The guitar is one of the most played instruments around the world. Like most string instruments, guitars come in many sizes, types, shapes, and styles. Shredding guitar is a jet-style, fast and furious way of playing the guitar. It also features extreme speed and complex skills.
Besides, this style of playing the guitar was made popular by top musicians like Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, Paul Gilbert, and Dimebag Darrell, to mention but a few.
Do you want to learn about the shredding guitar? Then, you’re at the right place! In this guide, we will rip apart the shredding guitar and get you through everything you need to know.
Brief History of the Shredding Guitar
The shredding style of playing dates back to the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the first shred guitarists pushed the limits. Some of their names are Les Paul, Django Reinhardt, Yngwie Malmsteen, Eddie Van Halen, and Randy Rhoads.
They used different techniques with great precision and speed to play the guitar. These techniques are high-speed alternate picking, sweep picking, finger tapping, and palm muting.
Besides, shredders have great control and speed. Examples of shredding are in the solos of songs like ‘Stairway To Heaven’ by Jimmy Page, and ‘Highway Star’ by Ritchie Blackmore.
What Genre of Music Uses Shredding?
Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Power Metal, Instrumental Rock, Flamenco, Jazz, and Jazz-Rock Fusion are some of the genres that use shredding. It can, however, be used in any genre, as Michael Jackson did with his pop song, ‘Beat It’, which he co-wrote with Eddie Van Halen.
While these are the most popular genres that use shred guitar, there are others like post-rock and post-metal that use shred guitar. In these genres, shred guitar is a guiding light that narrates a story like it was said directly to the listener.
Elements of Shredding
Here are the elements that make up the shredding style of playing the guitar:
One of the most important elements of shredding is its speed. There is nothing like slow shredding! It’s a very extreme form of guitar playing, and the ability to play cleanly at high speeds is the most important thing for a shredder.
To achieve these speeds, players must practice for some time, or else the whole thing falls apart. Without practice, the precise, beautiful screams of the shred guitar will sound like fumbling mistakes across the fretboard.
Control is to the shredder. You can use a metronome to learn how to play fast music with precision control. Each passage that a shredder plays at full speed is the result of hours of practice. When you play at high speeds, it reveals flaws in the technique that aren’t visible at slower speeds.
However, shred guitars focus on speed and control at high speeds, to the detriment of other aspects of music. While this may be true for some players, the style is far too prevalent and diverse for this to be true for all. Also, a shredder must be able to play difficult passages at high speeds so well.
The sheer speed of these passages can sometimes be a key factor in their difficulty. A beginner may be unable to move his or her hands at a high speed with precision.
The tone is another key element of shredding. The style uses a heavily overdriven guitar sound from a high-gain amplifier. Besides, this sound is very loud and harmonic.
As a result, full chords can sound a little sloppy at times. However, smaller chords with tighter voicings have a distinct fullness and depth that makes up for having fewer notes.
Furthermore, because overdriving a guitar signal naturally compresses it, each note can sound almost as loud as full chords. Overdriving or distorting the amplifier transforms the guitar into a monster that dominates across the frequency spectrum!
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Techniques Used in Shredding
Here are some of the techniques used in shred guitars:
Sweep picking is an advanced technique for playing the guitar. It is essentially a fast and fluid way of playing arpeggios. When done correctly, it allows the player to play multi-octave arpeggios that span the fretboard with relative ease.
The most basic form of sweep picking uses arpeggios with one note per string. It entails using the picking hand as if strumming a chord, while the fretting hand frets each note of the arpeggio. The picking hand does not pick each note but rather attempts to move the pick across the strings in a fast motion.
Examples of more advanced sweep picking include playing arpeggios that both rise and fall, arpeggios with multiple notes on some strings, and using other techniques like tapping.
Picking in a cyclic up-down motion is what alternate picking is all about. Even when changing strings, this up-down motion remains. Because an alternating motion helps you to play fast, this technique is ideal for playing runs on single strings. It is also a very natural motion to perform as it requires less effort to learn.
However, when playing in strict alternate picking, a player must often make larger jumps across the strings with the picking hand when moving the pick from string to string. This is why many fast players also learn to use economy picking!
Economy picking is another method for moving from one string to another. It involves picking the direction of travel when moving from string to string. This is in the place of strictly and rigidly following an up-down-up-down or down-up-down-up pattern.
For example, if the next string you’re going to play is lower down, pick down even if you’ll pick up normally. It’s similar to sweep picking in that the picking hand must be able to move fluidly and precisely, even when moving quickly.
Tapping is the practice of fretting notes on the guitar with the fingers on the picking hand. This can be used to quickly reach higher octaves or to play fast passages. This can be done on a single string or across multiple strings.
Besides, tapping is possible without the high gain sound of shred guitar. However, the natural volume boost and compression that comes with a high gain are excellent for getting the most out of tapped notes.
