Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Date of Award

January 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Joshua S. Duchan


Randy Rhoads was an influential rock guitarist whose synthesis of musical influences had an impact on heavy metal. He developed a classically influenced guitar style that inspired new developments in the guitar’s virtuosic technique and harmonic and melodic language. The sound of heavy metal can be traced directly to his guitar style. Yet no definitive studies have been conducted on his guitar voice, synthesis of musical influences, or contribution to heavy metal music. This thesis is the first study to define the musical influences that make up Rhoads’s innovative guitar voice and playing style. It examines his early childhood, formal training, and influences, honing his skills in Quiet Riot, mastering his skills on Blizzard of Ozz, and mastering his skills on Diary of a Madman. It provides a look at his guitar voice through his adaptation, synthesis, and implementation of musical influences by conducting a detailed musical analysis of the formal, harmonic, rhythmic, and melodic aspects of the songs on Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman. The examination of his guitar voice and playing style is provided by the following materials: CDs, DVDs, books, scholarly journals, master’s theses and doctoral dissertations, and transcriptions of songs on Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman. The aim of this thesis is to demonstrate that Rhoads’s guitar voice and playing style are classically influenced and a synthesis of different musical styles. It advocates that his playing style pushed the hard rock music envelope create a new approach to guitar playing that led to a more refined version of the music. It suggests that Rhoads’s musical approach and mindset in the 1980s: classical-style virtuosity, harmony and melody, and acoustic guitar was important to the development of the heavy metal sound, therefore placing him in the historical annals of popular music.