How to Play Iron Man


Black Sabbath’s Iron Man is one of the most classic guitar riffs of rock and heavy metal.  Many beginner guitarists start with simple guitar riffs like these.  In this lesson, I am going to show you how to play Iron Man, one of the first riffs I ever learned on guitar!

Changing Positions

Below, you’ll find a simplified version of the tab for the song. Start off by getting your body relaxed and put your left hand on the guitar neck the way I taught you in the how to hold the guitar lesson.  When I play this riff, I make two position changes.  The first position change is during the first bar and the second change is during the third bar.

Iron Man Tab (in single notes)

(tip: click on the tab for a bigger, easier to read version)

how to play iron man

Start Slow

Start playing it slow with your priority on playing it fluidly and in time.  You can speed it up as you get better at it.  The cool thing about this riff (besides that its so catchy!) is that it is originally slow so once again it makes it perfect for beginner guitarists to work towards playing it properly.  The trickiest part is probably the third bar so if you need to, just play that bar repeatedly until you get it right.  The same goes for any other part that you are having problems with.

First off, you should hold the guitar comfortably and have your hand resting on the neck with your thumb at the back of the neck and your first finger over the 2nd fret.  Start by fretting the first chord, which is a B power chord. This half note gets two beats so make sure and count it like “1 – 2″.  On the three of the beat, you’re going to move your hand up to the fifth fret for the D power chord for another 2 beats.  On the second bar, you’re going to start by playing the same D power chord followed by two E power chords which are up two frets on the guitar neck at the seventh position. The third bar is the trickiest.  This is where you have to play repeated eighth note power chords which should be played very fluidly. If you have problems with this bar, break it down and play it slowly repeatedly.  Don’t feel bad if you have to practise this bar a few times before you get it right.  Once you make progress on playing this bar of music fluently, you’ll find the rest of the riff comes a lot more naturally.  The fourth bar is the same as the second bar so you shouldn’t have any difficultly there. When you’re practising this riff, start off by playing with the metronome at a slow tempo.  Once you can play the entire riff fluidly at a slower tempo, you can speed up the metronome by about 5 bpm at a time. This “speeding up” during practise is a reputed technique that will make you able to play advanced riffs at very fast speeds.  Iron Man is a perfect starter song on your quest to play more advanced songs.  The original tempo of the riff is 82bpm but if you can play it faster, it will make your future learnings much easier.


Try playing the riff a couple of times a day, getting faster every day.  Use your metronome at the slowest tempo you are familiar with.  Within a week, you should be able to play the riff along with the original:

How to Play Iron Man

Once you have perfected the single note version of the song, try playing the exact same thing except this time use power chords as follows.  This is much more accurate to the original recording.

how to play iron man

I hope you have enjoyed this lesson on how to play Iron Man by Black Sabbath on the guitar.  Stick around for more great lessons on this site as well as a ton more example songs!!

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