When we think of legato, the first thing that comes to mind is being able to run through scales smoothly and quickly as you move up and down the fretboard.
However, legato is a term that you will hear often once you begin playing lead guitar. Its literal meaning is ‘tied together,’ but in musical terms, it means that you should play the notes smoothly, with no gaps between them.
Hammer-Ons & Pull-Offs
Both are techniques for producing sound with the fretboard hand. With a hammer-on, you press on the fretboard to produce the sound of the string from your fretting hand, which is not produced by picking. To make sounds with a pull-off, you will pull hard on the string.
String skipping is when you run through a scale and change between strings. That is, you skip and jump over one string and land on the next. An example of this is moving from string A to string G (instead of from A to D).
Top Guitar Shredders
There are many masters of shredding among virtuoso guitarists. Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Paul Gilbert, John Petrucci, Eddie Van Halen, Frank Zappa, Randy Rhoads, Yngwie Malmsteen, Guthrie Govan, and Paco De Lucia are a few examples.
You want to know the genre of their music, don’t you? While the genres these masters play vary, they are all well-respected virtuosos and top-level guitarists. Frank Zappa and Guthrie Govan are jazz-fusion masters, whereas Randy Rhoads, Eddie Van Halen, and Paul Gilbert are hard rock and heavy metal legends.
Also, Paco De Lucia is a classic guitar virtuoso, while John Petrucci is a progressive metal master. Yngwie Malmsteen, Joe Satriani, and his student Steve Vai are all instrumental rock musicians.
5 Examples of Shredding Guitars
Here’s a roundup of the 5 examples of shredding guitar:
1. Van Halen – ‘Eruption’
Who else should start the list of the top songs with shredding guitar than one of its pioneers? This is an instrumental rock guitar solo from Van Halen in 1978. If you’re looking for shredding at its best, then you should listen to this recording.
2. Yngwie Malmsteen – ‘Arpeggios From Hell’
Here’s another top song with a shredding guitar in it. It was released in 2009 by Yngwie Malmsteen. Besides, it has an easy-to-learn video on YouTube.
3. Joe Satriani – ‘Surfing with the Alien’
‘Surfing with the Alien’ is the name of Joe Satriani’s second studio album. This is one of his most successful albums to date. If you’re looking for a song to help you learn how to shred your guitar, then this is a must-listen!
4. Randy Rhoads – ‘Solos’
This is a collection of some of Randy’s most memorable solo guitar work, including some excellent shredding.
5. Steve Vai – ‘Whispering a Prayer’
Here’s another top song with a shredding guitar in its composition. Watch Vai perform the song live on YouTube!
What Are the Features of a Shredding Guitar?
Essentially, if you’re looking to buy a guitar for shredding, here are a few things to consider:
The thinner the neck of your guitar, the better it is for shredding. Hence, if you want to buy a guitar for shredding, ensure that the neck is ultra-thin.
High Output Pickups
The output of the pickup also plays a role in q shredding guitar. You must be sure any guitar you want to use to shred has a very high output pickup.
The weight of the guitar is another important consideration. The lighter the weight of a guitar, the easier it is for shredding.
The distance between frets is key to the playability of a guitar. Therefore, it’s important to go for one with shorter frets when you want to select a guitar for shredding.
It’s easier to play chords on a low-action guitar. For shredding, low action is a desirable feature of a guitar as the guitar strings are closer to the fretboard.
All of these elements complement the shredding process perfectly. It is even shaped to fit the guitarist’s hands for the most natural movement along the fretboard. As a result, after a while of playing, you will not be frustrated.
How Did Shredding Impact Metal Guitar?
For many years, many people considered metal guitar to be less technical than jazz or blues, but shred guitar changed all of that. Guitarists who shred well use so many different styles and techniques that every guitarist in every genre had to sit up and take notice. New players are attempting to reach the heights attained by the shredding fraternity.
However, not everyone sees things the same way. As quickly as shredding exploded onto the music scene, some began to use the term shredder as a derogatory term. To be fair, some of the criticism was justified. There were some pretty bad solos claiming to be a shred guitar.
Is It Hard to Shred a Guitar?
No! It’s relatively simple to learn to shred on the guitar, but it’s far more difficult to master. As a beginner, you must first perfect the moves slowly before mastering them at high speed.
Was Jim Hendrix a Shredder?
No, he wasn’t! Jim Hendrix is one of the most famous people to play the guitar. Although Hendrix did play fast on the guitar, his style couldn’t be classified as shredding.
We hope this guide on shredding guitar has provided you with enough insights about the subject. Shredding guitar is a solo playing style that focuses on advanced and fast-playing methods.
The elements of shredding are speed, control, and tone. Besides, shredding guitar has different techniques that make it possible to play guitar at a very high speed with so much control. Remember that to be a successful shredder, you need regular practice. Have fun playing!