Eishredfest... Is It Necessary?

Three years ago, I first heard Steve Vai. And, like most players, my jaw dropped and hit the floor.

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Three years ago, I first heard Steve Vai. And, like most players, my jaw dropped and hit the floor. From there, I heard Joe Satriani, John Petrucci, Eric Johnson, and other greats. Before that, Hendrix was the only guitarist in my world of virtuosity. So, to hear these guys was an eye-opener to new techniques and soloing.

However, none of my peers could get into their music the way I did; as to why, it took me a while to figure it out. Eventually, I heard Dragonforce, and similar metal bands with crazy guitarists. I thought, Herman Li's great, but I can't listen to a Pac-Man soundtrack for hours on end. Sure, others like him and I respect him as an amazing player; it's just not my taste. I'd rather listen to Jack Johnson, something that to me is melodically relevant, as opposed to a wall of a million notes per second, which although may be cool can become incredibly annoying. Finally, I understood why my peers didn't enjoy Vai; to them, he was just playing notes that had no meaning to them. To me, though, I heard raw emotion in many of his tracks. It took me some time, though, to get past the fact that he was essentially just playing notes dictated by, in his words, little black dots.

After hearing the mentioned names, I began applying more theory to my guitar, as well as slowing down the songs to half-speed and learning them note-for-note. Slowly, my playing progressed, and although I may never reach the level these guys have attained, my technique improved drastically. I'm still stumbling through complex sections, like some of Petrucci's Glasgow Kiss, but the learning processes and increase in skills are still fun. One day, I popped U2's Zooropa in, and thought, as much as I love Vai's technique, tone, and songs, I'd take this over Vai any day. Why? Because, in my personal opinion, U2 are more melodically relevant and concentrate more on the actual song rather than focusing their energy into the technical pattern of the song. Don't get me wrong, I love Vai's music; I'm actually listening to For the love of God while I'm writing this, and it's one of the few songs that actually brings a tear to my eye when I hear it. I can feel his raw, emotional, spiritual longing. Some say Vai has no feeling; I disagree. I dare anyone to listen to For the Love of God and not feel any emotion. But, to some extent, I'll admit these people speak a very partial truth. Some of my favorites, like Johnny Lee Hooker and Robert Johnson, are clearly pouring everything they've got, including their life experiences, into their playing on every single song. Vai is pouring his soul into his music and his playing, but not to the same extent as these guys. This is when the fact finally hit me with full force. Sure, I can play my way up and down the Phrygian scale (major III long story, that's another article), but shred isn't my thing. I am, after all, a musician before I am a shredder (as much as that sounds like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles character). I'd rather follow the old punk adage three chords and the truth than be able to play the solo section to Through the Fire and Flames. Again, right now I'm working on one of the sections of Vai's Building the Church. Why? Because I love Vai, and that song is awesome, both technically and sonically. But also, it's to improve as a player. This whole idea actually brings me back to another one of my favorite guitarists, The Edge of U2 (once again, another article it's coming someday, I promise). In an interview with Guitar World, the interviewer asked why he didn't play more solos. He said that he was fed up with everyone playing for speed, claiming music had come down to what he calls the guitar olympics. He would much rather play intricate patters of delayed arpeggios molded within the complex architecture of the song's structure. So, you honestly have to ask yourself, do you want the gold at the guitar olympics? Personally, I feel it's a nice medal to show off, but I wouldn't make my living out of it. Here's a subjective point, and you don't have to listen to my opinion; in fact, I expect many of you will disagree with me on this one. I hate Yngwie Malmsteen, not as a person, but as a player. In fact, I detest almost the entire genre of neo-classical. Some people like it, and I respect that. I just don't like it. It's not entertaining to me. Why? I don't want to hear a Bach fugue on a heavily distorted guitar for three hours. If he were actually playing on a classical, that would be different. Sure, neo-classical can be cool in some situations, but I would never have any desire to attend such a concert. I absolutely love classical guitarists, and admire many of them. The other thing that kills me about neo-classical is the distortion. First off, the songs weren't meant to be played distorted. I'm