Ever wanted to play extremely fast? Furiously blaze through the neck of your beloved guitar? Sweep arpeggios all day (or night) long? In the recent years we have been able to witness the return of shred guitar. Shredding has become cool again, thanks to bands like Trivium, Children Of Boddom or Shadows Fall.
Today I'd like to give you some valuable tips that will hopefully help you become a true Master of Shred Guitar...
1. Practise your left & right hand separately. Most beginners and even intermediate players aren't aware of that. Devote a certain amount of time to your left hand technique then train your right hand (or the other way round if you prefer) and finally practise synchronisation of both hands. Having both hands well trained will make synchronising them a lot easier and will allow greater speed.
2. During the early years of your playing give your left hand more attention. First of, fluent legato technique is relatively easy to learn. It is also a lot easier to play fast legato than alternate picking. Paul Gilbert, as well as many other shredders, played his fast licks mostly using hammer on's & pull off's for the first seven years of his playing. You can be an amazing player if your left hand technique is good but not the other way round.
3. You can start learning sweep picking only when you reach a relatively high level of proficiency in both your left & right hand technique. Sweeping is one of those techniques that seems very difficult at first but when you reach that "certain" point it gets a lot easier and you begin progressing pretty fast. Surprisingly, the major difficulty with sweeping is not the right hand motion, but the left hand speed and flexibility.
4. Use a metronome! Practise at a comfortable tempo most of the time but don't make the mistake of practicing slow all the time. A great way to build up speed is to start slow and gradually increase the tempo untill the "nearly impossible to play" point. After reaching that point back off to a comfortable tempo again. Have a look at my Free Guitar Lessons - The Time Machine post. If you don't have a metronome yet, I recommend you check out this one.
5. Always warm up before the practice session. It will not only help you stay away from injuries but will also increase your playing comfort, speed and accuracy. Not warming up before playing may lead to unwanted tension which is the greatest enemy of speed guitar. Be sure to check out Free Guitar Lessons - Warm-up Ideas.
If you consider buying shred guitar DVD's or courses think of your current level of abilities and choose a product that's appropriate for you. If you're an intermediate player who wants to learn to shred you will not benefit much from another Rusty Cooley or Francesco Farreri video. You'd probably be much better off choosing either Guitar Burning Speed or Guitar Hotshot course. The latter one is actually the most complete package I've seen so far at that price level and I can honestly recommend it to anyone who wants to improve their chops as well as improvisation skills or theory knowledge.
You may also want to have a look at my Free Guitar Lessons - How to Design Your Practice Routine? article for ideas on organizing your practice time.
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