Marty Friedman: 'Playing Technique Is Not Playing Music, Any Monkey Can Learn That'

"Playing fast is only attractive when you can't do it," says former Megadeth axeman.

Ultimate Guitar

Former Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman recently decided to debunk some of the common misconceptions regarding his style, stressing that sweep picking is the last thing anyone should associate with him.

In an exclusive August 2014 bonus feature of Guitar World magazine, Marty gave a lesson on musicality, sharing a "less is more" kind of stance when it comes to fast playing.

"For the most part, when I heard sweep picking - none of that stuff appeals to me, it sounds like 'bdloop, bdloop, bdloop,' just going up and down. It's like some kind of technique that you learn that allows you to play these long, sweeping arpeggios, which is wonderful, I guess, if that's the sound you want," Marty kicked off.

"If you listen to my music, sometimes there's some insane fast arpeggio playing, but it's never up and down, 'bdloop, bdloop, bdloop, bdloop.' But let me tell you a cool way you can avoid that lameness, but still do some interesting arpeggio playing that I would excuse and allow you to play.

"Don't do too much of it!" the guitarist pointed out. "And let's try to make it melodic out here. Not just playing a chord up and down.

"Any monkey can learn a technique and get great at it. Playing a technique is not playing music. This is very important."

Continuing to bash sweep picking, Friedman added, "Who told you that [sweep picking] was happening? Definitely your girlfriend did not tell you it was happening.

"But this is understandable," he added, "because a lot of kids, when they start playing guitar, they see something that's difficult to do and that's what they're impressed by. It's excusable.

"Playing fast is really attractive when you can't do it. But once you can do it, you realize [that] nobody cool's gonna want you to do it," the axeman concluded.

Throughout the video, Marty gave examples of some of the playing solutions for "finding your path to musical identity." Check out the clip below.

