Guitar Lesson: Black Sabbath “NIB” “The Wizard” “Black Sabbath”

Richard Feynman the Nobel Prize winner in the Physics category and one of the most famous scientists of his generation is known for his famous quote “if you want to master something, teach it”.

That was my motivation for doing the lessons for Australian Guitar Magazine.

I was really interested in what we now call “Classic Rock” and I wanted to know what made the great guitarists that created that music tick – so this drove me to explore their riffs.

I really enjoyed putting those lessons together and it certainly helped me grow as a musician.

I became curious about Tiny Iommi so I wanted to do a series of lessons on Black Sabbath and I’d like to share this one with you.

In this lesson I break done 3 of Black Sabbath’s early classic songs “NIB”, “The Wizard” and the song “Black Sabbath” all from the bands first album titled “Black Sabbath” and a lot of people see that album as the beginning of Heavy Metal.

This is How Sabbath Found Their Name

Originally a Blues influenced band called “Earth”, but not doing particularly well, the bass player Geezer Butler noticed a long line of people outside a cinema queuing to see a horror movie called “Black Sabbath” starring the horror movie superstar of the day Boris Karloff.

Geezer was fascinated so he commented on how all of those people were prepared to pay money to be scared.

The other members were equally intrigued so the band decided to change the name from Earth to “Black Sabbath” and play music and write songs in the spirit of the horror movies that were so popular.

Adopting the theme of “The Occult” as a band, changed their fortunes altogether.

Their records sold well and they became a very popular live act.

Interestingly the riff to the song “Black Sabbath is based on a diminished chord also called a tritone which was curiously banned by the Church during the Middle Ages.

What is the Tritone and How Did It Influence Sabbath?

Tommi Iommi

The tritone was referred to as the Devil’s chord or interval and I’ve often wondered if Tony Iommi knew the history of the tritone or did he just like the sound of it.

Whichever scenario, the riff has an ominous feel and would be very appropriate as the soundtrack to any horror movie.

Tony Iommi lost the tips of two of his fingers at the age of 17.

He was told that he’d never play guitar again but a friend of a friend introduced him to a recording of the great Belgian Gypsy Jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt who also had lost the use of two fingers in a fire.

Django persevered with his guitar playing despite only having two fingers and went on to become one of the greatest guitarists of not only his generation but of all times.

He died of a heart attack at 43 but left a large recorded output and had an impact on guitar players for generations to come including Tony Iommi.

Overcoming Adversity

The 2017 movie “Django” is worth seeing.

It concentrates on Reinhardt’s time during WW2 in Paris and the danger that he faced from the NAZI’s but the movie does features Django’s music and guitar playing.

By melting the plastic caps from dishwashing liquid bottles he was able to form them into thimbles that he could fit on his shortened fingers so he could develop his guitar playing, his songwriting and ultimately the band that would be the vehicle for his musical expression, Black Sabbath.

Tony Iommi, like Django, would not be beaten by his impairment.

There’s an excellent documentary called “The Black Sabbath Anthology” that is an entertaining account of the band’s history.

Along with Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, Black Sabbath were part of what became known as the “Unholy Trinity” of British Rock.

Learning these riffs will give us some insight into what gave Tony Iommi the huge reputation as a master guitarist

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