How To Become A Better Shred Guitarist (Without Playing Faster)

by Tom Hess

Are you wondering what it takes to play great shred guitar licks? Although it might seem counter-intuitive, playing awesome shred guitar ideas is not all about speed. Fact is, playing cool shred guitar licks that grab the attention of others requires both speed AND the ability to creatively arrange the notes in your phrases.

I am now going to show you an effective approach that will quickly transform your shred guitar licks into highly inspiring phrases (without having to ‘play faster’). Get started by watching this shred guitar licks demonstration so you can fully apply the concepts I will be discussing in a moment. Watch the video now, then come back to this page and study the exercise below.

Ok, now that you’ve seen the video demonstration above, continue reading the exercise below.

First Step: Start with a three string A minor arpeggio. As you play this arpeggio, use a legato style by pulling off from the highest pitch to the next highest pitch while descending. This means, in an A minor arpeggio, use a pull off when descending from fret twelve to fret eight on the first string. Look at the following tablature to see how the arpeggio is played:

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Second Step: Start playing the arpeggio pattern. Don’t worry about how fast you can play it, just play through it several times at a speed that feels right for you.

Third Step: Once you have played the pattern a few times, start repeating the highest two notes in the same manner as I demonstrated in the video above. While playing the A minor second inversion pattern (which is made of the notes A, C and E) the highest notes are E on fret number 12 and C on fret number 8. Repeat these two notes each time you descend in the pattern like so: 12th fret pulls off to 8th fret twice... E > C > E > C. Then continue on with the rest of the arpeggio. As you found out in the video above, this very simple approach alters the entire feel of the arpeggio by changing the contour of the phrase. This makes the lick sound very intense and engaging without actually playing any faster than you were before. See the tab below:


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Fourth Step: After making this new variation of the original lick, repeat it several times to get a feel for it. Next, make several more variations of this lick by replacing the highest pitch with a different pitch. For instance, rather than pulling off from E to C, pull off from D to C. Then play through these new variations.

Fifth Step: Combine together the original A minor arpeggio pattern with the new licks you made in the previous step. Once you do this, you will see a HUGE improvement in the creativity of the original lick. Here is one possible example:


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After you have finished going through all the steps of this shred guitar exercise, start using these ideas for other types of licks (not just for arpeggios). Instead of playing an arpeggio in the first step, substitute it with a scale run, tapping pattern or any other kind of lick you prefer. Then alter the contour of the phrase while descending in the pattern to achieve the same feeling. Then redo steps two through five and begin building a huge vocabulary of great shred guitar licks! When you integrate this concept into your playing in this manner, you will become much more musically expressive and better at playing creative shred guitar licks.

Greatly enhance everything you learned in this article by watching this KILLER lead guitar improvement video.

Author's Bio: 

About The Author:
Tom Hess is a professional recording artist, composer, and expert guitar instructor. He teaches and trains guitarists how to become great musicians in his online rock guitar lessons. Visit to receive additional free guitar playing resources and to read more guitar articles.