So, while I'm thrilled that my first-ever blog post seemed to resonate with so many people, I want to clarify that I am not putting down shredders at ALL.
When I linked the blog to my Facebook page, an old bass-playing friend of mine, Jim, made this comment:
“Bravo — was thinking of this post driving to work ... ‘Sweet Child O' Mine’ was on and while Duff and Slash might not fall into the category of virtuoso, I can sing every note of both the bass line and guitar solo because they're both melodic and fantastic ... I've had shoelaces more memorable than Billy Sheehan.”
Now, I'm not discounting his opinion. To a lot of people, the bells and whistles associated with the likes of guys like Sheehan, Yngwie, et al are really distracting and simply just not everyone’s cup of tea. And Slash and Duff are indeed badasses on their respective instruments as far as I’m concerned, and if I were stuck on a desert island and could only bring one album, Appetite for Destruction would trump Compression, no contest.
But that was never my point.
When the so-called grunge revolution hit in the early '90s, it brought a backlash against shredding. Seemingly overnight, it became fashionable to make fun of guys like Eddie Van Halen, who, at 23, single-handedly launched a musical movement, while extolling the virtues of the Kurt Cobains.
Granted, it could be argued that the whole tapping/whammy bar/shred thing started to become gratuitous and perhaps even cartoonish by the end of the '80s. Guitarists became divided over feel vs. technique, and those in the former camp would pillory anyone from Michael Angelo Batio to Steve Lukather, accusing them of having no passion or emotion in their playing.
It was a “shredder” (I wish to God I could remember who so I could attribute it properly) at the time, though, who had this, or something to this effect, to say on the matter: “How can anyone say that someone who's so devoted to mastering the guitar that he spends 8, 10 or 14 hours a day practicing so they can get that good, has no passion?”
I've been fortunate make a living with music, but no matter how good I get, there will always be someone like this kid kicking my ass, and I'm grateful for that. It keeps me being a fan, which keeps me hungry to learn my instrument, which keeps me enthusiastic, which keeps me young.
About five years ago, after having been a guitarist for decades, I learned how to string scales together in a fast, legato, Steve Vai/Joe Satriani way, and now you can't shut me up. Does it have any musical value? I don't know.
Who among us really has the authority to make that pronouncement? What I do know is that people turn around and look when I play it; maybe they think it’s cool, maybe they’re disgusted. But any time your playing provokes a reaction, as long as it’s from the heart, it’s a good thing.
Guitar World music editor Matt Scharfglass has performed around the country and internationally, playing virtually all types of music with a wide range of artists, including R&B with Ashford & Simpson, old-school swing with the Blue Saracens and gospel with Richard Hartley & Soul Resurrection. Matt appears on the original-cast recording of Evil Dead: The Musical and the Broadway Cares album Home for the Holidays. He has also worked in countless theater pits and plays guitar up in the organ booth to crowds of 18,000 at New York Rangers home games at Madison Square Garden. An accomplished guitar and bass transcriber, Matt has had more than 600 of his transcriptions appear in Guitar World magazine and in books by Warner Brothers, Music Sales and Hal Leonard. He has also authored more than a dozen bass and guitar instructional books, including the "You Can Do It...Play Bass!" and "…Play Guitar!" series. He is the bassist and one of the main songwriters for his rock band, The Border Cops.