pretty sure that when Bach composed the Brandenburg Concertos, he didn't imagine a Marshall cranked up to 12. The way it was meant to be played is, in my mind, beautiful. I'm one of the biggest classical fans; I just don't like it on heavy guitars. The other point is, I find distortion, while allowing you to pull off hammer-ons, crazy dives, and tapping and arpeggio techniques, can also mask all of the mistakes one makes when playing. If Yngwie were to play with no distortion, he'd be a totally different player, and I question whether he'd be able to do what he does without said distortion. No offense to you Yngwie, you're a great player and incredibly talented; I'm just not a fan of your music not yet at least. I'm going to bring Joe Satriani to the playing table here, along with Eric Johnson. The thing I love about these guys is that they bring both technical skill and quality of composition into effect. Satch is incredibly melodic, and that's what I love him for; what I especially love is his intros, usually in a Lydian scale. Satriani concentrates more so on the song he's writing than playing a million notes per minute. He doesn't do it just because he can, and for that I have a huge amount of respect for him. Johnson is just well the king of tone. And on top of that, he can play pretty fast. Just listen to Cliffs of Dover. I find that, so far among instrumental guitar virtuosos, they've come the closest to finding the perfect balance of speed and melody. Hopefully more will continue to unite the two the way these guys have. Still stranger, I'm going to drag a bassist into this; Billy Sheenan. I love Billy Sheenan's technique in terms of technicality and in terms of melody. He's awesome, and I could actually listen to his solo record all day. However, the one thing I will say that I think he could improve on (I know Billy Sheenan improve?!?!) is his tone. To me, it always sounded a little thin and treble heavy, especially for a bassist. I mean, I can understand if that's the tone he's looking for (which he probably is) and being a soloing bassist (okay, no drums stop very bad jokes please) his sound is probably contoured to what he likes and what makes his playing better. I just think as a bassist he needs more depth, as that is the first and foremost job of a bassist. If he's trying to think outside the box (which he is), then I respect him even more, that's what every good musician should strive to do. I just prefer basses that are fuller. Actually, that may be just a subjective opinion of mine that I should probably heed as a player. So, what can you draw out of this? If you haven't listened to a word I've said, I don't blame you; it's a long article. In a nutshell, I'm thinking that by writing this article it will create an ultimate realization within the reader. You don't need to play fast to be good. Though, I will admit it's cool. Some of the greatest guitarists aren't incredibly fast like The Edge, Eric Clapton, or Neil Young (okay, he might be fast, but I've heard him play one note for about a minute in a solo, and it sounded awesome). Shredding is, essentially fun. I mean, who doesn't want to stand (or sit as I do) in front of an audience and tap the end of Eruption and pretend you're Eddie Van Halen? That's the greatest feeling for any guitarist. The main observance, though, is that you should pay attention to both technical skill and melodic content.

158 comments sorted by best / new / date

    caphits
    Hey R tards, What he is saying is that music comes before speed. You can have speed, but it has to be musical. If you just have just speed you have nothing. You can go slow, or fast, but the music still has to be there.
    ShredderOmega
    Alexi Laiho= awesome shredder with classicaly trained melodies. Amasing talent but quite happy to play simple stuff if it sounds good...
    danhiz347
    TheNthDimension wrote: Nicely written... but what was the point?
    I couldn't agree more.
    tcangusyoung123
    Mate you have said what I have believed for quite a while now... melody and technique need good balance. I'm a fellow Satriani fan myself, I absolutely love Always with Me, Always with You. A well written piece there indeed.
    difitzio
    I think the amount of responses you got speaks for itself. Great article and great point. Music is supposed to envoke emotion whether it be sorrow, regret, ecstasy or make you want to start a brawl. Shredding can amaze me but there are so many other possible responses
    phoenixrush
    Didn't feel like reading many of the comments here but, he's not saying speed doesn't equal melody, he's saying melody is just more important than speed. And yeah ShredderOmega is right, Laiho is a great shredder who tends to solo using Melodic and Harmonic Minor scales. Side note, wouldn't call him melodic simply because... he's thrash metal and uh... heh to be frank its not melodic at all, with the exception of the new album AYDY. Thats decently melodic for metal (album kicks major ass!!)
