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SHREDDING- Attempt to define.

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Joined: 17 Oct 2005
Posts: 19
Location: OREGON

PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2005 7:31 am    Post subject: SHREDDING- Attempt to define. Reply with quote

I apologize in advance if this term has been resolved on a previous post, to majority satisfaction. I've seen discussions on the positive & negative connotations of the terms shred/shredding/shredder throughout various forums and was intrigued to research it and hopefully provide greater clarity on the subject, as a community service (not to beat a dead horse).

In the 80's, birth of the term "shred" shared a chronological coincidence to the advent of sweep picking technique. A cross check of these two terms in Wikipedia online somewhat supports a relationship and revealed the following:

Shredding refers to a guitar playing style where technical proficiency is the major goal. It is a term that is most often connected to the music style of Neoclassical Rock. Tony MacAlpine, Yngwie Malmsteen, Chris Impellitteri, Paul Gilbert, Rusty Cooley and Michael Angelo are considered to be examples of the finest shredders in this genre. Al Di Meola can be seen as a pioneering shredder player with his jazz-rock recordings with Return to Forever and solo albums released in mid-1970s. This playing style has become popular in other music styles as well.
Progressive Rock, Progressive Metal, and Jazz rock have adapted the style successfully. Greg Howe and Steve Vai are two examples of famous shredding players that became popular in 1980s. John Petrucci is the foremost Progressive Metal shredder. Ed Van Halen and Jason Becker are two prime examples of shredding blues rock players. Greg Howe is able to use guitar techniques that few others, to this day, have been able to copy. Allan Holdsworth (originally a member of Soft Machine) could be considered as another example of an outstanding shredder.
Occasionally, the term "shredding" is used with a negative connotation; in this context, it refers to playing with blind speed and technicality at the sacrifice of feeling or musicality.
When guitarists such as Di Meola and Holdsworth played technically difficult pieces during the 1970s, the term "shredding" had not been invented. However virtuoso playing from that era is also dubbed "shredding". Therefore, one could say that "shredding" was invented long before the specific term for it arose.
Guitar playing techniques commonly involved in shredding are:
• Alternate-Picking
• Tapping
• Legato
• Sweep-picking

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
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Sweep-picking is a guitar technique that involves playing one note per string, moving the picking hand in a smooth fashion, in a single up- or down-stroke (rather than using alternate picking) while lifting the fingers of the fret hand to dampen the note. Sweep-picking is a useful technique for performing very fast arpeggios, and was popularized by Frank Gambale and Yngwie Malmsteen.

Excerpt from another online source referring to SWEEP PICKING:

Artists That Have Used this Technique:
Jason Becker
Nuno Bettencourt
Bruce Bouillet
Paul Gilbert
Chris Impellitteri
Toshi Iseda
Yngwie J. Malmsteen
Joey Tafolla
Steve Vai

According to ALL the above, one may conclude, more often than not, that a shredder is a player who sweeps. Referencing Wikipedia's Shredding description only, tends to conclude a generalization of the shredder being a particularly fast guitar player. But when you consider the neoclassical rock reference, factor in their sweep picking description AND look at most of the names associated with neoclassical genre and sweep picking technique, a closer association between shredding & sweep picking develops. (Frank Gambale would be fusion shredder.)

Although someone saying, "Well, he's just a shredder." may still interpret out as "he just plays fast but has no feeling", it may also reflect an attitude on the part of conventional "pre-sweep" blues rock or more legato oriented players who consider sweeping to be sort of gimmicky and less dynamic in terms of nuance and tempo variance.
Knowing that the main emphasis of sweep technique is about greater efficiency and speed, makes these a given. But since no "left hand burnin' up the fretboard" gymnastics is really occurring or required, it isn't really "workin' fer a livin' bud", hence, "he's just a shredder". It's like comparing late 60's muscle cars with Acura's... "My '69 Charger is a real car, pal!" So some of the negative derives from differing, old & new schools of technique. "Hendrix didn't sweep pick, so why should anyone else?"

I wouldn't consider most legato players to be shredders. Players like Holdsworth, Govan and Eric Johnson may be extremely fast, but they are slippery, really use their left hands and don't invoke the sonic textural "shred" metaphor. Nor do alternate pickers i.e. Al Dimeola and Steve Morse-- sorry, not shredders. Satch & Vai, not shredders either (hybrids maybe)-- and neither is EVH. Hammer-ons & pull-offs have different consonant timbres than sweeping; y'know how "d" or "b" sound different than "p" or "t", or how a floor tom sounds different than a snare.

Paul Gilbert, Tony MacAlpine, Buckethead and early Kotzen are shredders.

It's possible the term "Shred" was arrived upon as a textural metaphor sonically describing distorted, extremely rapid, staccato arpeggios.

Malmsteen's utilization of a scalloped fretboard facilitates greater left hand expression and nuance-- so he steps out of the shredder zone at will. His attack is offset by a more liquid and elastic counterpoint, resulting in legato effect. Any other shredder with a trem doesn't get close to that level of finesse. So although one may still qualify Malmsteen as a shredder-- it would be ridiculous to call him "just a shredder"-- too much goin on there.

Summary: The term "shredding" seems to be more associated with distorted sweeping arpeggios than any other technique, and most likely came into use for describing the sonic effect of that technique. Also, in order to accomodate current Guitar-speak, the word "shred", within guitar context, oughta have at least 3 separate definitions; 1) Rapid distorted areggiating via sweep picking technique (fundamental), 2) High velocity playing approach (general use), and 3) playing with blind speed and technicality at the sacrifice of feeling or musicality (negative).
{The derivation being closest to fundamental def. # 1.}

With that said, I can now move on with the rest of my life.

I thought I'd save this post for The Great Kat's new discussion forum, but didn't want to hold my breath that long.

Next week, we'll uncover the history and practice of "Face-melting".
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Joined: 10 Sep 2004
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Location: Chino, CA

PostPosted: Wed Oct 26, 2005 2:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the lengthy and interesting post. I think I tried to cover this subject matter on another thread on the GG Discussion section. Like anything else, the term "shred" has its good and its bad connotations. It's been negative for many years and for a good reason: over 95% of shredders really don't have musicality, compositional or melodic sense, taste, feel, tone and all these other aspects that make it real and interesting MUSIC worth listening to.

Guthrie can surely "shred" with the best of 'em - yes, including sweeping arpeggios with a saturated tone, but thankfully, he doesn't ever shred for the sake of doing so. It really doesn't matter what people label Guthrie as. One either gets it or doesn't. But I did notice that it does take some people longer to get it. The ability to play real fast and shred is such a small part of the whole equation. It does take some time for some people to see all the other areas that Guthrie covers so well. I know quite a few guys who had originally dismissed Guthrie as "just another shredder" and are now some of his biggest fans.
Ed Yoon
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BOING Music LLC - Managing Partner
.strandberg* Guitars USA
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Location: Bangalore, India

PostPosted: Mon Mar 13, 2006 3:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
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