Shredders annoyed with questions about speed - now I get it

MisterTV

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,061
First of all, I am NOT a shredder by anyone's definition, including my own. After 30-plus years of playing, I'm very familiar with my own technical limitations and BPM speed limits.

Over time, I've noticed that many famous players who are praised for their elite abilities become visibility annoyed when asked the same question - "how did you learn to play so FAST?"

The answers tend to be slight variations on the same theme - it's one component of playing, you need to be creative and musical, start slowly and work your way up, etc. All true statements and very sage advice.

So here's why I think these top players grow so weary of this topic - for them, they were able to master speed very quicky and very early in their learning. It's not a lifelong quest for them as it may be to the person asking the question.

What they're not able to say, for obvious reasons is, "Look, if playing fast is still a struggle after three to five years of guitar playing, it's just not happening for you. You can go crazy for the next 20 years trying to muddle through a few Van Halen solos, or you can accept the reality that your best musicianship will come from redirecting limitations into different and more creative avenues."

This realization came to me when a kid behind the counter at Guitar Center tried selling me some kind of string spray that he said would help me play faster.

I smiled and told him that at my age, it's going to take a lot more than a can of something to make me a fast guitar player.

I'm totally fine saying "I can't do that" if asked to play some kind of blistering metal lead. But I understand why it takes younger players a while to reach that point of acceptance (and reality).
 

stratotastic

Member
Messages
7,241
First of all, I am NOT a shredder by anyone's definition, including my own. After 30-plus years of playing, I'm very familiar with my own technical limitations and BPM speed limits.

Over time, I've noticed that many famous players who are praised for their elite abilities become visibility annoyed when asked the same question - "how did you learn to play so FAST?"

The answers tend to be slight variations on the same theme - it's one component of playing, you need to be creative and musical, start slowly and work your way up, etc. All true statements and very sage advice.

So here's why I think these top players grow so weary of this topic - for them, they were able to master speed very quicky and very early in their learning. It's not a lifelong quest for them as it may be to the person asking the question.

What they're not able to say, for obvious reasons is, "Look, if playing fast is still a struggle after three to five years of guitar playing, it's just not happening for you. You can go crazy for the next 20 years trying to muddle through a few Van Halen solos, or you can accept the reality that your best musicianship will come from redirecting limitations into different and more creative avenues."

This realization came to me when a kid behind the counter at Guitar Center tried selling me some kind of string spray that he said would help me play faster.

I smiled and told him that at my age, it's going to take a lot more than a can of something to make me a fast guitar player.

I'm totally fine saying "I can't do that" if asked to play some kind of blistering metal lead. But I understand why it takes younger players a while to reach that point of acceptance (and reality).
You might be on to something. I know I'll never be able to shred. There definitely has to be some genetic aspect, like muscle composition or nerve ending density that you just cannot create out of nothing if you don't already have it. It's like athletics--some guys can practice forever but will never be able to dunk a ball.

But it's funny you mention Van Halen, because I don't really consider that to be "shredding." He has a lot of economy of movement in that his stuff is mostly fast repetition, lots of hammer-ons/pull-offs/tapping, or fingering patterns that are not incredibly challenging. He (and a lot of other guys, I've noticed) also have a knack of making things sound more impressive than they are. There have been many times I've learned a VH solo and been like, "that's all there is?!" But some the stuff played by guys like Paul Gilbert, Yngwie, and all those dudes from the 80s with Italian names just seem completely insurmountable to me. I've actually played with a lot of local guys over the years that do stuff that I can't imagine doing because it's so fast. Doesn't mean it's good music, but it is pretty impressive from a technical standpoint.
 

GulfportBound

Member
Messages
8,357
I could shred, damn near, once upon a time. Then I was in a car accident in 1992
and two key bones in my left hand got broken. The bones healed but a lot of the dexterity
was gone. I had to re-think how I played out of necessity. I'll never have the speed I had
before the accident (I have some speed after years of playing since), but I think I actually
became a better player for it. I found myself liking what I was playing since the accident
a helluva lot more than I liked it when I could really rip and rat-race it.
 

stevel

Member
Messages
14,662
Well, I think I might re-frame this. Could it be that these artists are primarily annoyed that the first and often only question asked is how they got so fast? IOW, I'm sure they feel like speed is but one aspect of their playing. And in some ways, they maybe are annoying that that's the only thing being picked up on by people.

FWIW, I do believe some people are just physically pre-disposed to it. That olympic swimmer - did you see his feet - I mean, they are practically like flippers. But it may have to do with "twitch muscle" or whatever in this instance.

