Guitar Shredding Tips and Tricks

Updated on May 9, 2019
Matthew Scherer profile image

Matthew is a studio musician from south Texas. In addition to original recordings, he has provided music for short films and commercials.

Alternate Picking Tips

Fast alternate picking is the cornerstone of shred, but is also heavily used in most forms of hard rock and metal. This technique is good not only for solos, but for breakneck rhythm riffs as well.

It's also one of the most difficult techniques on the guitar. Not because it's difficult to do per se, but because of how difficult it can be to do it correctly. The first step is to make sure that you're holding the pick correctly.

Be sure to have a firm grip with either your index or middle finger on the pick between your thumb. For higher speeds, it's recommended that you choke up on the pick quite a bit, so that only the tip of the pick is visible. The reason for doing so is that the less pick that shows, the less likely it is to wobble or bend, thus improving accuracy.

The next thing to remember with alternate picking is the strokes involved in each phrase. Many players make the mistake of trying to combine odd numbers of strokes that don't align. For example, trying to switch from the high E string to the B string on a phrase that ends in a downstroke will be difficult.

This is because the downstroke is facing away from the B string, making our pick have to jump back into place to make the change. To combat this, most alternate picking lines are designed to change strings with the appropriate stroke lining up the next string.

So a line on the high E going to the B would always end on an upstroke, allowing an easy transition to the next string. If you're playing three notes per string, it would look like this: Up, down, up. By following this pattern, you can play three notes across all six strings with little pick resistance.

Another important note for alternate picking is your wrist position. Some players choose to have what's known as a floating position. This involves your wrist hovering an inch or two above the strings, thus allowing for more mobility.

Using this technique, the direction of the strokes doesn't matter as much, as you'll be able to freely float your wrist to whichever desired string. While this is an appealing technique, it is not comfortable for all.

Other players choose to anchor as they pick. This entails having your palm pressed on or near the strings, and your pinky or ring finger anchoring on to the body of the guitar. This technique allows for more precision than the floating technique, and lessens the chance of hitting a wrong string.

Eddie Van Halen
Eddie Van Halen

Tapping Tips

Tapping was popularized in the late 70s by Eddie Van Halen. It involves using the right hand to fret notes high up on the fretboard while playing legato with the left hand further down the neck. This allows for a wide gap in intervals to take place, and produces a very cool sound!

Many players choose to tap with their middle finger, but index is also used. To get the best tone, try using the very tip of your nail instead of the flesh of your finger. It can take quite a bit of practice to get used to your right hand pressing down on notes, so be sure to practice just that for a while.

Tapping is generally done over a legato figure, such as hammering on the 7th fret from the 5th fret, and then tapping the 12th fret on the B string. After tapping, pull off from the 7th fret back to the 5th. This produces a seamless flow that can be endlessly repeated.

Be sure to practice to a metronome when tapping. The rhythm generally goes as such, the tapped note falls on the first beat, and the hammer ons and pull offs fall in between. Using this method, the tapped note is substituted for a tapping foot, and can be used to keep track of the beat.

Another technique that Eddie liked to do when tapping was to tap multiple notes with his right hand while the left hand held one note. He often did this in a descending pattern, and it produces a unique tone.

For example, he would hold the 3rd fret of the 5th string with his left hand, and then tap the 7th, 6th, and 5th frets with his right hand. This produces a descending bluesy feel. He would wrap up the phrase by tapping the 7th fret of the D string, which is the root note of A. Try these techniques to spice up your shredding!

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