    RadioMuse
    I agree, and thus David Gilmour is (imo) the greatest soloist of all time. I have little beef with 'shredders' though... I have major respect for them and in the case of Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson I also enjoy their music. No offense to Vai, but, I don't get it? And the rest are most eh... Oh and I've never had a problem with Eddie Van Halen either, somehow he manages tapping passages with implied melodies or something... Anyway I've found both from trying to write songs, play songs, etc. one of the best things you can do is SLOW DOWN. Sure being technical is fun and all, but actually writing something that conveys emotion and is memorable is so much more important.
    ValoRhoads
    callum2903 wrote: Second Rate wrote: sk8rMeTaLhEaD27 wrote: the edge isn't a "Great" guitar player, and U2 us horrible, every song they have sounds the same. I was about a stones throw away from saying this same thing earlier. They have been especially bad about repetition since "The Joshua Tree." But that's what happens when all you're playing is the same three chords behind varying degrees of delay and reverb. it is true they start to sound the same, but that is enevitable and i would love to hear someone esle right a U2 style song as well,, it is expreamly difficult and although isnt technically demanding, who atchally rights techniqueally demanding songs? you play what you are comfortable becuas elets face it when u hav had a few drinks and wanting to play live or what eva you want to have fun and comunicate with the audiemnce not just concerntrate insanly on your guitar and on not fucing up, thats what solos are for perhaps, but not the verse and chorus ect. people need to look back and get song writing better and look for soul, everyone who listens to crazy metal bands dont listen to other music becuas ethey dont undertsnad it i think, i was the same i used to love metalica but then i started listening to other things and i now hate that music cause its just not as good musicaly, its a fact it just thoretically isnt and at the end of the day the theory of the msuic in most cases determines how good it is to listen to, if u use a chord prog that is all out its wont work!!
    you are pompous man. Like the Teacher in "The Wall". You'd ostracize a child infront of all of his peers for writing poetry because it was sub par.
    nolanxxx
    depends on what your playing...seriously, like deathmetal..your not gonna have some solo thats all emotional and whatnot,it just doesn't fit. Mostly because they aren't going for happy, or sad, they're goign for a "we're all ****ing pissed so lets all get pumped and blow off a bunch of steam in the mosh pits!" in a very crappy example of wordplay but you get me. and yeah, neo classical is kinda lame, the only song i've found that i like is blitzkrieg, it has a pretty sweet sound to it and i think its one of the fastest ones out there, most of other neo-classical stuff is pretty gay though, i just can't get into it, i prefer the actual pianos and what not
    C&C Magik
    first off, 8/10 Music is meant to be emotional. Music without emotion isn't worth listening to. We might as well have machines make our music. Speed in music doesn't mean its not melodic. You can shred and be melodic, but I do agree with you that doing it just to impress isn't a good way to write music. My father put it perfectly when he said "Dragonforce's music is more for the 'wow, I can't believe he can do that' purpose." I wouldn't listen to it more then 3 times, because it doesn't have emotion. So while I believe you can shred and still have emotion, I also believe that shredding is way overused and that slower notes can be just as beautiful, if sometimes not better.
    WarAndPeas
    I read this article and what i got out of it was it is better to write a simple song than an overly complex one. The reason being is that if you get past the notes on a page you might actually listen to the words and get a meaning out of it. The guitar/bass/drums add to the meaning by giving you a reference to remember it. Yes an instrumental can be powerful but thats not the point. The point is if you don't get anything out of music it is as useless. As for U2's songs all sounding the same i would bet that you have not heard every song they have ever written. After you have i know you would have a different opinion. Who cares if they use similar chord progressions in their songs. They have very different songs even if you think otherwise. Some of their songs do not have guitar in it, does that mean that that song is exactly the same as another? No, probably not. My favorite band is not U2 by a long shot but they have some songs i like. I am sure that another person on here likes a band for a few songs, what is wrong with that? Absolutely nothing. It is opinion. Every poster on here has used their opinion and of course the author of this article. tsefderhsie
    COBHC728
    YES THE SHREDFEST IS NECESSARY!!! what else would a bunch of 15 year old metalheads listen to?
