Shredding. Part 1 - Fundamentals

In this lesson, I am going to teach you guys how to really build your speed and technique up to your hero's.

Ultimate Guitar
Shredding. Part 1 - Fundamentals
In this lesson I am going to teach you guys how to really build your speed and technique, and end up playing like your heroes (Paul Gilbert, Steve Vai, whoever you are in to). This is the first in a series of lessons (they are all too long to put as one).

Shredding is a guitar style that most players like to refer to as literally taking the guitar up and playing as fast as you can (with proper guitar playing of course not just random notes and random times), and since I have been playing/listening to it for the last 25 years of my guitar playing life, I have been led to believe the same thing. If you people do not know I am talking about when I talk of a "shredder," take Zakk Wylde for example or Kirk Hammet or Steve Vai. Still lost? Well simply put, they literally pick their instruments up and let them scream!

In this lesson (series of lessons), I am going to teach you all how to become great shredders like the men mentioned above, lets get started.

There are many different styles that can be applied to shred as a musical style (guitar style) itself, but we will just spend these first few lessons building up your speed and technique. There are hundreds, of techniques used in shredding, and to list them all would probably take up a full page on your Microsoft word, so let's just stick with the main ones for now. The main techniques used in shredding include:

1) Legato
2) Tapping
3) Alternate picking
4) Sweep picking
5) Economy picking
6) String skipping

You have all undoubtedly dealt with these techniques before, so here is just a quick recap/revision

1. Legato - Legato is simply a technique where you play notes "smoothly" (Legato means smooth) which means hammering on and pulling off. When playing legato make sure you keep your fretting hand in a boxed position and make sure you can not differentiate between the picked and legato notes. Check Legato Lesson out if you want a better intro. Legato as I mentioned above is to try to emulate smooth notes in your guitar playing, or very fast position shifting. Legato is good with the fact that it is one handed (in some cases) as it means you can tap with your right hand while simultaneously tapping with your left hand, which can produce some cool sounds - we will look into this in future lessons.

2. Tapping - Tapping is a form of legato. Left hand tapping could be described as legato if you don't pick any notes as you tap them. However right hand tapping, means fretting notes with the fingers of your picking hand. When performing tapping licks, tap with the side of your finger and then draw it back into your hand, and if possible use the other fingers of your tapping hand to mute unwanted noise. Check Tapping Lesson out if you want a better intro. Tapping could be described as a technique used to emulate wide intervals or just simply notes going all over the place Eddie Van Halen. There are a lot of cool things you can do with tapping, but we will stick with the fundamentals for now.

3. Alternate Picking - This is a technique where you simply (instead of picking towards the floor constantly) you down pick towards the floor, and then when bringing it back up, pick the string again. When alternate picking, make sure you keep your picking hand loose, as if you try too fast, you will be slowed down, and make sure you have good control of the pick - hold it tight, but not too tight. Check Alternate Picking Lesson out if you want a better intro. This technique could be used to emulate a fiery and aggressive style Dick Dale - Pulp Fiction theme or to emulate a long sustained note Jimi Hendrix.

4. Sweep Picking - This is a technique where you play the notes by "sweeping" across the strings. If you finger a chord and just play the notes contained in it (play each string separately) you are sweep picking. When sweep picking, again keep your wrist loose (use a wrist action when performing sweep and alternate picking), and when sweeping down towards the floor, tilt it slightly to increase your speed. Check Sweep Picking Lesson out if you want a better intro. Sweep picking is again mainly used to emulate wide intervals or just arpeggios themselves.

5. Economy Picking - This is a technique which combines the ideas of sweep and alternate picking (taking the most direct route to each new string). If you alternate pick any standard scale fingering, while playing your next notes on other strings, you are economy picking. When you economy pick you are basically combining the ideas of sweep and alternate picking, so make sure you keep your wrist loose and try not to tense up, and when switching strings make sure the pick is ready to (it is moving in the correct direction). Economy Picking is the method most shredders use to beef up their playing and double their speed.

6. String Skipping - This is simply a technique where you use the ideas of sweep picking and "skip" strings, while sweeping. When string skipping, you are using again the ideas of sweep and alternate picking, except you have to think of it as going over ramps (the strings you have to avoid are the ramps). Check String Skipping Lesson out if you want a better intro. This is also a technique used to emulate wide intervals (or vice versa - depending where you start).

Shred tunes.
Did you think I was only going to leave you with the fundamentals? Oh come on, I am not that evil. When I am teaching my students complex techniques or styles such as this, I try to put it in a fun sort of a matter (must be why I am a genius), so I am going to leave you with a tune to practice the techniques I mentioned above.

Some of you may have heard of this tune, some may have not; it is called "Colorado Bulldog," by Mr. Big. Now this tune will take an awful lot of time effort and practice but it will pay off and prepare you for the hard lessons coming up. Since this is a long tune and would take up a lot of space, I am only going to transcribe licks I feel you do good learning.













Tremolo picked-----------|



Well that is the end of your first lesson in series on shredding; I hope you enjoyed it, and any feedback/questions would be much appreciated.