94 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Any monkey can learn that? There is still hope for me!
    He doesn't mean that even a monkey can learn to play that style. He means that even a monkey can understand his "playing technique is not playing music" statement. *edit* ok... he meant the exact opposite of what I say. Just ignore my comment or imagine i said something like: bdloop bdloop bdloop
    Bdloop bdloop bdloop bdloop....thats the sound a massive turd makes when it hits the toilet water.
    Although Marty is definately a better guitarist, it kinda sounds like Marty is a little jelous Chris is faster and more technical than him. -There, I said it
    I don't know. If you listen to some of Marty's solos, he CAN do that stuff, he just chooses to play more melodically. I think the solo work on the Youthanasia album is some of the best (ok, personally my favorite album for solos) in the entire Megadeth catalogue. That is mostly melodic and not *too* flashy. The solos take you on a ride rather than just bash you in the face.
    When you get older you will understand it. I played shred guitar exclusively, and can hear some solo's on my profile from years back. I now play in a desert/sludge rock band, which is technique wise the complete opposite. But you know what? I like hearing the chords saturate through a stack, hear the fuzziness and being able to listen to the bass and drums when I stretch out that long slow chord. I like the groove and something to dwell on. People change, and Marty has had an album out like 15 years ago which featured 'slow' music with less technichal feats. so this really isn't something new.
    He's not jealous, this is not the elementary school playground where you are jealous at someone. It has nothing to do with who plays faster or technical then the other that makes a guitarist good. Chris is a great guitarist, but while playing fast he also knows how not to, there are many guitarists who are all about showing of their techniques and how they can play over to what justice their playing does to a song then (simply put) highlighting their ego.
    He's not jealous, this is not the elementary school playground where you are jealous at someone. It has nothing to do with who plays faster or technical then the other that makes a guitarist good. Chris is a great guitarist, but while playing fast he also knows how not to, there are many guitarists who are all about showing of their techniques and how they can play over to what justice their playing does to a song then (simply put) highlighting their ego.
    Also hope for me but... "finding your path to musical identity" I really can't find my path. One day i say I wanna play like Yngwie and the other I'm like aaah I'm good as I am, should just keep practising and find my own style. And sweep picking is one of the things I just can't learn.Been trying for an year or so... and it bugs me alot... but than i don't know if i need it... Can someone just tell me how to mute properly ??? Or give me some nice link?
    While I agree with him... what the ****? Keep in mind, this is the guy who wrote this song.
    Metal elitists, read carefully.
    No, no, haven't you been paying attention? "Elitist" is what you call anyone who dares make any sort of critique about any band you may like. Like, in this article, Marty Friedman is critiquing technique-heavy, music-lite stuff like the average Tech Death or Prog Metal band. So if you like Dream Theater or The Faceless, or any other technical "LUK WHAT I CAN DO" wank, now's the time you say "Shut up, Friedman, you stupid elitist! It's all Metal!"
    I can understand what he means but a lot of the times it just sounds like he says this kind of stuff just to sound cool. Like some kind of a guitar hipster. I say play whatever you want. Who cares if anybody thinks it's cool or not.
    "Being able to play guitar is one thing, knowing what to do with your knowledge is a whole other thing." So true.
    Yeah I'm tired of these clowns who can solo at blazing speed but play tiresome generic crap, and they can't write a song if their lives depended on it
    amazing tips. remember this guy played with and helped develop the great jason becker. This guy is a true musician, and amazing teacher
    Not that I am a big fan of Marty, but this is probably one of the most important, best articles that I've seen across UG. Metal is a really fun music that depends on some technique, and technique is important, sure, but running down scales and arpeggios at 200 bpm 16th notes does not mean it's musical or melodic, it's a simple exercise that, with practice, anyone can do. I would not say it's not music, since there are people that apreciate this kind of stuff, but to me, it's much more effective and impressive a good melodic solo than a shredding mess.
    I don't understand why people think music is only technique... Why not play something unique that comes out of your soul instead of playing some repetitive patterns that could be only used for excercises?
    Tomorrow on UG: Marty Friedman: Playing technique is everything. I'm a hypocrite.
    By that logic I must be the best guitarist in the world
    Not at all. For a good example, listen to Hendrix.
    Hendrix still squeezes 20 notes into a bar a surprising amount of the time, he just does it so subtly you almost need high quality headphones to hear all of it.
    "Learn it and then totaly **** it, this is very important". My new life slogan.
    Sort of a poor mans "A great general always plans beforehand and throws out those plans as soon as the battle starts".
    "In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless... but planning is indispensable." -Eisenhower Words to live by in my opinion.
    He's totally right on the idea that it's only attractive when you can't do it. Now I'm no shredder, but I can keep up with the guys I look up to and admire in terms of technicality. It happens very gradual to the point you don't even realize you can do it, and once you can, so what?
    Exactly. Once you've past the point, you're indifferent to it. You may admire another player's technicality, but you won't be enamored in it anymore. Basically, you become a magician giving audience to another magician. You're no longer enthralled or astounded by the tricks.
    i agree with what hes saying, going up and down arpeggios isnt very musical, but at around 5:12 hes says something like "I dont even know what i just played i just took these notes and put them in a random order and repeated it" - that doesnt sound like a very musical approach either. putting notes in a "random order" seems just as mindless and unmusical as going up and down. I dont mean to criticize him, and i appreciate a different approach, but to me at the end of the day you should be THINKING about the notes youre playing, and should base what you play on the MUSIC you hear in your head, not on different patterns you happen to move you fingers in.Granted he does say use your feeling to choose which patterns to play, but it still feels like hes basing what hes playing on patterns. Not trying to insult him or anything, but that fact that he said he doesnt even know what he just played kind of implies that he hasnt given much thought to what he played and has still fallen into the trap of "letting his fingers tell him what to play" if you know what i mean. just my point of view.
    Either that or he improvised.
    well generally improvising at least from what i understand is still the same as composing, just on the spot. the music should still be created in your head first and then just played instantly. improvsing isnt just letting your fingers go where they please.
