How Kirk Hammett’s Downpicking Technique Was Inspired by Johnny Ramone

kirk hamment, metallica,

Aug 25, 2023

Posted By Tracy Fuller

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In a recent interview with Rick Beato, Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett disclosed the influence of Johnny Ramone on his downpicking technique. Hammett was so impressed by Ramone’s style that he immediately started to emulate it.

The Influence of The Ramones and The Sex Pistols

Hammett credits his early exposure to The Ramones and The Sex Pistols for his long-standing practice of downpicking. He believes that downpicking offers practical advantages, such as more high-end and less percussion in the sound.

The Sound of Downpicking

According to Hammett, the key to achieving the perfect downpicking sound is to keep the palm of your hand as close to the saddle as possible. This technique can be heard in any Ramones song, he adds.

Friendship and Influence

Hammett also shared some insights into his friendship with Johnny Ramone. He described Ramone as a funny, divisive character who enjoyed being a contrarian. Despite their differences, Hammett always acknowledged Ramone’s influence on his musical style.

The Origin of Downpicking According to Johnny Ramone

When Hammett asked Ramone how he developed his down picking technique, Ramone explained that it was his way of keeping time. He counted through downstrokes, which Hammett believes practically created a whole genre.

“I’ve been doing it since I was a kid, and it’s all because of The Ramones and The Sex Pistols…”

The practical advantages of down-picking, in Kirk‘s opinion, are having more high-end and less percussion. “You must have the palm of your hand as close to the saddle as possible, but I love that sound. You can hear it in any Ramones song”.

Explicitly discussing his friendship with Johnny RamoneHammett revealed: “I became really good friends with Johnny Ramone… He was a really, really funny guy, really a crazy, divisive character, he was a contrarian, just for his own amusement. You’d say something, he would just instantly counter it.. And, you know, I would let him have his opinions. And then I’d say, ‘John, you know, you’ve been a huge influence on me’ — I’d tell him this all the time — he goes, ‘How can I be an influence on you? I said, ‘The way you pick! It had an influence on so many people.'”

“And I said, ‘How did you come up with that?’ And he goes, ‘I was just counting. That’s the only way I could count, through downstrokes. It was the only way he could keep time! He was keeping time by doing just downstrokes — he practically created a whole genre of doing that.” Hammett mused.


Kirk Hammett’s downpicking technique has become a staple in heavy metal guitar playing. While he may not be James Hetfield, his unique style has undeniably influenced many in the genre.


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