245 comments sorted by best / new / date

    i think your a spanner short of a toolkit ...spanner...haha..olny jesting..good stuff...
    a word of advice ppl , for speed use strict alternate picking on a metronome, if u started economy picking before u have 145 tempo clear notes speed on alternate picking then ur in for a mistake that takes time to get undone(2 years in my case), remember for shredding 1st master alternate picking, after that go to patterns/picking patterns which can or cannot be alternate , after that ul notice difference in speed. rest of the stuff everyone figures out, remember alternate picking is a must at start so u can get equally timed notes when using metronome. after the alternate picking u can learn the famous down down up picking on 2 strings that many metal guitarists use. BUT ALTERNATE PICKING IS A MUST FOR SHREDDING. when ur picking is fluent then start working on ur left right hand coordination.
    Easy to say: Kick ass lesson! Those practices help a lot if you wanna play some really insane riffs by way cool artists (e.g. Pantera). Thanks a lot Spanner. Also, courtesy to your second lesson which is really awesome! P.S. And Immortal, just practice. It might seem hard at first but after some practice you'd master it =) Cheerio!
    There are millions of paper shredding companies however there are none like They pick up the documents the same day and the entire staff is excellent. I trust them completely with all of my paper shredding needs. I have never been more satisfied with a paper shredding company
    I can't believe how good this is. You should try to publish all this because I think it would sell like crazy. sure wish i had a teacher like you. Killer lesson.can't wait for part two and maybe your lessons to building up to shred.10/10
    yess.. i can shred now.. THANK YOU!! you are the best.. thanks for pointing out the main TECHNIQUES.. you rock!!
    Awesome lesson, I knew all of it already, but it put it into perspective. Can't wait for lesson two, because speed is something I have trouble with...
    Adam*The Chaos*
    Well nice lesson Spanner, for real dude. Your a great teacher and guitar player but heres my say so. This is to all the the guitar players around. If you want to find oringality and your own sound I suggest you teach yourself how to do what ever you wanna do. Ive been doin it for 3 years now and I have my own technique and sound ^_^ of course I looked at some few pointers here and there (like this lesson) but still teach yourself and your glory will triple! Bad ass lesson though dude. It opended my eyes to some ideas of mine *thinking*
    ^ Ladies and Gentlemen head this man's words of wisdom (about the teaching yourself not the lesson), you ARE really your own best teacher, these lessons are really just for help and advice for frustrated shredders.
    wow...shredding sounds like fun...but i better brush up on the other fundementals first...great lesson by the way...pretty detailed! XD
    Good job. but i cant find a challenge! ive looked at everytihng else. well that i could find on here and everything.but all the stuff i try to learn is waayy too easy! i guess htats good, but ive had these tecniques down for quite a while now. and i learned eruption over the phone and by ear from my dad. and it was hard, but after that it seems like nothing else is. well jazz is pretty hard. oh well if you have any advice lemme know! you can e-mail me at ANYONE! -Emily.
    question spanner, on the beginning riff are the triplets at the beginning supposed to be twice as fast as the picking after it. You know where it goes 2-5-7, 4-7-9?
    ^Good q., dont read the above tablature as "standard" timing, those triplets you were talking about should be played at the same speed.
    southern_stylin : I don't know why I have such trouble with tapping, am I doing something wrong? Whenever I try it sounds like wanking
    try tapping slow then add a little speed until you can do it fast as lightning
    Lead guitarist
    My guitars neck sucks once i get to 15-17 low e the stretching hurts n my thumb has no where to go, I only have a 22 fret. will this change over time, or wont i be able to reach it properly?
    Do i need to use right handed tapping for the these hammer-ons? 2h5h7 5h7h9 7h9h12 9h12h14 12h14h17
    no youuse your left hand for a hammer on and you right hand for fret tappin dude.....awsome lesson a serious shredder!!!!
    Becker Ola
    thats the shit man !!! If only you could here what is written !!! but its still the shit man !!! Good Work ! Its the best Jerry !! The Best!!
    ugh and I left one other thing out, possibly one of the most important part of shredding...well...when it comes to the soloing part, which is most of it, you left out quads :| how in god's name could someone shred without those? Like...I dunno, they aren't COMPLETELY necessary but playing fast they are pretty important, I would say
    wow spammers are annoying anyway, great lesson from what i have read, i havent tried it yet but i will in a couple mins .:RINTING::. Good Job :cheers:
    i'm not an idiot, you are. Way to like...take my feedback and try and use it to make yourself even like...acceptable as a guitar teacher. I would recommend you find another hobby, if these are the "fruits" of your labour
    It's easy to say it's not all about speed when you're argueably the best in the world... Good lesson, but I already knew it all. I'll look for Part II.
    hey, spanner if you think that colorado bulldog its not a song for practice shredding, could you tell me about some good songs for shredding practice.
    Hey dude thanks for all you time and effort on these lessons...i am a rookie guitar player going on 4 weeks now and loving it. thanks to your lessons i am starting to play the misic i love. ROCK thanks dude
    sweet lesson, bit to complex for me but i almost have after a couple days work. You should put some randy rhodes shit into part 3 or 4. How many parts are there gonna be spanner?