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Everyone wants to shred guitar. I mean, who wouldn’t want to after watching players like Joe Satriani, Guthrie Govan, and Tosin Abasi?
The good news is shredding is a highly achievable technique, and it starts with some simple exercises and best practices.
There are lots of shred guitar exercises on the web, but start by learning these basic shred exercises to get familiar with basic shred techniques.
Shred Guitar Accuracy and Rhythm
When learning how to shred you want to focus on accuracy. You become more accurate on the guitar as you practice left-hand and right-hand techniques both individually and synchronized.
Rhythm is also key in shred guitar. If you can’t play on time, you won’t be able to practice accurately.
Try practicing to a metronome or drum beat set at 90 BPM in order to build your rhythm.
How to build speed
When building speed you’ll want to practice playing both slowly and quickly.
You’ll practice slowly in order to learn an exercise or shred guitar technique.
Once you’ve learned how to play slowly and accurately, you’ll want to practice playing fast in order to gain speed.
You will literally practice as fast as you can (or at the speed that you intend to play the exercise) until the notes become accurate.
Here’s a video that explains this concept in-depth:
Shawn Lane also touched on this subject in a less formal lesson.
When learning shred guitar exercises you’ll want to practice building up your right hand alone.
A popular way to do this is by alternate picking open strings for set lengths of time.
You’ll want to do this with a metronome, and you need to keep your picking hand as relaxed as possible when working out the right hand. This way you’ll conserve energy, which will allow you to play longer.
Shred Guitar Exercise 1: Open String Alternate Picking
Mute the open strings as you alternate pick them. Remember to practice to a metronome, and practice alternate picking on every open string on your guitar.
You need a beefy fretting hand if you want to master shred guitar.
This means you’ll need to practice hammer-ons and pull-offs.
While it is possible to pick everything on the guitar, it takes up a lot of energy. This is why learning hammer-ons and pull-offs are essential, as they will help you to conserve picking energy, and give you more dynamic control.
Shred Guitar Exercise 2: Fretting hand G-major Legato Lick
This fretting hand exercise is based off of a 3-note-per-string G major shape. You have groups of six notes for each string, and you’ll want to start each string with a downstroke.
Now we can start to put our left and right hands together!
One of the most popular ways to do this is with the spider exercise.
The spider exercise is so valuable because it uses all four fingers on the fretting hand, and you can practice the exercise with alternate picking and hammer-ons/pull-offs.
Shred Guitar Exercise 3: Spider Exercise
Practice the spider exercise with alternate picking. Start by ascending, and then descend the lick.
I suggest playing with a metronome or drum beat. Practice the exercise with 8th notes and 16th notes. This will give you a better feel for rhythm.
Combining Techniques with Economy Picking
Economy picking happens when you let your fretting hand follow the economy of motion.
This means that you’ll move from one string to the next using the same pick stroke that you ended with on the last string, as long as you are using an odd number of notes.
Here’s a lesson that goes more in-depth on economy picking: 5 Best Economy Picking Exercises with TAB
Shred Guitar Exercise 4: Economy Picking Exercise
This is an E Minor 7 arpeggio. It’s what I call a 2-1-2 arpeggio, because you move from 2 notes, to 1 note, back to 2 notes, and repeat.
Here’s your picking pattern. (The bold pick strokes represent single notes on a string)
Ascending: Down-Hammer Down Down-Up Down Down-Up-PO(Pull-off)
Descending (starting at the B string): Up Up-Down Up Up-Down
Sweep picking is an extremely popular technique, and is a sub-technique of economy picking.
Sweeping is useful for moving across multiple strings that only have a single note-per-string.
The movement across multiple strings is done with a single motion, which guitarists call a “sweep” motion.
Here is a YouTube video about sweeping:
Shred Guitar Exercise 5: Sweep Picking from G Major to E Minor
This sweep picking exercise moves from a G major triad to an E minor triad.
Use these pick-strokes. Down Down Down-Up-PO Up. Repeat indefinitely.
Say these pick-strokes out loud! This will help you to remember the proper pick-strokes to use for sweep picking. Remember, it’s just six strokes.
Moving in Octaves:
One of the easiest ways to create a new shred lick/exercise is by moving in octaves.
You can seriously do this with any group of notes. Perform them in one octave, and move it up to the next octave.
Shred Guitar Exercise 6: Ascending and Descending Octaves
In this shred exercise, you’ll be working out of G Major.
Use your Index, Middle, and Pinky fingers for both the ascending and descending portions.
Practice it with alternate picking at a slower tempo, like 80 or 90 BPM.
Practice it with economy picking when you want to play the lick fast.
Summary: Guitar Shredding Exercises
Remember that your left and right hands are important to work on together and individually.
And while these certainly aren’t the only shred guitar exercises and techniques, they will help you get off the ground with your shred guitar practice.
So let me know which exercise you’re working on in the comments below, and rock on!