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If I Don't Like Shred, Why Should I Bother Learning It?
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Richard Baines

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If I Don't Like Shred,
Why Should I Bother Learning It?
by Richard Baines, founder of

For some people, there's nothing more satisfying than watching clips of an elusive guitarist from South America that they've never heard of, playing guitar so fast you can't see their fingers. Some people are mesmerized by watching seamless 6 string sweep picking patterns played at speed. You on the other hand may find this all boring and pointless! Most people tend to fall somewhere in between.

However, disliking a musical style doesn't mean there isn't plenty for you to still learn from its techniques, and shred guitar is one of the finest genres to pick if you're looking to broaden your musical horizons. It may not sound like it on first listen, but there isn't one technique used in shred guitar that can't be used in other musical styles. Still doubtful? Okay, lets go through some examples.

Sweep Picking

One of the most common complaints we get on Shredaholic is that sweep picking is so unusual and complex, that even in shred guitar it can be really difficult to incorporate into a piece of songwriting. This view originates from the misconception that sweep picking must be played fast. Not so! Although the technique is notable for allowing arpeggios to be played quickly and fluidly with ease, it still sounds great at slow speeds!

Slower uses for sweep picking could include a rhythmic backing melody in a soft rock song, to get away from the boring power chord, power chord, power chord pattern most bands use. You could even use your mastery of the plectrum to glide up and down the strings when in the middle of a jazz solo!

Two Handed Tapping

Those of you clued up on rock history will already know that tapping wasn't even a product of metal guitar, since guitarists like Brian May had been using it many years before Eddie Van Halen popularized the technique. Jazz guitarists such as Emmett Chapman were using multiple fingers to tap with in the 1960's! So don't get too hung up because metal guitar seems to have stamped it's claim on this technique. If you like that liquid smooth sound it makes, even on a guitar without distortion, use it and enjoy it!

Extreme Picking

Let's say you went down to the gym, and had a go at lifting some heavy weights. You manage to just about lift X number of reps with 60lbs. Then you pick up some 6lb weights - they feel like they weigh almost nothing in comparison! If you wanted you could swing them around, point them in any direction, heck even lift them with your little finger!

This is exactly what it's like playing lead guitar once you've truly mastered your picking ability. After discovering shred, for me going back to simple pentatonic rock guitar soloing was effortlessly simple and much more enjoyable. You might not have to use that extra picking speed in your back pocket, but if it's there, you're going to have a much easier ride than the guitarist next to you who has never even tried playing quickly. His slow licks won't be as soulful because he's having to expend more effort in thinking about playing the guitar. Once your technique is mastered, you don't think; you just play. Wouldn't it be nice to play without limits, and just play?

Then you know what you should really do - nail those tedious chromatic exercises that shred guitarists use to hone their chops, because it will bring benefit to your blues (or any style of) soloing.

--good luck!

Richard Baines

Copyright © Richard Baines 2010. Used with permission.

About Richard Baines

Richard's Guitar

Richard is the UK based founder of shred guitar lessons site Shredaholic, and has been teaching and supporting excellence in guitar for over 6 years. His other areas of expertise include vintage Marshall tube amps, effect pedal electronics and luthiery.

Free Download - 17 Essential Strum Patterns PDF

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