In this article, we will look at 13 helpful tips and tricks to help improve guitar shredding for beginners. From warming up properly before practicing to experimenting with different guitar techniques such as alternate picking, these tips will make sure you become a shred wizard in the least time possible!
1. Practice Makes Perfect
This first point might seem glaringly obvious to most, but it’s super-important! The more time you spend with a guitar in your hands the better you will ultimately become.
It is crucial to be consistent with your practice sessions as this is the best way to see the fastest results. Make sure to set aside a dedicated amount of time every day where you only work on shred techniques – even if you can only manage a few minutes.
Pick your practice days and times and do not skip them. Hold yourself accountable to reap the rewards!
2. Track Your Progress
In order to ensure that they are constantly improving rather than stagnating, a dedicated body-builder will track the weight and number of reps they can manage at every session.
You need to take on this same mentality. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and practice the same old exercises over and over at the same speeds. Keep a record of the speed at which you can (cleanly) play the exercises you choose, and make sure to keep pushing up the speed. Even if you can only manage to add 1 RPM per exercise per week, that will really add up over a longer period of time!
You can easily track your progress by using a free spreadsheet app such as Google Sheets.
3. Learn From The Professionals
One of the best ways to improve your guitar shredding is to watch established guitarists to see how they play. What shred techniques do they employ? What type of equipment do they use?
For example, if you want to improve your legato technique, one of the absolute masters to check out is Joe Satriani. Head over to YouTube and watch any of his live performances or instructional videos to learn how his legato is so fluid. For alternate picking, you might like to study players such as Paul Gilbert or Yngwie Malmsteen.
Check out my article on the best shred guitarists for a huge list of incredible players that you can look into for guitar shred tips and tricks.
4. Always Warm Up First
When it comes to shredding for beginners, it is especially important to incorporate a good warm-up routine.
Doing this will help to loosen up the muscles in the arms and fingers and get the blood pumping. Without a proper warm-up, you will not be playing at your most efficient, and could also be risking injuries such as tendinitis or carpal tunnel syndrome.
A good tip during the colder months is to run your hands under the hot tap to get them nice and loose. Alternatively, a quick 5 or 10 minute cardio session will definitely get the blood pumping! GuitarPlayer has an excellent finger warm-up routine if you would like a structured lesson to start out with.
5. Experiment With Picking Hand Positions
Did you know that where on the electric guitar you place your picking hand can drastically affect your accuracy and speed?
For example, you can rest your wrist on the guitar bridge, use your fourth finger as an anchor on the body (a la John Petrucci), try holding the pick with a lighter grip, or even experiment with different sizes and styles of pick. Play around to see what works best for you.
Furthermore, you could even experiment with how you pick. For example, Eddie Van Halen was known for his unique tremolo-picking technique that uses the larger muscles in the forearm for a more efficient movement.
You can clearly see this picking hand mechanic in action at the start of the video below.
6. Use A Metronome
Using a metronome is absolutely crucial to help develop a clean and fluid technique. Practicing without a metronome will ultimately result in a sloppy playstyle, and could even lead to injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. You definitely don’t want that, right?
Don’t be tempted to shred faster than you are able to as it will only hurt you in the long term. Gently build up your tempo by choosing a slow speed that you can easily play at. Gradually increase the speed as you become more comfortable and you will be rewarded with a fluid and injury-free playstyle.
This might feel a little tedious and boring, but you will thank yourself for it in the long run when you are leaving your friends in the dust!
Various free and paid-for metronomes are available, check out my guide to metronomes for a quick overview.
7. Improve Finger Strength & Dexterity
Playing fast on the guitar will require a certain level of strength and dexterity in your fingers.
Finger strength will come naturally the more you play, but you can also help to build power by using a training aid specifically designed for this purpose. For example, D’Addario offers their VariGrip trainer to build individual finger strength.
You can also improve dexterity by using various exercises designed to promote finger independence. Try Googling ‘guitar spider exercises’ for some great examples. MusicRadar also has a solid 20-minute guitar workout that you can incorporate into your practice routine.
8. Don’t Forget About Rhythm Playing!
You may only be interested in ripping out the fastest, flashiest guitar solo, but it is also crucially important to have a solid foundation in rhythm playing.
The ability to maintain a steady beat and play complex rhythm patterns will make it easier to improvise incredible guitar solos when playing with a band or jam track. Furthermore, a good rhythm technique will make you a more rounded player, and therefore, more desirable in a band situation.
As with the rest of these tips on guitar shredding for beginners, practice your rhythm techniques with a metronome or backing track. This will help to ensure that you develop a clean and fluid style.
9. Learn Musical Theory
Players such as Dave Grohl will testify that you can get by just fine without any knowledge of music theory. However, having at least a basic understanding of concepts such as chords, scales, and modes will be very useful when it comes to shredding.
In terms of improvising killer guitar solos, knowing a variety of different scales and chords will enable you to become a lot more creative and interesting.
10. Experiment With Different Techniques
When first starting out, it is a great idea to experiment with all of the different shred techniques and styles available. This will help you to find your own unique voice and playstyle by discovering which techniques resonate with you personally.
For example, try to incorporate alternate picking, hammer ons and pull offs, two-handed tapping, sweep-picking, and more into your practice sessions.
It is also an excellent idea to branch out into different musical genres such as blues, jazz, or country to help broaden your horizons and inject a little spice into your guitar playing.
John 5 is one of my favorite shredders as he really stands out from everyone else due to his highly country-inspired playstyle.
11. Develop Your Ear
To become great at shredding, an important skill to develop is a good musical ear. By that, I mean the ability to instantly recognize different intervals, melodies, and chords and play them on guitar.
An excellent way to improve this ability is to try and learn songs and solos yourself, without resorting to the use of guitar tabs or chord diagrams.
Justin Sandercoe has an excellent range of lessons on ear training. You can check out part one of this five-part series below.
12. Use Backing Tracks
Using a metronome is vital to help develop good, clean technique – but it does get boring playing to a simple click! Why not spice up your practice sessions through the use of jam tracks and backing tracks?
As with a metronome, a jam track will help to develop good timing. However, by using tracks from different styles and genres we can increase motivation by upping the fun factor.
Check out my huge list of free guitar jam tracks for a treasure trove of resources that you can dive into.
13. The Perfect Shred Rig
In addition to these tips, it is also pretty important to have the right gear for the job. For example, you’ll preferably require a fast electric guitar that has been set up properly with a nice, low string action.
Your electric guitar will also require features such as excellent upper fret access, a flatter fingerboard, and high-gain humbucker pickups. You can learn more about what to look for in my article on what is guitar shredding?
Furthermore, you may also like to invest in a good amplifier plus some pedals or a multi-fx unit. A solid overdrive or distortion is generally considered a must-have for shred guitar.
Finally, don’t be disheartened if you fail to see the progress that you expect straight away. Like body-building, playing fast is something that will come gradually the more time and consistency you put into it.
And that wraps up our list of tips to help guitar shredding for beginners. Happy playing!
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