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Death metal band Asphyx headbanging during a performance.

Headbanging is a type of dance which involves violently shaking the head in time with music, most commonly rock music and heavy metal music.


The term "headbanger" was coined on Led Zeppelin's first US tour in 1968.[How to reference and link to summary or text]During a show at the Boston Tea Party, audience members in the first row were banging their heads against the stage in rhythm with the music.

Lemmy from Motörhead, however, said in an interview on the documentary The Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years, that the term "Headbanger" may have originated in the band's name, as in "Motorheadbanger". But this is merely speculation and hasn't been proven as of yet. [How to reference and link to summary or text]
BIPOLAR-Dave Tyo Headbang CBGB

Dave Tyo of Bipolar demonstrating the 'whiplash' technique at CBGB in New York City.

Health issues

In 2005, Terry Balsamo, Evanescence guitarist, received a stroke from headbanging.[1] There have also been cases of people receiving whiplash from headbanging, and it is not uncommon for some to receive headaches and bloody noses from headbanging. It is assumed that headbanging is the cause of these symptoms, but no medical studies have been conducted regarding the relationship between injury and headbanging.


There are various styles of headbanging, including:

  • The up and down: the most common style, which involves shaking the head up and down. This style is demonstrated at the climax of the "Bohemian Rhapsody" scene in the movie Wayne's World. It was also commonly used by the cartoon characters Beavis and Butt-head.
  • The whip: A similar headbang to the windmill. While in circular motion, the person slows down on one side, then speeds up on the other.
  • Drunk style: a form of head banging in random directions, as if the person is drunk. This style is used often by Sid Wilson of Slipknot
  • The half-circle or V : swinging the head repeatedly from side to side in a downward arc, pendulum motion or swinging the head down at an angle towards the middle of the body and up at an angle away from the body. This style is often used by Tom Araya of Slayer, members of Blind Guardian, and Olavi Mikkonen of Amon Amarth.
  • The figure eight: shaking the head in a figure eight. This rare movement is used by Unearth frontman Trevor Phipps, and can be seen doing this in their music video for "This Glorious Nightmare". The headbanging style can also be seen performed by the lead guitarist of Mnemic in the music video for their song "Deathbox", especially during the first chorus line.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
  • The whiplash: an especially violent form of the traditional "up and down" style, characterized by the hair of the headbanger moving about so rapidly that it obscures their face. This style has been used by Mick Thomson of Slipknot and late Metallica bassist Cliff Burton and Concrete Lip singer Michael Maloney.
  • The Two up, Two down: Similar in style to the whiplash but instead of moving alternately up and down to the beat, the performer executes two beats 'down' and two beats 'up'. This is an attempt to accurately mimic the movements of Angus Young who appears to only 'go down' every other beat. When performed properly, the heel of the back leg is lifted on the 'down' strokes, and the heel of the front leg is lifted on the 'up' strokes.
  • The all-out: dropping on the ground, holding oneself up with the arms, and violently swinging the head between the arms. This style sometimes involves grabbing onto tables and other fixed objects, as their head movements have become so violent they seriously affect balance. Vaughan Cook and Sid Wilson from Slipknot often perform this style of headbanging during their live sets.
  • The thrust: an antisocial form of headbanging where the person violently swings forwards and backwards from their waist, often headbutting people in front of them, or in more extreme circumstances, behind them. It is often performed by Frank Iero of My Chemical Romance.
  • The hammer: a form of headbanging performed by Till Lindemann of Rammstein and Mathias Nygård of Turisas. It is performed by semi-squatting and hitting the opposite knee of the hand you're doing the hammer motion to, while moving your head side to side or up and down. The speed of the Hammer fist goes hand in hand with the drum beat.
  • The breakdown: When several members of a band (especially guitarists, if there are two) all headbang simultaneously in a violent "down and back" variant during a particularly intense part of a song. Korn were especially known for this during performances of the song "Blind".
  • The full body: also known as the body bang, is a variation of the "up and down" where the performer brings the head down to almost his knees, brings it back up does a standard shake down, and then goes back down to the knees, in a swinging motion, used extensively by Jens Kidman of Meshuggah, Jason Peppiatt, the vocalist of Psycroptic, Tim Lambesis, vocalist of As I Lay Dying and Jonathan Davis, vocalist of Korn.
  • The gallop: also known as the skip. It is a variation of the "up and down" where the performer bobs his head down, then moves the body back and lightly bobs downward, then repeats.
  • The half body: Similar to the Full Body, the half body is a bizarre variation of the "up and down" where the performer keeps their head straight, but bends at the hips, usually in time with every second beat of the song. Usually the performer only bends to approximately a 45-degree angle, to maintain balance. This style of headbanging can be seen performed in tandem by James Root and Paul Gray of Slipknot, in their live performance in the movie Rollerball. It is possible this style of headbanging was formed by guitarists who found conventional headbanging too distracting while performing. This form of headbanging is used in Family Force 5's video for the song Love Addict.

Various styles are often mixed together according to taste and to the tempo and aggressiveness of the music. They can also be performed with eyes closed and/or in combination with hand gestures such as devil horns, singing, yelling, and lip syncing. Headbangers' bodies usually bang with the head, reducing the strain on the neck and making the body move in a serpentine, up-and-down fashion to the music. There are a number of different stances a headbanger can stand in, which include:

  • Standing up straight. This is most commonly performed with the legs slightly apart, mainly to keep balance.
  • Standing with the legs slightly bent and the hands on the knees or thighs. This is a common stance for headbangers performing the half-circle, as it allows maximum movement and balance.
  • Standing with the hands behind the back.
  • Standing with one leg in front and one behind, with the hands held together near the lower body. This style is often used in tight spaces or to alleviate cramp and maintain balance.
  • Standing with legs extremely stretched to the front and back of the body, lowering the head and body as low as possible to avoid loss of balance, while shredding an Air guitar, usually with the hand holding the guitar neck placed on the according knee and the other one lowered to "pick the strings".
  • Standing with arms crossed and feet slightly apart.
  • Put your hands on the ground and swing head between arms in a windmill type motion.

A headbanger can also perform while seated, crowd surfing, or in a number of other positions.

See also

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