    Exploitation of patterns is at the heart of why you learn music theory, messing around with patterns is just another form of experimentation that can lead to great results and is the basis for a lot of jazz metal and rock. And if your aware of the shapes your using and how your moving them that gives you all the information you need on intervals.
    nothing wrong with messing around with patterns, although i personally wouldnt say thats the heart of why you learn theory. to me music theory is an understanding of music, it gives you the knowledge to know and understand what is happening in the music. Learning patterns can broaden your knowledge of the fretboard on the guitar, which is great and can also lead to some great results i agree, i just dont think it should be the basis of your music. i personally think patterns are not doing any service to the rock/metal world, as for the jazz world, im not as familiar with, however i will say that when, for example a jazz guitarist improvises over chords changes, i dont think they would stick to pattern playing.
    Exactly! Sweeping is just really another technique and once you get it down it loses its appeal really fast. There are too many guitarists who make inflationary use of sweep picking and personally I think it's just boring and annoying.
    Not sure why Marty is getting all upset. He said it himself with "If you are going for that sound". I imagine a lot of folks are going for that straight arpeggio sweeping sound.
    I love the sound of pure shreddy goodness, but I also like the slower melodic stuff. I totally get what he's saying, but shred gets too much hate.
    Whenever you learn a new excersize, you better **** that thing.Learn it, play it and f$#ck it!I totaly agree with Marty's philosophy.
    Great advice from one of the greatest lead guitar players alive. Kids... sweeps are cool (sometimes) but learn how to write songs and REALLY PLAY.
    Totally agree with Downfault. Marty always enjoys inflating himself anyway he can. He is a student of music theory. Therefore, he's aware of every note and picking style playing. It is not random or a feeling of "cool." As of fan of his work I've learned to tune his voice out and enjoy his music instead.
    he sounds kinda like a twat in this interview...why can't i play fast because i want to play fast? Since when is playing the music you want to play dependent on if someone cool wants you to play it? Fuck that noise.
    I don't think he means playing fast in general is bad. He just means make it sound good, and don't just focus on making it sound hard to play. There's more to music than technical ability.
    Actually it should sound as effortless as possible, and if effortless for you includes sweep picking and other shred techniques good for you. You just have to beware that overusing a technique will take away a lot of the impact over the course of a show.
    I really think "less is more/more is more" is a completely ass-backwards way to look at music. Think of it from the standpoint of a chef flavoring food; If you were adding spices or something to a dish you would add SPECIFIC THINGS in SPECIFIC AMOUNTS to compliment the flavor. "More is more" is like adding BBQ sauce to a jelly-filled chocolate donut, and "less is more" is like eating a piece of bread and pretending it was tasty. Give the music what it needs rather than buying into some ideal which really shouldn't even be applied to music; things like functional harmony aren't a matter of less or more- they're qualitative rather than quantitive. It's about how things fit together, not how many things there are.
    Real chefs add by touch, not by measure. Less is more do apply to art and food.
    I remember reading an article on graphic design (which is the type of work I do) that tackled the "less is more" issue. I really liked the answer that the designer came up with: less isn't more, JUST ENOUGH IS MORE. I can see how that could be applied to music, too.
    I enjoy it when sweeps are done it small bursts for a part of a riff...I honestly think the way guitarist just keep going and going really diminishes emotion in the parts where it's done
    This is what I love about Marty. Pretty much any other guitarist or teacher plays something for you, and is like,"Play it like that." But Marty plays something for you and says,"Please don't play it like this. Learn it, but then play it differently." One of the most important lessons any guitarist can learn is how to develop their own style. Sadly far too few guitarists ever actually learn this, and I'm glad to see such an amazing and inspirational guitarist to so many advocate playing differently from the rest.
    "August 2014 bonus feature of Guitar World magazine..." "August 2014..." Hey doc, I think I found your DeLorean...
    Print magazines are usually completed way ahead of the month on the cover. It's got to be printed and done by July if they are on newsstands before august.
    Maybe Marty should find said Monkey and pay it to teach him proper muting. There is a lot of unwanted noise in the stuff he's been doing for Guitar World of late.
    he doesn't need to mute with his hands. those little strands of hair are doing it for him.
    Yeah sounds like when I haven't played guitar all day and go over to a buddies to show them stuff
    Dude's right hand technique leaves basically every string unmuted. One of the hippest, original, quirky, creative metal soloists I've ever heard, but I've always wondered how he doesn't get a ton of string noise without muting, those GW vids are kind of revealing that there are in fact some strings a- rumblin'
    Because he doesn't hit the string up and down, he goes in circles with the pick.
    I think it is somewhat hypocritical of MF to say, "I don't like this or that" or "I don't like going up and down a scale" while in his example he is going up and down a Bm ARPEGGIO!!! Who made this guy the ultimate and supreme authority to guitar playing? Tell that to Yngwie, Gilbert, Michael Angelo and John Petrucci. Some of these are selling more records while MF releases videos of girls running down the street while playing a Japanese tune in A Pentatonic minor...
    Give me that PRS Marty is playing on and I would sound like a ****ing god even playing "UP AND DOWN" arpeggios haha. Lets be serious here Marty got famous for sweeping... just because you dont like that style doesnt mean you can bash it. I mean look at Randy Rhoads, you know as well he was more then ****ing capable of sweeping, but he didnt but you never heard him say "man those pussys who cant play a chord at 3/4s a beat, instead they play those notes across the strings like pussys."
    well, a good guitarist will still sound badass even with 100$ gear...
    That is really funny that Marty would say "Playing fast is really attractive when you can't do it. But once you can do it, you realize [that] nobody cool's gonna want you to do it," Coming from a former member of Mega Deth, that is hilarious. Every time I listen to Lucretia I am going to remember Marty saying that. But now I guess it's cool to hate on shred and metal guitarists, so now they have to hate their own music to be cool. They gotta stay hip or the kids will call them posers or hipsters or whatever the insult of the week is.
    He is right, it is useless to be fast and very technical if it doesn't fit the song. I find too many Metal Bands being technical for the mere fact of being technical.