I was thinking the other day - there are a lot of little licks I created when I was young in an attempt to shred. I realized long ago that what was natural for someone else to play fast wasn't necessarily natural for me. So I came up with ideas that were natural to me. To this day I can still play them very fast, but I still can't play licks by others that fast.

However, I did discover something else and stratotastic kind of hit the nail on the head here - a lot of those players not only find patterns that they themselves can do fast - that are natural for them - but they also happen on some that seem to have some inherent advantages in finger order, string crossing, economy picking, etc.

This little YJM pattern (played in sextuplets):

--5--8--7--5--7--8 or its reverse:


--8--5--7--8--7--5

Has this "feel" to it - like your hand is "rolling". If you think about how playing a 16th note gallop can be done faster and longer because of that one 8th note in there giving you a break, I think this pattern has a similar element - somewhere in there - maybe the skipping of a finger in the order in one direction, there's something that makes it "easier" or "more comfortable".

I've found this true of a lot of YJM licks - and if you watch the Troy Grady stuff you'll see how he's dissected a lot of these points.

The "Gilbert Lick" is also one that I found easier to do. But playing the pattern differently - especially if inside picking is involved, is a whole lot harder.

But I also find anything with a 1 2 4 fingering easier than 1 3 4!

But I think what a lot of shredders also do is take the time (and lots of it) to also work on those patterns that don't come as naturally, so they build up speed in all areas.

In some ways, EVH is a bit of a ten-trick pony - after you listen to it a bit, a lot of the licks are the same or the same idea. Still, he's no slouch ;-)

But it's pretty clear he created some things that worked for him - and were quite unique so others couldn't copy it easily - and made a career out of it.

BUT EVH is a great example because I'm sure he always got asked about tapping - and of course, there's much more substance to him than that - especially the rhythm playing, which is beyond mortal.
 

Polynitro

Member
Messages
23,618
um you just have to practice that style.

If EC wanted to shred he could if he practiced it. Sweep arpeggios, economy of motion, etc; these are the tools shredders use.

why doesnt anyone ask classical violin players how they play so fast? They are using the same techniques.
 

vintagelove

Member
Messages
2,571
There is one, not so secret method to playing fast.

Put a couple thousand hours into practicing (the correct exercises) along with a metronome with a focus on speed.

They all did it. Anyone I've ever met who played fast, including myself, did this. There is no shortcut, though some naturally inclined folks might do it in 1000hrs.


They probably get sick of being asked that, and people not putting in the work after getting the answer.
 

Lewguitar

Member
Messages
5,665
um you just have to practice that style.

If EC wanted to shred he could if he practiced it. Sweep arpeggios, economy of motion, etc; these are the tools shredders use.

why doesnt anyone ask classical violin players how they play so fast? They are using the same techniques.
I'm not so sure Clapton could,

Some people have a gift for playing (or typing) super fast and others don't.

I don't see the ability to shred as being any kind of indication of how talented you are as a musician.

Those office workers who can type super fast are gifted at typing fast.

But few are also brilliant novelists or poets.

BB King didn't need to play fast to make his point.

Personally, I think BB was miles ahead of most shredders in terms of being musically gifted.

And speaking of miles, Miles Davis shined most brightly when he played slowly and with feeling.

Miles was a great composer and a creative genius who changed the direction of music several times. But he was no shredder.

If shredding is your gift go for it. Be true to yourself.

But if it's not, don't worry about it. Just be yourself and express yourself.
 
Last edited:

Rufus

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
1,790
I assume pros tire of it in part because it gives the short shrift to everything else they do. I'm guessing they would rather be known for creating awesome music instead of where they top out on the metronome. Asking them how they learned to play fast is sort of like asking Michael Jordan how he learned to jump so high. Sure, he can (or could) do that, but he probably cares more about being the guy that led his team to 6 championships.
 
Messages
3,832
I think the most annoying thing would be that you're always reminded by certain individuals that "speed isn't everything", often with poorly disguised condescension.

Yeah. Unless someone actually makes that claim, there's no point in always bringing it up, or variations on it. It'd be like always telling an action film director that "You know, you don't HAVE to have all these fight sequences, big and flashy isn't everything, bro..."

It's not everything, but I'll be damned if it's not a massive thrill to watch a huge, fast-paced movie that hits all the right buttons. I love that, but OF COURSE I don't want that all the time. That's pretty obvious, is it not?

I love playing fast, and I love listening to players who do it (and do it well, mind you).
 

Lewguitar

Member
Messages
5,665
I thought this guy had some good points given his almost inhuman speed at times:
There you go. Playing fast is a gift separate from the ability to make music.

Just like typing fast is a gift separate from being a great poet.

Shawn says he was just born that way and he probably was.
 

