At first, getting the hang of shredding seems to be mostly an athletic process — drills, exercises, repetition, gradual expansion of depth and breadth of technique and repertoire. Practicing against a metronome, benchmarking tempos to challenge against, tends to solidify that outlook. Players have been debating this one back and forth since Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads — hell, since Hendrix and Blackmore, whether a focus on perfecting and accelerating the technical aspects can do a disservice to the “feel” side of becoming a well-rounded player.
Whether or not the debate is valid just depends on what your personal outlook toward music in general, and your own playing in particular, happens to be. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being drawn in by hearing someone uncork some “how’d they do that” speed runs, and figuring out the basics, and impressing the neighbors with your high-speed shredding. It’s fun, which is what this should be all about, of course.
At some point, you want to put that virtuosity to the service of some sort of goal, whether it’s learning your favorite song, writing your own song, playing something from the classical canon, whatever. Some of the things we’ll cover here at PTG in the near future are designed to bridge that gap, to impart musicality as early on as possible, along with the mechanical expertise needed to tear it up in the first place.
It took about five or six years of playing for me to really start making the connection in a useful way. And in learning more and more classical pieces and adapting them to the guitar, it became clear that if there is a “shortcut” in this world to learning to burn faster and better, it was through playing and analyzing those classical pieces. Concepts of theory and technique that might take months or even years to learn in music school are contained within many classical pieces, including many designed for solo pieces. And just in learning to play the pieces themselves, musicality is infused into the inherent virtuosity of the works.
Stay tuned, in the weeks to come we’ll be looking at many such pieces that will get you where you want to go as a player — more quickly, more effectively, and more musically.