Do you want to be a guitar god? Do you want to shred the heck out of your guitar? This quick guide will get you started on the road to guitar mastery. I’ve included tips and tricks from guitar legends that will definitely inspire you to pick up the guitar right now and practice till you’re a shred god.
Note: To follow through with this guide, I’m assuming that you are an intermediate guitar player. You should already have an electric guitar, an amplifier, maybe a few effects pedals, and a decent understanding of chords and scales.
If not, check out our guide on how to play the guitar.
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The Golden Rule of Shred Guitar
Most guitarists make one common mistake when learning how to shred guitar: they think it's all about playing fast and faster. But that's not true at all.
To effectively shred at guitar, you must remember this golden rule:
Practice, practice, and practice everything you play at the slowest speed possible until you can’t make a single mistake.
Let me repeat: practice until you CAN'T make a mistake. This is the most important tip, and I wish someone had said this early in my teens.
So what does that mean? Everything that you practice: scale runs, licks, chromatic, advanced techniques like legato and tapping; all of it needs to be practiced at very slow speeds.
If you try to play it fast, you’re bound to mess up, and you will ingrain that into your playing habits. Hence, take it super slow, and play it till you have it memorized. This leads us to our next tip.
How to Use Slow Motion to Improve Your Shredding Technique
Playing fast starts by playing slow, with a metronome.
If you want to play fast, I cannot overstress the importance of using a metronome because without a pulse – there is no point. Your best pal should be the metronome. To become a skilled guitarist, you must pass the dull phase before you are at a level where you can try the riffs or leads for which all shredder guitarists are known.
So a quick tip: start each practice routine at half the current speed, whether you learn a new song, an epic guitar solo, or simply a new lick. Start practicing at half speed to a metronome and steadily raise it by just five BPM until you are comfortable with it.
Tips That Will Help You Become A Pro Shredder
Here are a few things that you need to keep in mind before you start on your path to becoming a true shredder:
The pick (or plectrum) is your primary weapon. Choose a pick that delivers the perfect attack, is well balanced, and produces a prominent tone. A pick ideal for shredding should be small and have a good grip, so you get maximum control.
There are plently of exercises you can do with your pick as demonstrated here:
For shredding, having a fast picking technique is a must, and for that, you need to have a right-hand posture that affords complete control. Keeping the wrist over the bridge in a somewhat fixed manner works for most. You can also mute the strings when needed by pressing down on the strings near the bridge using your wrist.
Shredding requires a lot of movement from both the right and the left hand. However, your hand can often get exhausted pretty fast due to all those movements, which can demotivate you from your goal.
To deal with this problem, you need to reduce your overall movements and make them more economical. You must not ever use excessive force and develop postures to produce the best results with minimum effort.
Exercise Your Hands
Always practice your basics and gradually increase your speed using a metronome. There are many basic exercises available over the internet, such as the ‘chromatic exercise' and the ‘string-skipping exercise'. These can drastically boost your hand synchronization and build the foundation for several advanced licks later. You can see some such exercises in the below video:
So, there's no shortcut as usual, but the route to becoming a master shredder is not something dreadful. If you follow the Slow-motion rule mentioned earlier and keep in mind these few pro-tips, practice is the only thing between what you are and what you want to become.
Knowing Your Way Around The Fretboard
When learning to shred on the guitar, the most crucial thing you must achieve is to learn your way around the fretboard. Just like while cooking, you must know all the ingredients that are required. For shredding, you must know all the notes over the fretboard. If you don’t already know your way around a fretboard, this video can help:
Not being confident with the position of the notes that you want to play is the most common bottleneck for most guitarists. The process of overcoming this hurdle is one of the slowest, but once you succeed in speeding your note finding capability, your playing ability will improve marginally.
First of all, there are 12 music notes in total, which means that as you go 12 frets higher, everything repeats itself. The open-string notes repeat at the 12th fret. Every note after that, all the way up to the 24th fret, is the same as the previous 12 frets.
Because half of the fretboard is repeated, just half of it has to be memorized. If I say that it is an easy process, then I would be bluffing. Learning the notes all over the fretboard is a time-consuming process that needs daily practice.
My advice would be to integrate this practice with the chromatic finger exercise. For that, you just have to recite the names of the notes every time you play one. This is a very effective way, especially for beginners.
Before memorizing the notes, you need a fretboard diagram with all the corresponding notes written over each fret. You can either print it from the internet or make one yourself. Now, there are many ways that you can use to engrave the position of the notes in your memory, but only some are less tiresome.
Personally, I used to practice scale patterns on my guitar over backing tracks available on youtube. The backing track videos have diagrams that you can refer to while playing the guitar simultaneously. This method is not only an effective one but also makes the tedious process very enjoyable.
Shredding, at its core, just involves playing multiple notes belonging to different scale patterns in a fluid and speedy manner. Only a player with fluent fingers can become a master shredder.
