, your muscle memory will learn how to position your whole hand. Until that moment, you’ll have to practice it.
2. Picking Accuracy
Picking accuracy is the second most important tip. Many people think that Thunderstruck is played with pull off’s and hammer on’s. That’s not true.
Studio version is recorded with Angus Young playing it with alternate picking technique. Of course, that is a lot harder to perform than doing just pull off’s and hammer on’s. At least in this case.
There are a lot of tutorials showing teaching people how to play Thunderstruck. But in lot of those tutorials, guitar teachers play it with hammer on’s and pull off’s.
By playing that way, the output sound will miss that characteristic pick attack you hear in studio version.
So, yes, you’ll have to be accurate with your picking if you want to learn Thunderstruck properly.
How to develop picking accuracy. It’s simple, just start to pick the string that way. Over time, you’ll learn how to relax the fingers that hold the pick. Picking accuracy fails the moment you stiff your fingers too much.
3. Picking Depth
Picking depth is also very important. What is picking depth? It’s the amount of distance (or depth), your picking hand is taking while picking the string.
You need to reduce picking depth as much as possible. That way you’ll gain control over your picking process. Also, it will make you use less energy, and that is very important.
Energy loss often results in non-accurate playing, by throwing you out of tempo and rhythm.
Picking depth reduction is important, not only for this song, but as a guitar playing tip in general.
4. Start Slow
You cannot learn anything on your guitar unless you start slow. For this, you’ll have to use a metronome. Metronome will keep you in the rhythm and tempo whole time.
Again, this tip also is important as a guitar playing tip, in general.
Pick the tempo in which you feel comfortable enough. It doesn’t matter how slow it is. It’s just temporary. Over time, soon enough, you’re naturally play at faster tempos. Just be patient.
5. Play On Clean First
Distortion can trick you into thinking that you play good. How? It’s simple, when you play on very high gain, dirty distortion, your accuracy mistakes will be masked.
You won’t hear that you play something wrong. That’s why it is important to play on clean first. Or without an amp.
That way you’ll hear your eventual mistakes you’re making. Once you master clean version, go for a distortion.
6. Set Your Amp Properly
It’s important to set up your amp properly. Gain, bass, mids, treble knobs – all have to be set up properly.
Angus Young used a simple Marshall amp, like this one.
You don’t want to use too much of a reverb. And make sure the gain is high. And mids have to be set up not too low nor too high (preferably 5 or 6 on the knob)
Amps can be tricky, especially if you have problems with humming, buzzing and cracking out of your amp speakers.
For more information about these issues, check out the article from this site about it.
7. Use Proper Pick
There are hundreds of picks. They are different among themselves. Usually it’s the thickness, grip, or material out of which they are made.
Make sure you don’t use a pick that’s too thin. Thunderstruck has its characteristic pick attack on strings you can hear.
That strong attack can’t be made with too thin and too soft guitar pick.
I’d say that anything thinner than 0.7 mm pick isn’t going to work. Here’s my choice for this song. Ibanez picks, thickness 1mm (but you can choose other thickness level if you wish). The best thing they have is the sand grip.
Sand grip allows you to have more control. And control is crucial when it comes to the main riff of Thunderstruck.
A lot of players struggle with control of their guitar pick. Sand grip can be very helpful in this case. Check out these picks on Amazon.
8. Exercise Regularly
This tip is kind of self explanatory, but nevertheless important to point out. Take at least 15-20 minutes of your time every day to practice Thunderstruck.
With all these tips combines, you can bet that you’ll learn it within a week or two.
9. Watch Live Performances
It is always important to watch live performances of Thunderstruck. See how Angus Young, the one who originally performs Thunderstruck, plays it live.
Watch for his hand movements, as well as for picking technique. Sometimes Angus Young waves his picking hand and only perform pull off’s and hammer on’s.
It’s part of the show, I guess.
See this performance, for example. It may help you in understanding Thunderstruck.
I hope this article gave you some valuable information about how to play Thunderstruck. If it helped you in any way, I’m more than happy about it. It is always a pleasure helping fellow guitar brothers all over the world.
Check out how to perform guitar tapping properly.
Don’t forget to check out other interesting articles about various guitar topics and issues.
If you want to know how to play Master of Puppets, take a look at the article from this site about it.
Cheers, and rock on!