    cjimil419
    Though i dont agree with a lot of the article i do agree that solos are much better slow with emotion. One of the greatest solos, for me, is Pink Floyd's "Time" I'd listen to that any day and especially over Vai or Satch or w/e
    Imago Dei
    This argument is so old its boring. Shred vs. emotion is not the argument though. It is familiar vs. unfamiliar. All this article is saying is "I like/don't like what I like/don't like and here is why". The approach that U2 and Vai take towards song writing are worlds apart. It's like comparing Michaelangelo's work on the Cistene Chapel to a Jackson Pollock painting. There is absolutely no basis for comparison other than to say they are both art with paint and canvas. It's not surprising that the general public likes U2 better than Vai. They hear U2 more frequently. It's more familiar and people like what is familiar with a little variety thrown in. Look at food. Relief organizations have learned that familiar food needs to be given to starving people or they won't eat it. Is the unfamiliar food less relevant nutritionally? Nope. But if it is unfamiliar people will starve to death rather than eat it. The Japanese LOVE neoclassical shredders. Why? Because classical music is much more popular in Japan. Consequently neoclassical shredders are more familiar to them and therefore melodically relevant. I like pizza and I hate fish. Does that make the taste of fish less relevant? Nope. Thousands of seafood restaurants prove that tons of people love fish even if there are fewer seafood restaurants than pizza shops. Do you need to play fast to be a great guitarist? No! Are guitarists who play slower more emotive? No! I appreciate guitarists that try to say more with less notes. But sometimes a flurry of notes whizzing by is just the emotional texture that is called for.
    DarTHie
    Yeah, you like Vai. I have understood it the very first time you sad it.
    ValoRhoads
    Uhm....Buddy... valiant effort, good show. But all you did was tell us what you like and what you don't. Keep that to the profile.
    Jondy
    listen to black star and you'll hear that yngwie is actually quite awesome on acoustic. distortion doesn't hide your mistakes. maybe to virgin ears it could... but if yngwie ever made a mistake it would be front page news.
    Darkshade666
    When I read the first paragraph, I knew you were going to talk about For The Love Of God. This is my all time favorite instrumental song. Great article.
    sk8rMeTaLhEaD27
    the edge isn't a "Great" guitar player, and U2 us horrible, every song they have sounds the same.
    noahray
    sk8rMeTaLhEaD27 wrote: the edge isn't a "Great" guitar player, and U2 us horrible, every song they have sounds the same.
    +1 this isn't even an article, it's just some kid ranting about his musical tastes... i'm sure glad to see it featured?
    Second Rate
    sk8rMeTaLhEaD27 wrote: the edge isn't a "Great" guitar player, and U2 us horrible, every song they have sounds the same.
    I was about a stones throw away from saying this same thing earlier. They have been especially bad about repetition since "The Joshua Tree." But that's what happens when all you're playing is the same three chords behind varying degrees of delay and reverb.
    callum2903
    i agree with this aricle i hate steve vai and all that its just a bunch of crazy technques all focused around on guy, its not got anything esle, where as with great badsn like chilis and hendrix and everyone i listen to which is to many to listen to, its inclusive of everyone and the emotion is shown withe very part of it, and its not raw, cause not all emotion is raw, i hate that ideas, where is the point in makes a feeling like love raw? because the greatness of love is that sorta soft floaty feeling kinda thing for want of much better words to descirb it, whrere is the point in makin that all raw insteed just get it right, like in liobertines songs and babyshambles pete doc gets the lyrics just right for the mood same with the guiyar and everyting it all falls into play insteed of a loud brah guitar solo, which btw isnt a good solo theoreticaly cause solos are ment to be progressive and bassed on motive,s i hear hardly anything of this, its just constant simliatlerys of prog's and scales at high speed fomr the start!
    callum2903
    Second Rate wrote: sk8rMeTaLhEaD27 wrote: the edge isn't a "Great" guitar player, and U2 us horrible, every song they have sounds the same. I was about a stones throw away from saying this same thing earlier. They have been especially bad about repetition since "The Joshua Tree." But that's what happens when all you're playing is the same three chords behind varying degrees of delay and reverb.
