How To Play Iron Man by Black Sabbath

In this lesson I look at one of rock's greatest riffs. For such a well-known riff it's amazing how many people don't get it quite right. The way I play it is based on the version found on Sabbath's second album Paranoid. There also seem to be a couple of other slightly dodgy re-recordings of the song which are nowhere near as good as the original.

Below is some great footage of Iommi himself talking about the song and demonstrating the riff. He also clears up the controversy over exactly how he plays the introduction. (Or so I thought, until I came across some live footage from the 70s where he doesn't appear to be bending behind the nut at all but is perhaps bending the open E string by pushing down on the tailpiece of his SG with his picking hand. In more recent live versions he's definitely using the behind the nut bending technique, but maybe that's because he no longer uses an SG with a floating tailpiece. As to which method he uses on the original recording I can't be 100% sure, but the nerd in me would really like to find out.)

And here's that live performance I mentioned, from a 70s German TV show. How is Iommi playing that bending lick at the start and again towards the end? 

As promised, I've written out the main riff, along with the other riffs in the song. Notice how during the verse Iommi plays the main riff slightly differently using single notes a bit lower down the neck. I haven't written out the solo as it would have taken me bloody ages. If you've played a bit of lead guitar before though, it shouldn't be too hard to work out yourself what's going on. The first solo mainly uses the C# Minor pentatonic scale in the 9th position. And at the end there is some more soloing using the B minor pentatonic scale.