For the most part, Tool's music is incredibly complex, especially in terms of their rhythm and timing.
For us guitar players the rhythm aspect of our music is less pressing (than if we were playing, say, bass or drums) but there are still some complexities we need to deal with.
Here we’ll take the complexities out and look at some easy Tool guitar tabs.
If you need some more general lessons, check out our how to play resource for some help getting started.
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The Adam Jones Style
I’ve always been a big fan of Tool and I’m of the opinion that Adam Jones’ guitar work shows us a lot of ways we can improve our playing, particularly in regards to timing.
The music might seem daunting when you listen to their tracks, but this post will break things down into some of Tool’s more popular, yet, simpler riffs. We’ll do this without having to cover full songs. If you think you might want to learn the rest of a song, this will get you a head start.
I’d suspect that if you can understand these riffs enough to play along, the rest of the songs might be easier than you think.
Jones actually constructs his riffs using pretty simple tactics. Power chords, drop D and a lot of open rhythmic notes are all pretty typical methods.
So when learning Tool’s music, I’d recommend keeping the following things in mind:
- Tool’s complexity lies mostly with their timing.
- Though a rhythmic player, a lot of Jones’ riffs simply ride the beat that’s already being laid down.
- Jones’ solos are usually simple.
- A high percentage of the guitar playing will use drop-D power chords, or a variation of them.
I’m saying that it’s not as hard as it sounds and you shouldn’t be intimidated by the guitar playing that you hear on Tool’s tracks.
Now if you’re trying to do a drum cover, that might be a little different. But in our case it’s all about the guitar.
We’ll pick five riffs and go through each one. Best of luck to you.
1. Aenima: From the 1996 release Aenima
One of Tool’s more popular songs from the mid ’90s, Aenima makes references to Bill Hicks, Edgar Cayce and L. Ron Hubbard (in reference to the Church of Scientology) so the lyrical depth is fairly extensive.
The dominating guitar riff, on the other hand, is surprisingly easy to learn.
Once you learn it the bulk of the song follows the same pattern. Note that the tuning is in drop-D.
2. Right in Two: From the 2006 release 10,000 Days
The riff that Jones initially plays in the first measure stays pretty consistent throughout most of the song.
If you can figure it out, you’ll be able to play through the first several minutes before things get heavier.
Also, it's a lyrically intriguing piece of music
3. Lateralus: From the 2003 release Lateralus
The title track from Tool’s 2003 album is surprisingly simple during the chorus, making use of heavy power chords in drop D.
The timing signatures change often and are complex by mainstream standards (following the Fibonacci sequence).
Once again the guitar part is fairly easy and straightforward.
4. The Grudge: From the 2003 release Lateralus
As far as your guitar is concerned, it doesn’t get much easier than playing the intro of “The Grudge.”
As usual, this is an intensely rhythmic song, but one that lends itself well to the guitar if you’ve got a good handle on your timing.
The intro is made up of two parts.
5. Schism: From the 2003 release Lateralus
“Schism” is unquestionably one of Tool’s most notable songs in terms of mainstream success.
The intro riff is actually played by Justin Chancellor on the bass guitar, but is eventually picked up by Jones on the electric as well.
Tool Guitar Tabs: The Rest of the Music
Sometimes getting the first riff is the hardest part.
If you’re interested in learning some of these songs, start here and use the riffs as a springboard for learning the rest of the music.
I’ve always found that’s easier to start with one riff that catches your ear and build out from there.
Sure, Tool’s songs are usually seven-minutes long, but a lot of the riffs are repeated and are easier to put together than they sound. In other words, if you can learn the tabs we’ve listed hear, you’re capable of learning full tracks.
Continuing the Conversation
If you have questions about these Tool guitar tabs, concerns or constructive criticism, we want to hear about it in the comments section below.