    it is true they start to sound the same, but that is enevitable and i would love to hear someone esle right a U2 style song as well,, it is expreamly difficult and although isnt technically demanding, who atchally rights techniqueally demanding songs? you play what you are comfortable becuas elets face it when u hav had a few drinks and wanting to play live or what eva you want to have fun and comunicate with the audiemnce not just concerntrate insanly on your guitar and on not fucing up, thats what solos are for perhaps, but not the verse and chorus ect. people need to look back and get song writing better and look for soul, everyone who listens to crazy metal bands dont listen to other music becuas ethey dont undertsnad it i think, i was the same i used to love metalica but then i started listening to other things and i now hate that music cause its just not as good musicaly, its a fact it just thoretically isnt and at the end of the day the theory of the msuic in most cases determines how good it is to listen to, if u use a chord prog that is all out its wont work!!
    axeslinger01
    it is hard to compare styles, they all have their strengths and weeknesses but playing fast shows that a player had put in the sacrifice, practice time and effort to become as fast and technical as they are, thefore someone playing fast may be putting much more into their playing then you may want to think
    La Qotsa
    So, I'll ask again. What is an Eishredfest? Not only is he a shred noob, he's illiterate too?
    cukd7x-a2-
    Chaosinferno825 wrote: Very nicely done, even though I don't agree with much of it, it was very well written. Congrats.
    WANNABE ROCKER WORKING AS A LA TEACHER!!!!!
    Second Rate
    callum2903 wrote: Second Rate wrote: sk8rMeTaLhEaD27 wrote: the edge isn't a "Great" guitar player, and U2 us horrible, every song they have sounds the same. I was about a stones throw away from saying this same thing earlier. They have been especially bad about repetition since "The Joshua Tree." But that's what happens when all you're playing is the same three chords behind varying degrees of delay and reverb. it is true they start to sound the same, but that is enevitable and i would love to hear someone esle right a U2 style song as well,, it is expreamly difficult and although isnt technically demanding, who atchally rights techniqueally demanding songs? you play what you are comfortable becuas elets face it when u hav had a few drinks and wanting to play live or what eva you want to have fun and comunicate with the audiemnce not just concerntrate insanly on your guitar and on not fucing up, thats what solos are for perhaps, but not the verse and chorus ect. people need to look back and get song writing better and look for soul, everyone who listens to crazy metal bands dont listen to other music becuas ethey dont undertsnad it i think, i was the same i used to love metalica but then i started listening to other things and i now hate that music cause its just not as good musicaly, its a fact it just thoretically isnt and at the end of the day the theory of the msuic in most cases determines how good it is to listen to, if u use a chord prog that is all out its wont work!!
    Ugh, here we go with another "metal bands don't have soul" rant. I'm gonna say something that you might find kind of shocking. ALL MUSIC HAS FEELING (or soul as you call it). Just because it is a feeling that does not resonate with you does not mean that a song or band is "emotionally detached." If you're not "feeling the music" you wouldn't be playing. To say that technically demanding things are devoid of feeling is quite ignorant. You might as well accuse every Jazz musician or Classical composer that has ever lived of being a robot.
    SynGates7X
    I just want to point out that Yngwie does play clean on some songs, and they are just as technical as his distorted songs.
    shwilly
    I can't help but notice that Stevie Vai took the most prominent spot in your post. And I can see why: I've seen so many great guitarists live: Vai, Mike McCready, John Petrucci, Nuno Bettencourt, Tom Morello, Dweezil Zappa... And no matter how different their styles are and how much I love their songs, I always end up concluding that if I'd be to inherit anyone's technique, it'd have to be Vai's. Not only would I kick ass, i'd still be unique. There aren't many people who can kick his ass, and if they do, it's just on one or two things > Paul Gilbert has a faster picking hand, Dimebag ruled the whammy bar and the horrible Michael Angelo is most likely a faster sweeper. However, Vai is one of the few guitarist who can dominate all of these skills at an EXTREMELY high level, and still sound like himself instead of a guitar playing machine. Most people who reach this level tend to sound incredibly alike each other. Just put on a G3 record and listen to any of the G3 jams > even if you don't know shit about guitar tone, if you're familiar with his style you'll immediately be able to pick his solo's out of the bunch. And again, I'm not saying he's the best, but he's one of the most singular guitar gods in the world of rock music. And isn't that what most people who visit this site dream about: kicking ass as a member of a sick band and not sounding like anyone else!?
