Introducing My WOULDN'T IT BE HILARIOUS Shred Guitar Challenge

Last night, I saw Yngwie Malmsteen perform in Atlanta. It was an amazing show. If you aren’t familiar with his music, Yngwie is a master of shred guitar and so fun to watch. Old school metal meets Bach style classical with TONS of ridiculously fast guitar playing. As I was watching the show, I had a thought and I couldn’t stop laughing. 

“Wouldn’t it be hilarious if I could play like that?” 

Now, there are many different kind of goals. There are the bucket list, 
I just have to do that before I die” kinds of goals that are really powerful. There are the 
“it would be pretty cool if I did this” New Year’s resolution kinds of goals that aren’t powerful at all. But in between, you have the “wouldn’t it be hilarious” kinds of goals that aren’t as serious, but still pretty dang powerful, and a whole lot of fun. I think they’re good goals too because they point us towards achieving something we wouldn’t do otherwise, and even failure is OK because you learn so much in the process. So I’m going to do it. 

Remember, goals have to be specific and timely and actionable and probably something else that I forgot. So here’s my goal: 

In 6 months I will be able to play a rock guitar lick involving 16th notes at 180 beats per minute. 

This is my “before” video. 16th notes at ~100bpm. 


Why 16th notes at 180 bpm? The way I figure it, metal songs are around 90-100 bpm, and the “shred” solos are 32nd notes. So 16th notes at 180bpm puts me in that range. 

My starting point:

I was originally going to call this the “zero to shred” challenge. As fun as that would be, I am way past zero. I’ve been playing guitar for 33 years. I am a professional guitar player. So I’m not a zero.

Because I've been playing a long time, I know my way around the guitar. I know a lot of music theory. I didn't major in music, and I've never played jazz or classical. So it's kind of a street knowledge of music theory. But it's a fair amount of knowledge.  

And it’s not really that I can’t play fast. I just can’t play fast LIKE THAT. I approach the guitar from a straight ahead rock standpoint. Pentatonic scales. Hammer ons and pull offs. Jimmy Page, Ace Frehley, Angus Young, you get the picture. No furious 32nd notes. No insane sweeping arpeggios. Think of me like a basketball player that can’t dunk or a baseball player that can’t hit a homerun. This goal is the musical of me hitting the gym and batting cages and figuring out how to hit for power. 

So I'd say I'm an above average guitar player with decent but not great speed.

As I do this, I’ll share some tips with you that you can apply to your own playing. Techniques, exercises, books, websites, great players, etc. Feel free to let me know if you have any ideas! 

(“Pop Tarts” guitar lick courtesy Cracking the Code)

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