Turi

Member
Messages
9,485
If you want to be able to do it you need to practice it. With a metronome at a slower tempo and up it when you start smashin' it clean.
There's a fair few patterns you can shred out easily, they're pretty much just arpeggios.. chord shapes..
You don't shred scales, you alt-pick or hybrid-pick or w/e you want to do with scales but with shredding it's basically always arpeggios for me.
Something like this:



There should be no physical discomfort. It should feel like you're basically doing nothing. You hardly move your hand.
That's the part people don't seem to get. Once you get the technique down (which is literally just sweeping your pick up and down the fretboard vertically) you just build up how fast you're doing it. Should be no tension in your hand. Any pics or vids of people where their veins are popping out is purely for show.
It's the least physical technique you could do on guitar. When you rip out a blues lick ala SRV with some real power, you're physically exerting yourself more in that one lick than a shredder would in a whole solo (assuming all they do is shred).

The same no tension rule applies to the fretting hand. This is why many shredders prefer thin necks with thin strings and low action.
It allows them to fret easily, with no tension, which means they can fret faster.
You'll find their speed isn't coming from their left hand though. It's that right hand technique.

It's purely a technique, in the same way SRV right-hand percussive rhythm thing is a technique.
Same as hybrid picking is a technique. Etc etc. I only use it for effect, sparingly.
Anyway here's a dude showing you what's up:


I play myself a little shred in this track:

All of the shreddy parts of that are zero tension and an example of world-class right hand shredding technique.
TAB it out, start off slow at like 180bpm and eventually you'll be able to build it up to around my speed (over 9000).

Don't overdo it though, nobody wants to hear anyone play like that for longer than a couple seconds, tops.

I don't care about any snarky comments from people who were "born to sweep" or any of that crap. It's ********. They can sweep or shred because they've practiced it.
They've most likely practiced it very slowly and built it up, same with any technique.
 

vintagelove

Member
Messages
2,571
I thought this guy had some good points given his almost inhuman speed at times:
2 things...


First, perhaps the advice of the FASTEST GUY EVER, isn't the best for everyone. Then again, maybe it is. That being said, Notice even he said he spent three years cleaning up his picking.

Second, one thing I agree with (among many he said), when I learn something, I try to play it up to speed as soon as possible.
 

BlackT-Shirt

Member
Messages
908
First of all, I am NOT a shredder by anyone's definition, including my own. After 30-plus years of playing, I'm very familiar with my own technical limitations and BPM speed limits.

Over time, I've noticed that many famous players who are praised for their elite abilities become visibility annoyed when asked the same question - "how did you learn to play so FAST?"

The answers tend to be slight variations on the same theme - it's one component of playing, you need to be creative and musical, start slowly and work your way up, etc. All true statements and very sage advice.

So here's why I think these top players grow so weary of this topic - for them, they were able to master speed very quicky and very early in their learning. It's not a lifelong quest for them as it may be to the person asking the question.

What they're not able to say, for obvious reasons is, "Look, if playing fast is still a struggle after three to five years of guitar playing, it's just not happening for you. You can go crazy for the next 20 years trying to muddle through a few Van Halen solos, or you can accept the reality that your best musicianship will come from redirecting limitations into different and more creative avenues."

This realization came to me when a kid behind the counter at Guitar Center tried selling me some kind of string spray that he said would help me play faster.

I smiled and told him that at my age, it's going to take a lot more than a can of something to make me a fast guitar player.

I'm totally fine saying "I can't do that" if asked to play some kind of blistering metal lead. But I understand why it takes younger players a while to reach that point of acceptance (and reality).
George Carlin said it best: “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”
 

Chris Pile

Member
Messages
511
I'm not so sure Clapton could,
He can and he has. Back when Van Halen was the latest hot lick, some moron hollered "Eruption" at a Clapton show. He looked sour for a minute, and then peeled off this blistering string of licks that made Eddie look like a chump. The crowd went ape.... And then he went back to playing blues. Don't fall for the "Slowhand" moniker - it referred to slow clapping after a good solo back when he was with John Mayall.
 

monty

Member
Messages
22,306
It's annoying the same way a natural body builder gets annoyed with the how did you get so big questions. Hidden in that question is a accusation.
Now asking specifics like what drills did you do or work out advice is different.
 

tribalfusion

Member
Messages
6,549
He can and he has. Back when Van Halen was the latest hot lick, some moron hollered "Eruption" at a Clapton show. He looked sour for a minute, and then peeled off this blistering string of licks that made Eddie look like a chump. The crowd went ape.... And then he went back to playing blues. Don't fall for the "Slowhand" moniker - it referred to slow clapping after a good solo back when he was with John Mayall.

This is one of the sillier posts I've seen on here in a while.
 




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