Zakk Wylde Names Hardest Thing About Learning Dime’s Guitar Parts in Pantera

Currently touring as a member of the new incarnation of Pantera, Zakk Wylde recently spoke to Guitar World, discussing what it’s like to play Dimebag Darrell’s guitar parts. Going all the way back to the preparation phase, Zakk was asked about how long the band rehearsed in New Orleans before heading out on the road and playing the Heaven and Hell festival in Mexico last December, making it Pantera’s first show in over two decades. Zakk said:

“We were there for almost two weeks, just so we could go over all the parts and make sure everybody knew the playbook. It worked out really great. We just made sure everything fit in the right pocket and everyone was on the same wavelength.”

Pantera Live in Dresden 2023 - Full Show

Asked whether there was a “learning curve before you found the right groove,” Zakk simply said that the current band members — him, Rex Brown, Phil Anselmo, and Charlie Benante — have been doing this for a very long time and it just came to them naturally:

“Not really, because we’ve all been doing this for so long. I think it’s the same way with anything when you’re dealing with professionals. Whether it’s football teams, baseball teams, bands. You got other players in there that know what they’re doing and how to play the game.

He also added:

“If you take [wide receiver] Jerry Rice [who was best known for playing on the San Francisco 49ers] and put him on the New England Patriots – so that now he’s with [former quarterback] Tom Brady – once him and Brady go over the routes it’s just like, ‘Okay, Tom, just throw me the ball. I’ll be there.’ He knows the game well enough to play with anybody. It’s the same with music. You learn the plays and then do what you gotta do.”

PANTERA - Cowboys from Hell , Domination / Hollow - Toluca, Mexico - 12.02.2022 - 1st reunion show

Asked whether he knew all the songs in advance, Zakk pointed out that there’s always been this misconception that he’s well-versed in playing all the Pantera songs:

“It’s so funny that people think I’d already played all these songs. On the first Anthrax/Black Label run we did, [bassist] Frankie Bello was like, ‘Zakk, you know all the parts, right?’ I go, ‘No, I don’t know any of the parts. Why would I?’

“It’s like if Dime agreed to fill in for me doing a run with Ozzy and I asked him, ‘Hey, can you come up right now and play the solo to ‘No More Tears,‘ ‘Miracle Man‘ or ‘Stillborn‘?‘ He’d be like, ‘Well, I’ve heard the songs, but that doesn’t mean I know how to play ’em. First I gotta learn ’em!’ You have to practice, and you have to work on it to get everything right.”

Zakk Wylde Plays Dimebag Darrell's 'Walk' solo

Further on, Zakk was asked about whether it was easy to learn Dimebag Darrell’s parts to which he replied:

“Some of them. But I had to go to YouTube for a batch of stuff if I couldn’t figure it out. That was definitely a massive help. And then there were still about two or three things where Rex went, ‘Nah, you’re slightly off. Do this’ – whatever it was. And I’m like, ‘Oh, okay. I got it now.’” 

And, obviously, there’s the expected question of what was the biggest challenge in sorting out these songs. He replied:

“The hardest thing wasn’t learning them; it was learning the proper way to play them so they sound like Dime – because everybody’s gonna play certain things their own way. I remember when I used to play [Rush’s] The Spirit of Radio, I learned it on the B string and the G string, and I had to do this big stretch. My guitar teacher was like, ‘No, no, Zakk. It’s all open strings. It’s on the second fret on the E and the B.’ That was way easier.

Pantera, A New Level, live in Praha O2 Arena 2023

He explained the issue further by recalling one important thing he learned from Al Di Meola:

“I remember reading an article with Al Di Meola years ago, and he was saying that when he was learning all this hybrid chicken pickin’ stuff, he was going, ‘Man, how do they do that?’ There are all these string jumps and he’s just using a pick [instead of his fingers].

“He said, ‘Looking back on it, learning it incorrectly helped me with my picking immensely.’ So no matter how you do it, it’s really just a matter of sitting and learning it. You just work on it until you can do it and it sounds right.”

PANTERA, Cowboys From Hell Live in O2 Arena Praha 2023

And what about his favorite Pantera part to learn? It was a pretty easy one for Zakk to answer:

“The actual riff that Dime jammed on for ‘Cowboys from Hell‘ was very cool. I don’t know if Dime was doing a finger exercise when he came up with that, or he was just jamming and noodling on and on the way Slash put together ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine‘ – but it’s a really great pattern. Speaking of Al Di Meola, it’s almost like something he would do, but the way Dime presented it, it was totally metal.” 

Photos: Rik Goldman (Dimebag Darrell with Pantera), MorganaPhotolive (Black Label Society (26643606944))

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.