What Is Shredding On Guitar?

The phrase “shredding” is often misused in the guitar language. I think this is mainly due to the fact that it is not technically a musical definition. Arguably it is considered to be a cultural wordplay.

In this article, we discuss this in more detail…

1. What is Shredding?

Shredding on the guitar (also known as shred guitar) basically means playing fast. However, this word can be use interchangably. For example, some people may be referring to people’s playing style, technique or even just playing a guitar solo.

You can take a look at known shred guitarists like Zakk Wylde or Kirk Hammet and can see that they are known for playing fast using a variety of techniques (discussed below).

But, you can find Hayley Williams using the terms differently (on one of her live video playing misery business, see here). Is this video she uses the phrase “shredding on the guitar” referring the their lead guitar doing a guitar solo – just strumming chords. But, the context is important, she says it as a generalization of a guitar solo, but using it as a cultural exhalt to switch the audience attention from her over to the guitarist.

2. Shredding Techniques


When we talk about legato, the first thing that comes to mind is being able to run through scales smoothly by hammering on multipul notes at high speed as you move up and down the fretboard.

However, legato is a term that you will hear a lot once you start getting into lead guitar playing. Its literal meaning is ‘tied together,’ but in musical terms it means that you should play the notes in a smooth manner, with no space between one note and the next.

Hammer-ons & Pull-offs

emember that a legato technique will include a series of hammer-ons and pull-offs.

Now let’s have a quick review of the hammer-on and pull-off movement. Both of them are the techniques producing sound from the fretboard hand. With a hammer-on, it is about pressing on the fretboard to produce the sound of the string from your fretting hand, and that does not originate from picking. And for a pull-off, you will pull hard off the string to create sounds.


Tapping is a standard technique which we fret with one hand (the left one) and hammer-on with the fingertip strumming hand (the right one).

The passages in this technique include using the hammer-on/pull-off effect being executed with the right hand tapping the high note. Then immediately releasing the string allowing the note to be held by the left hand.

Alternate picking

Alternate picking is described to be a combination of playing downstrokes and upstrokes consecutivley picking every note (making it different from legato).

So what are the down-strokes and upstrokes? Firstly, the down-stroke is played with a downward motion of the pick, toward the floor. And on the other hand, for an upstroke, it will be played upward, toward the ceiling.

Sweep picking

Sweep picking is used to play the arpeggios, which include the notes of a chord played separately. For this technique, you can choose to apply it for playing one note per string or even 3 or 6 notes per string.

Making it different to alternatepicking as you will always pick in the direction that your hand is moving. That means if your hand is moving down a string, then pick down. If it is moving up, then pick up.

Economy picking

Economy picking is a combination of both alternate picking and sweep picking. It primarily consists of alternate picking but takes advantage of sweeping picking when changing strings.

By incorporating a sweep will keep the motion of your hand movement ensuring you always pick inside when swapping strings.

This is important as by always picking inside the string will save you time and energy and so you can pick faster with less effort overall.

String skipping

String skipping is when running through a scale and change between strings, you actually skip and jump over a string and land on the following string. For example this would include going from string A to String G (instead of going from A to D).

3. Shredding Guitars

Shredding guitar generally have many distinguishing features mainly optimized to help the guitarist play faster for longer.

Shred Guitars usually include:

  • Ultra-thin necks
  • High output pickups
  • Extreme lightweight
  • Shorter frets
  • Low Action

All these things combined perfectly match to the shredding process. it is even designed in a way that suits the guitarists’ hands for the best and most natural movement alongside the fretboard. Therefore, you will not feel frustrated after a while of playing.

4. Shredding Gear

You don’t have to get all technical with gear when wanting to be a better shredder as its mainly down to technique and the way you play. However, there is some gear that can make your life a bit more easier.

  • Compressor Pedal – I would say this is probably the most important as a good compressor makes it easier to play as it pulls those quieter frequencies to the surface of your playing. This makes you take less effort to hit the next note and be heard.
  • Distortion (amp or pedal) – i like to use a Ibanez tube screamer pedal when playing faster. However, it doesn’t really matter too much in my opinion. Just make sure you have a bit of distortion and do NOT crank it too high!
  • Type of Amp – there is no true definition of a shredders amp as we have seen the term can encompass a range of styles. But, amps like Bugera and Orange fit well in style where people tend to play faster and more technical.
  • 1.5mm pick – Personally, I find its easier to pick faster using a stronger less bendy, but not too thick. 1.5mm works well for me.
  • String dampener – It can get messy when playing faster as you can accidentally hit open strings and they ring out. a string dampener will help damped those ringing strings.

5. Tips for becoming a better shredder?

When learning how to play faster there becomes many hurdles to over come to give a really tight and good performance.

As you can see being able to play fast requires a lot of practice.


Thanks for reading this article.

Shred guitar, often known as shredding, is a skilled lead guitar solo playing style focusing on advanced and difficult playing methods, notably including quick passages to fully instrumental.

It includes fast alternate picking, sweep-picked arpeggios, finger-tapping, and whammy-bar abuse are all examples of shred guitar.

It’s popular in heavy metal guitar playing, where musicians utilise an electric guitar with a guitar amplifier and a variety of electronic effects including distortion to generate a more prolonged guitar tone and assist guitar feedback effects. However, it can be referenced to just generalize someone playing a bit of a solo guitar. But, this is not its true definition.

Rich Wilde Music

My name is Richard Wilde and go by @richwildemusic on all major social channels. I am an artist, guitar player, and producer. I have been playing guitar for over 15 years and have come to learn the "tips" and "tricks" to enhance guitar playing, recording guitar, setting up guitar, and overall get that professional sound.

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