    pangui
    I agree with pretty much everything in this article. Especially the neo-classical stuff. It seems people who claim to be "neo-classical" do so just to sound like they have a better background of music than other shredders, but I don't really think they do.
    kaptkegan
    I totally agree man, in the words of my drummer, there are musicians and technicians, and though both are great, which would you rather listen to in the end? The answer to that is definitly the musician
    Silky Smooth
    Yngwie's quite good at classical guitar, many of his tracks feature him playing on a classical with no distortion at all. Also about Bach's compositions... If you think about it in relation to the time period, a massive organ was very similar to todays cranked Marshall. A wall of sound and power that shoots over the audience. If you've ever heard a real organ played in a hall or cathedral you'd see the similarities.
    avengingender
    i can see where you're coming from. but i feel the complete opposite way as you do. i can't stand most slow music. at this point in my life the only stuff that sounds good to me is fast guitar solos and melodic riffs that are quite fast. boring (to me) players such as eric clapton, jack johnson, and john mayer do absolutely nothing for me, although i respect them. whereas amazing and fast guitar players such as yngwie malmsteen and marty friedman are like gods to me. mark my words, one day i will be as good as they are, or better. also, i don't understand why you even wrote this article. it was completely pointless. all you did was explain your opinion (a respectable one). whatever, to each his own.
    simking
    totally agree, john frusciante is one of my all time fav guitarists, he can get so much feeling out of just a few notes. its not how many notes you use its about getting the right notes. though i do love shredding
    whatadrag
    well written but not the best researched. the part about yngwie not being able to do anything without distortion is untrue. ever heard his acoustic guitar solo? no hammer ons there.
    Dr. No
    This whole argument over speed and feeling has been discussed and discussed and discussed.
    Guitar_Poet
    i just cant come to understand how you could take U2 over Vai, lol.... i cant stand U2... but its all opinion, anyway, and i do agree that fast doesnt always = good... but that doesnt mean Vai < U2.... lol.
    ElectricOrgasm
    I see what you're saying, but I'm not entirely down with the digs at Malmsteen. The dude plays with a scalloped neck, he's obviously got great precision and technique. You have to develop the lightest most intricate touch before you can reall start to play on those things. A lot of the riffs he jams out are clean too, not to mention he does a lot of volume knob fiddling and effects layering while playing somewhat less intricate riffs to create some pretty awesome soundscape. I'm not a huge fan of the man, but he doesn't hide behind distortion.
    METALHEAD 91zb
    Great article, I agree with you. My buddy is big into Dragonforce but simply cannot get into it. It feels like theres no emotion, just all speed and distortion. I like when a player solos but keeps emotion into the notes. Some good examples: Randy Rhodes, Kirk Hammett, Steve Vai, Joe Satrianl, Eddie Van Halen, Dimebag Darrell, Dave Murray, Glenn Tipton, KK Downing, Toni Iommi, Eric Clapton, ect. Those and many more are the melodic soloists. They have emotion and feel in their playing. Anyway, 10/10 man.
    msierragtz
    Agree.. you know who is the WORST shredder? Michael Angelo Batio.. He SUCKS. But I still like Satch and Vai
    SG Man Forever
    As far as the idea that one cannot play fast and appeal to non guitarists, this is not true, otherwise people wouldn't be so impressed when I warm up by shredding some. And as far as Yngwie not playing without distortion, look up the song "Prelude to April" That is some heavenly acoustic playing, full of both slow, melodic playing(and it is Yngwie) as well as a section where he is playing (on an Acoustic) at 17.7 notes a second for about three bars of music. AND IT FITS!! If you do feel the need to write another atricle, try to be a little less biased. I understand some level of bias will always be present, but this is more like a controlled rant than anything else.
    shut_up_n00b
    I know you took your time writing this, but you just rubbed your influences while putting down other players. Even if this sounds really hypocritical, nicely written though.
    tunnock
    Love the article man. By far the best one I've read in a long time. I'd still rather be able to play the solo (at least one of them anyways) to 'Through the Fire and the Flames' over three chords and the truth because the truth can be pretty boring at times. Ace job 11/10