Def Leppard's "Hysteria": A guitarist's guide

Guitar lessons by Jamie Humphries

Released in 1987, "Hysteria" by Def Leppard is a ground-breaking album that showcases the band's ability to combine hard rock with pop sensibilities. It is Def Leppard’s best-selling album to date, selling over 25 million copies worldwide, including 12 million in the US, and spawning an incredible seven hit singles. The album charted at number 1 on both the Billboard 200 and the UK Albums Chart.  For guitarists, the album is a treasure trove of riffs, solos, and techniques.

In this guitar lesson course, Lick Library veteran, Jamie Humphries walks you through the many highlights of each song from the hard rock icons, one phrase at a time. In this article, we will dive deep into each song, the guitar scales used, and analyse the solos. We will also discuss the lead guitarist Phil Collen and his contributions to the album. Finally, we will provide a list of guitar techniques used in the album, with links to further information.

Track by Track Analysis

1. Women

"Women" starts with an ominous clean guitar intro using an arpeggiated chord progression. As the drums kick in, the song transitions to a heavy, palm-muted riff in the E minor scale. The solo features an interesting blend of alternate picking and legato phrases, highlighting Collen's versatility.

2. Rocket

"Rocket" is an upbeat song with an infectious guitar riff based on the E Dorian scale. The verse has a galloping rhythm that drives the song forward, while the chorus features open-string riffs and power chords. The solo is a tasteful mix of string bending, slides, and tapped harmonics, adding a unique texture to the song.

3. Animal

"Animal" showcases Collen's melodic approach to guitar playing, with catchy riffs and harmonized guitar lines in the G Mixolydian scale. The chorus features a syncopated rhythm that complements the vocal melody. The solo includes chromaticism and bluesy bends, displaying Collen's command over different techniques.

4. Love Bites

"Love Bites" is a power ballad in the key of E minor. The song starts with clean arpeggios that transition into a heavy chorus with power chords and barre chords. The solo is an emotional display of Collen's guitar prowess, featuring string bending, vibrato, and sustained notes that tug at the listener's heartstrings.

5. Pour Some Sugar on Me

This iconic track begins with a memorable E minor riff that incorporates palm-muting and slides. The chorus features a mix of power chords and octave melodies, creating an anthemic sound. The solo is short but effective, with double-stops, legato runs, and a pinch of harmonics for good measure.

6. Armageddon It

"Armageddon It" is a feel-good rock song in the key of D Mixolydian. The intro riff features hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides, while the verse is driven by syncopated rhythms and power chords. The solo is a whirlwind of alternate picking, string bending, and arpeggios, demonstrating Collen's technical prowess.

7. Gods of War

"Gods of War" is a moody, epic track in the C minor scale. The song is full of atmospheric guitar textures, including clean arpeggios, harmonics, and dive bombs. The solo is a masterclass in melodic playing, featuring string bending, vibrato, and legato phrases that weave in and out of the song's harmony.

8. Don't Shoot Shotgun

This hard-rocking track in the E Mixolydian scale has a driving rhythm with power chords, palm-muted riffs, and galloping rhythms. The solo is a showcase of Collen's speed and dexterity, featuring alternate picking, sweep picking, and two-handed tapping.

9. Run Riot

"Run Riot" is a high-energy track in the key of A Mixolydian, featuring fast-paced power chords and open-string riffs. The pre-chorus introduces a syncopated rhythm with palm-muted chugs, and the chorus is a catchy blend of power chords and harmonized guitar lines. The solo highlights Collen's ability to create memorable melodies, incorporating slides, string bending, and vibrato.

10. Hysteria

The title track, "Hysteria," is a ballad in B minor that showcases Collen's ability to create lush guitar textures. The intro features arpeggiated chord progressions and clean guitar lines, setting a romantic atmosphere. The chorus relies on power chords and barre chords to build intensity. The solo is melodic and emotive, with tasteful use of string bending, vibrato, and harmonics.

11. Excitable

"Excitable" is an upbeat song in the key of G major, featuring energetic power chords and open-string riffs. The verse incorporates palm-muted rhythms and syncopated accents, while the chorus is driven by harmonized guitar lines. The solo is a flurry of alternate picking, legato runs, and slides, showcasing Collen's impressive technique.

12. Love and Affection

"Love and Affection" is a heartfelt ballad in C major, with rich guitar layers that include clean arpeggios, harmonics, and sustained chords. The chorus features a mix of power chords and barre chords, creating an anthemic sound. The solo is a melodic masterpiece, with string bending, vibrato, and harmonized lines that leave a lasting impression.

Phil Collen’s Contribution to Hysteria

Phil Collen, the lead guitarist for Def Leppard, has been instrumental in shaping the band's unique sound. On "Hysteria," Collen's contributions are immense, from crafting memorable riffs and solos to incorporating a wide range of guitar techniques. His melodic sensibility and technical prowess have made "Hysteria" a landmark album in rock history and an essential listen for aspiring guitarists.

Def Leppard's "Hysteria" is a timeless classic that continues to inspire and captivate guitarists with its powerful riffs, soaring solos, and inventive techniques. Phil Collen's work on the album is a testament to his skill and creativity, making "Hysteria" a must-listen for anyone looking to expand their knowledge of guitar playing. By exploring the techniques and styles used throughout the album, guitarists can gain insight into what makes "Hysteria" such a compelling and enduring piece of music.

Steve Clarke’s Contribution to Hysteria

Steve Clark's contribution to the "Hysteria" album is invaluable. As Def Leppard's co-lead guitarist, he complemented Phil Collen's playing with his own distinctive style. Clark's memorable riffs and solos on tracks like "Animal" and "Hysteria" showcased his melodic sensibilities and creativity, adding depth and texture to the album's overall sound.

About The Tutor

Tutor Profile

Jamie Humphries

Jamie is one of the mainstays of LickLibrary, having a stream of hugely successful best selling DVDs, Jamie is best known as Brian May's sideman who he's played shows with all over the world. Aside from this Jamie is a hugely popular clinician working all over the world with Ernie...

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