If you were hoping that some book or website was going to provide you with an easy answer to learning how to shred then think again. It's a time consuming process that takes a lot of dedication. If I had to sum it up in one sentence I would say: Relaxation, economy of movement, and practise practise practise!
People are divided on their opinions of shred hereos such as Steve Vai or Joe Satriani. Some refer to them as guitar gods because they have mastered the technical art of playing guitar. Whereas, others accuse them of using their technical skills to make up for a lack of melody and 'real' musical talent. I think that being able to shred is an excellent tool that allows you greater flexibility in what you can express musically. However, it is just a tool to make music, it is not music itself.
Still want to play fast? You're a guitarist, of course you do. We all know that shredding is music to our ears (and our ears only) and we would trade our own mothers for Steve Vai's oversized, gangly shred fingers. Playing fast requires steady and relaxed wrists, a good sense of rhythm, and close attention to accuracy and technique. Some basic tips to get you started are outlined below:
- Buy a metronome, and use it. Warm up with scales and exercises.
- Keep your wrists relaxed. Tense wrists use up energy and give you cramp. Relaxed wrists move faster and more consistently.
- Keep the pick/plectrum movements as small and consistent as possible. This saves energy and reduces the distance the pick travels. The less distance the pick has to travel, the faster you can play each stroke.
- Keep as little of the pick as possible exposed (2mm). This stops the pick travelling further than it needs to. Keeping the movements as shallow as possible between the strings reduces friction.
- Play slow exercises, making sure you pay attention to accuracy and rhythm.
Both hands have to stay relaxed to accomplish fast playing for any length of time. Look at any professional guitarist and you will notice their fingers take minimal movements and make even the fastest solos look straightforward and simple. Also notice how professionals at any other skill can always make it look easy, it is because they can do it relaxed. Make sure:
- Your wrists are as straight as possible. Do this by using the best finger positions on your left hand and positioning the right forearm to maintain a constant angle between the picking hand and the strings.
- Daily exercise. Try speed exercises and remember the right hand drives the left hand so work solely on your right hand occasionally. Don't forget slow and accurate exercises. If you can't do it slow then you can't do it fast.
- Choose an exercise (e.g. some tabbed below) and play at a pace that is slow and even, making sure it is slow enough to play repeatedly with 100% accuracy. Play to a metronome until the exercise becomes second nature, then…
- Increase the tempo a small amount and practise until the 100% accuracy is second nature. It is important to keep increasing the tempo by the same amount without missing sections. Playing at a wide range of tempos is good for accuracy, as there are different motions of the right hand as you get faster. Otherwise things could get sloppy.
- Keep repeating step 2.