In this guitar lesson, we will be looking at the Iron Man TAB and learning how to play this Black Sabbath classic one step at a time and in full. Iron Man is an extremely popular song in the world of guitar. A large percentage of guitarists learn this one at some point but when I say learn, I mean, they learn the main guitar riff rather than the song in entirety. That’s not what we are going to do here.
Iron Man is an almost six minute track so in theory, there’s a lot to learn. Don’t be put off by the running time. Yes, there’s quite a few parts to work through but there’s also a lot of repetition and for the most part, Iron Man is actually quite an easy song to learn and master all the way through.
Iron Man was released in the year 1970 as part of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid album. The main riff which guitar players, Sabbath fans and rock and metal fans know so well was described by Ozzy Osbourne as sounding like a big iron bloke walking about when he first heard Tony Iommi play it in rehearsal but the story told by the song ended up being much more interesting than that.
The lyrics, written by bassist and lyricist Geezer Butler tell the story of a man who travels to the future and sees the apocalypse. In the process of returning to his present time to warn the rest of humanity, he is turned to steel by a magnetic field and his attempts to warn humanity are ultimately mocked and ignored. Felling shunned, Iron Man plans his revenge, causing the apocalypse seen in his vision. Deep.
An interesting plot indeed but all we are concerned about here is the guitar parts performed and recorded by Tony Iommi. Next, we shall learn those guitar parts one by one, starting naturally with the intro.
Iron Man TAB Intro
So the Iron Man intro is a fun little part that allows you to play with the whammy bar a little. Here’s the TAB.
So you’re hitting a low open E and fretting the second fret D string which is also an E. Then all you need to do is use your whammy bar to create the sound that you hear in the recording. You don’t need to get it exactly the same but keep that same vibe.
You kind of want to pre raise the bar and gently release it but try not to push the bar down below the low E pitch. You should also notice that I change time signature at the end there. That final part rings out for an extra two beats so be sure to consider that when playing with the record or you may find that you fall out of time almost straight away.
Iron Man TAB Main guitar riff
We all love a power chord based riff. Well I hope you do because you’re about to learn one. Here’s the TAB.
We start with a B power chord and then we gradually move higher up the fretboard before descending again. This is a nice and simple riff with an easy to follow rhythm.
When you get to that faster part toward the end, you have a choice of either strumming each and every chord or using some sliding between the chords for a strum and slide combination. I do both. Depends what mood I’m in. There’s more room for sliding experimentation in this riff too but that’s up to you. The above TAB shows you how to play the main riff that is heard both right after the intro and at different points throughout the song also.
Main riff behind the vocals
The guitar part that sits behind the vocals during the verse sections sounds very similar to the main riff that we just learned but it’s a little thinner. Here’s the TAB.
Perhaps it looks familiar too. The TAB for this part is the same as the previous part only we’ve ditched the fifth notes from the power chords and now we are just playing the individual root notes.
Everything is the same in terms of rhythm but you should break out the good old hammer ons and pull offs when you get to the 10 9 10 9 part.
The last thing to remember with this part is that you need to revert back to the main power chord part when there’s no vocals on top.
Iron Man TAB Instrumental interlude
If we’re attacking Iron Man in chronological order, the next new part that we must learn is this little instrumental interlude thing. Nice and simple with a kindly slow and easy rhythm. Here’s the TAB.
This part has a cool vibe to it. Very fun to play but not much guidance needed. Just follow the TAB as you see it or follow the rhythm in the recording.
This part happens more than once in the song. You hear it both toward the start and toward the end. A lot goes on between their appearances but you’ll know it when you hear it. The last note rings out slightly differently the second time around but that’s the only difference.
“Nobody wants him” section
I’ve labelled this next part as the nobody wants him section but you can think of it as a chorus if you like.
This part always felt a little like one of the parts from Paranoid to me. We have some very basic whole note power chord work to do and then there’s a very nice little lick. Here’s the TAB.
The lick that you see there is based around the B minor pentatonic scale but you have a couple of extra notes in there too. Can you use these extra notes in your pentatonic based music? I think you’ll find that’s a question that gets answered rather quickly.
Pre solo TAB
We are now approaching the main guitar solo of Iron Man but before it all “kicks in”, we have this little repeated lick. Here’s the TAB. Nothing particularly complex but very fun and a great prelude for the main guitar solo that follows. Take note of the rests that you see in the TAB. Some of the notes here are very abrupt and you do want to try and capture that.
Iron Man guitar solo TAB
Next, we have the Iron Man guitar solo TAB. This is a fairly fast paced solo depending on who you ask but I wouldn’t say it’s crazy. This one is fairly tame and easy to piece together a bar at a time (with practice and patience obviously). Here’s the TAB.
The thing with this guitar solo for me at least is that it isn’t what you think about when Iron Man springs to mind. It’s kind of like the opposite of a song like Beat It where the guitar solo provides a big chunk of the song’s identity.
This guitar solo sounds amazing but it’s one where you could switch it out for either your own or, some improvisation work if you enjoy that sort of thing like I do.
If you’re going to do that, you’ll want to base it around the C sharp minor pentatonic scale modes and you’ll want to remain closely and tightly locked into that rhythm like the original solo is.
You may have noticed that the end of the guitar solo is missing from the TAB. Fear not. Here it is.
I wanted to separate this final part because of my advice on crafting your own solo. If you do decide to do your own thing, you’ll still want to keep this last moment the same as the record so be sure that whatever it is you’re doing leads nicely into the little eleventh fret part. Just trust me.
Post guitar solo
The main guitar solo is kind of bookended with a combination of two parts that we’ve already learned.
You have the lick that directly preludes the solo itself and that’s followed by the B based lick that we learned during the chorus section.
No new TAB is required here but you’ll obviously have to practice gluing these two individual guitar licks together.
Pre second guitar solo (and post second solo / outro)
Just to annoy you, I’m going to move ever so slightly away from the chronological approach here.
Iron Man ends instrumentally. There’s a second guitar solo which is surrounded by more rigid parts.
Prior to the second guitar solo, the first thing we hear is the same sort of thing we heard at the very start of the song with the whammy bar. That’s followed by a riff based section.
That riff part is followed by the guitar solo which we will get to shortly.
After the conclusion of the second guitar solo, we return to the same riff that we’ve just seen to close the song and then the very final moment of Iron Man looks like this.
These parts are once more, fairly self explanatory. There’s a fiddly bit in there but everyone should be able to get that down with a bit of good old practice.
Iron Man second guitar solo TAB
There’s only one more piece to the Iron Man puzzle and that’s the second guitar solo. Want some TAB? Here you go.
This guitar solo is shorter than the previous but like the last one, you can choose to craft your own if you like. This time, in E minor / G. What I would say though is that some of the bends in this one are quite characterful so you may want to keep them in.
Another thing worth pointing out is that in the recording, there is a second lead guitar track sitting alongside the main lead track. Don’t worry about this too much. It contributes to the sound on the recording but what you need to learn is in the TAB above.
Conclusion and what next?
Well that was a bit of a marathon wasn’t it? Well done for reaching the end but half the battle with Iron Man is learning and memorising the arrangement so now you need to go and play it along with the record over and over till it’s cemented in your memory. Over to you
Want to learn more songs? Check out the song tutorials and TAB below.
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.