Shred Guitar [DVD] review by Tony MacAlpine

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  • Sound: 9
  • Content: 9
  • Production Quality: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 8 (2 votes)
Tony MacAlpine: Shred Guitar [DVD]
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Sound — 9
Legendary Tony MacAlpine's 53-minute instructional video "Shred Guitar" (published by Hal Leonard) is a misnomer, as this video offers a great deal more than skills to playing fast. The student gets an inside look into Tony's playing and how he combines various techniques that encompass his style. As with any Hal Leonard production I own, the sound and video quality are crystal clear and top notch, as though you were sitting in the room with Tony and his band. Close-ups are used appropriately and the stage lighting during band numbers are good.

Content — 9
Tony touches upon a number of concepts; he does not delve deeply on any one point, but provides an example and discussion to get an idea across in order for the student to apply it into his or her playing. He starts the technical section with string slapping, to give a funk style, and this is how the first band number starts (there is a mix of song playing with technique demonstrations), as Tony and the bassist plays a slap riff in unison. In no time Tony gets into speed picking techniques and emphasizes his "economy of motion" concepts, and particularly in his picking hand - i.e., he strives to use the fingering hand more by rolling, hammering, pulling (with lateral movement patterns along the neck on one string) and sliding as many notes as possible to keep his playing and style fluid (he implements a lot of arpeggio forms and broken chords in this manner as he works up and down the neck). 

Tony next discusses soloing concepts and understanding "methods to be applied" as opposed to merely memorizing (which helps when improvising), as he demonstrates getting a synth-like tone when hammering chords, or even a bell-like ring with hammer-ons. At that point Tony addresses pentatonics and how they can increase one's "groove" in playing, but also how to sweep them in the mix in a modern blues/rock direction. 

Although Tony is quick on the fretboard, he makes good use of bowed effects while string bending, and when this is applied within his runs and sweeping he increases the diversity of his note selection, besides increasing the number of notes being heard while playing fewer fret positions.

Other ideas Tony address are harmonic thirds (used in runs and tapping along the neck), chord suspensions (integrating rhythm with lead and being able to "hear" rhythm chops while soloing), integrating backward slides (coming from the top of the note) for a more modern sound, and how to sound "fresh" while playing Blues (including mixing major and minor pentatonics over dominant chords and adding an emotional blues feel even when playing fast Rock/Metal passages).

Production Quality — 9
Hal Leonard did a nice spin on this video, as it is more of an intimate jam session and discussion with a far more relaxed feel than I've seen in other videos, viz., less intimidation for the student. Although you can skip to the performances or techniques on the DVD via the menu system, the overall layout consists of a band performance with Tony soloing, followed by one-one-one Q&A and demonstrations of the techniques involved in the musical piece. In this manner, you get to hear the composition in its full context, followed by the methods behind Tony's "madness." This is very different from other videos that merely deliver techniques or theory that may or may not have full production compositions "somewhere" on the video; rather, with Tony's video you can get a feel for the context of those techniques and theory. As well, the DVD comes with a 27-page Tab booklet so you can follow along and practice what Tony discusses and demonstrates.

Overall Impression — 9
This is an older Hal Leonard production (1992), but remains in the library for good reason - even today Tony's applications and ideas hold strong. As Tony explains, it's more important to understand the concepts he shows, rather than memorizing them, so that you can apply them anywhere on the neck and during your soloing, and this DVD offers a plethora of ideas that can be integrated into any style of music, not just fast instrumental rock. Another key concept of Tony's is the idea of playing outside the "box" (those scale patterns everyone memorizes) so that you have more than one place to go while practicing or improvising, but also being able to play in multiple positions or directions on the neck (viz., playing the same passage, but at a different location).

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