How To Shred A Solo And Make It Unique
Now, once you become somewhat confident with your fingers and your fretboard, it's time for a little musical experiment. Please pick up your guitar right now and follow along as I guide you through a little soloing adventure.
The first step is to select a simple solo that you are familiar with. The tempo should be something you can play comfortably. Perhaps it's the classic “Sweet Child O' Mine” solo by Slash from Guns N' Roses or maybe the famous “Smoke on the water” solo by Deep Purple.
Whatever you do, make sure it's something you're quite familiar with. Take a break from all of your other projects and focus only on this solo. Put everything else aside and concentrate solely on performing this song with emotion. Sit down and think about the solo after you've practiced the song enough.
In this solo, I want you to start establishing your own unique style. That is, you should not perform the song precisely as you would any other time. Instead, concentrate on making each note or phrase stand out from the rest.
The simplest approach is to utilize particular techniques and patterns that will give your solo its unique personality. Instead of plucking the strings, you may use a slightly different picking method, such as tapping the notes with the tip of your fingers.
You may also add some juicy sweeps in between or use remarkable hammer-on/pull-off methods. You might also use some vibrato methods and perhaps go a little wild with the tremolo if you truly feel it. These are just a few suggestions; there are plenty of more ways to express yourself in this solo.
This unique style I'm referring to is one of the most crucial factors to consider if you truly want to stand out. This is the ultimate weapon if you truly want to sound like an expert. If you keep polishing your style continuously, you'll be able to shred like iconic guitar gods before you know it.
Lessons from the Guitar Heroes of Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow
One of the best teachers in the world is the guitar itself. And when it comes to developing your own unique style, nothing beats experience. So, let’s take a look at some of the great guitarists who have come before us and see what unique techniques and patterns they used to make their solos memorable.
Slash is the first man I want you to concentrate on. He is regarded as one of the world's best guitarists. He is a legend who doesn't care much about music theory, but knows the fretboard quite well.
As soon as he starts soloing between a song, he starts without paying any attention to theory. He begins to feel the music and plays it, which is his primary thing. He inspires a lot of people through his epic solos and incredible shreds, which are a result of him being a true master of his fingers and his fretboard.
Let's look at another excellent guitarist, Steve Vai, another of the finest guitarists ever and has won several Grammys throughout his career. If you watch his videos, you will learn just how creatively he uses his whammy bar.
His innovative technique based on that tremolo is essential to his unique style. Not only does it distinguish him, but it makes him sound extraordinary.
There are several modern guitarists, such as Tosin Abasi from the “Animals as Leaders” band, whose hybrid picking technique is outstanding. Then there is also Ichika Nito, a relatively new guitarist yet devilishly skilled in guitar.
His excellent and distinctive technique comprises beautiful and super-fast tapping. He also combines several sweeping pickings and harmonics in his playing style, which makes him sound ethereal. His sound is so distinctive that there is no comparison, and all that is the result of vast amounts of practice.
There are many other techniques used by some famous guitarists, such as Edward Van Helen, Al Di Meola, Paul Gilbert, Yngwie Malmsteen, John Petrucci, Jason Becker, etc. They are some of the true masters of shred and continue to inspire musicians all over the globe.
The Best Shred Guitar Solos To Learn
There is no best! It all depends on your level of expertise and what you want to accomplish. If you just want to play along with the radio or a tape, then any solo will do. But, if you're going to become a real pro, you should concentrate on only the very best.
Let's have a look at some of the best guitar solos ever recorded. These are just some of our suggestions. You can always pick your favorite ones.
On the other hand, these will offer us an idea of what a player needs to know to make a memorable solo. And after you've mastered these, you'll be able to solo nearly anything. Here we go:
- “Time” by David Gilmour
- “Surfing With The Aliens” by Joe Satriani
- “The Best of Times” by John Petrucci (Dream Theater)
- “November Rain” by Slash (Guns ‘N’ Roses)
- “Viking Kong” by Paul Gilbert
- “Far Beyond The Sun” by Yngwie Malmsteen
- “Eruption” by Eddie Van Halen
- “One” by Kirk Hammett (Metallica)
- “Tornado of Souls” by Marty Friedman (Megadeth)
- “Bad Horsie” by Steve Vai
How To Shred Guitar For Beginners, Final Thoughts
Before you start your legendary journey, let’s recap these crucial points:
- Practice hard, but never practice the wrong way. Unlearning the wrong method is much, much harder. So you must always know what to practice.
- Never over-exert yourself. Take a break whenever your hand starts to hurt. You don’t want to injure yourself permanently.
- Never forget the slow-motion rule and, always use a metronome.
Learning how to shred guitar will open up a world of musical possibilities, but you have to keep honing your skills consistently. There is no upper limit to learning. If you stop practicing, then your skills take a nosedive too. Now go practice and become a shred god!