I think that it’s about the right time for another classic guitar track. In this guitar lesson we will be learning how to play Paranoid by Black Sabbath. Paranoid is a proper good old muted power chord with distortion track that I think every rock guitarist should learn at some point. I learned it quite early on in my guitar journey after noticing that it was rather popular in the cover band world and so it should be. It’s a great track and very fun to play. Paranoid is one of those tracks that you can really get in to while performing it and it always goes down well.
Paranoid is a song featured on the second album from Black Sabbath from 1970 which was also called Paranoid. The song was placed at number 34 on VH1’s 40 greatest metal songs and also featured in the Rolling Stone 500 greatest songs of all time. It was also ranked number 11 in the Q Magazine greatest 100 guitar tracks. Ozzy Osbourne performed vocals on the track, Tony Iommi played guitar, Geezer Butler the bass and Bill Ward played drums.
Bassist Geezer Butler told Guitar World Magazine in 2004 that the track Paranoid was an afterthought. Sabbath needed a 3 minute filler for the album. Tony came up with the riff. Geezer Butler wrote the lyrics and Ozzy was reading them as he was singing.
Paranoid may have been an afterthought for Black Sabbath but for me it’s iconic so let’s look at how to play it.
How to play Paranoid by Black Sabbath
Paranoid just so happens to start off with one of the most iconic guitar riffs of all time. It’s a simple riff that’s repeated just 4 times and never heard again in the song. The riff is very hammer on focused and it looks like this.
How to play paranoid – intro riff TAB
As I said, we sadly don’t hear this guitar riff again. The rest of the song is largely based around the muted power chord based section that we hear next. This section is used in several places throughout this short track including all of the verses and the backing to the solo. Once you’ve learned it, you’ll know where it’s used in the song by ear. Here’s the TAB.
How to play Paranoid – main rhythm TAB
This section is almost entirely based around power chords. We’re using palm muting for the vast majority of this section apart from those last few chords which are allowed to ring out. We also have those notes at the 12 fret right at the end which are equal to an E minor chord. The chord only lasts a tiny amount of time but be sure to get it just right as it contributes quite heavily to the section. Don’t go leaving that out.
This part is then followed by another short power chord section. Here’s the TAB.
How to play Paranoid – after the first verse
As you can hear in the track, we then get a repeat of the main rhythm that we learned earlier. Following that comes another short power chord based section which this time is supporting some Ozzy Osbourne vocals. Here’s the TAB.
How to play Paranoid – after the second verse
It becomes apparent at this stage that Paranoid has a very nice flowing feel to it. Everything is paced really nicely and the arrangement is superb. Not bad for an afterthought.
The last section features just 2 simple power chords. It is followed by a return to the main muted power chord rhythm. You play that section without any vocal accompaniment and then again with the vocals. You can hear how many repeats there are in the recording.
What comes next is the guitar solo. Before we get onto the Paranoid solo TAB I’ll tell you about the rhythm. The rhythm is simple. All you need to do is keep repeating that main rhythm section. You’ll play that rhythm part a few times while the solo plays over the top.
For those that want to try their hand at the guitar solo, here’s the TAB.
How to play Paranoid guitar solo TAB
This is a solo that’s based around bends and a few hammer ons and pull offs. It’s not a beginner solo but it’s not insanely difficult to learn either. Perhaps a little fiddley in parts but definitely achievable. This is a proper guitar solo in my opinion. Very locked in to the rhythm and well-paced.
Things calm down again following the solo as we return to our main rhythm for a short while before we go to another verse but once again, we stick with that same rhythm part. Told you the track was based around that section didn’t I?
That verse is followed by another section that we have already learned. It’s the exact same rhythm section that followed the very first verse of the song.
How to play Paranoid – final verse and outro
Paranoid ends in familiar territory. We have 1 final verse which is performed in exactly the same way. Once that verse has reached its conclusion, simply repeat the main rhythm section until the end. The only difference is the very end of the very last bar. Here’s the TAB. This will bring you to the end of Paranoid.
That’s all there is to it. Now you know how to play paranoid on guitar. My advice here is to keep things simple with the tone and stay true to the original recording. One of the reasons that I chose to do a lesson on how to play Paranoid was to use it as a demonstration that simple is perfectly fine. If something sounds good then it’s good. Musicians often try to overcomplicate things. Paranoid is a prime example of why you don’t need to do that.
If you’re a fan of Paranoid then perhaps you’ll be interested in looking at my Ace of Spades TAB and guitar lesson or maybe you’d like to learn another Sabbath track. Here’s the link to the Iron Man TAB and guitar lesson. One more that you may find interesting is an Iron Maiden classic. Check out The Trooper TAB and guitar lesson. If you don’t want any of those, there’s something wrong with you and I give up.
Hello. My name is Ryan J Mellor and I play the guitar. I’m also the creator of Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat. I’ve ben a guitarist for many years and my guitar playing has been described as “above average”. My guitar and music knowledge is somewhat impressive but most importantly, I have a passion for creating great guitar and music related content.