To some people, shred guitar is about one thing, and one thing only: the need for speed. The yearn to burn. The desire for fire.
Just the word itself can conjure glorious images of long-haired, pointy-guitar-wielding metalmen, fingers scaling fretboards with dazzling dexterity and furious speed, melody and musicality by damned. And indeed, during the shred zeitgeist of the 1980s, it seemed as if guitarists built up bpms the way Russia and the U.S. stockpiled nukes.
But in fact shred was around well before the Eighties, and it has continued to thrive in the decades since. Because shred guitar is about more than just velocity, or how many notes you can squeeze into a bar of music. And it doesn't necessarily require the use of distortion, electricity or, is some cases, even a pick.
In the following gallery, we present 30 great players from the Golden Era, the Old-School Era and the Modern Era of shred, along with the album and song that best exemplifies their shredding skills.
As these entries attest, shred is about pushing boundaries, exploring the great guitar unknown and, basically, doing really cool stuff that's never been done before. Of course, a bit of sheer, unadulterated fret-burning speed doesn't hurt either.
NOTE: Once again, the photo gallery below is divided into three eras — the Golden Era, the Modern Era and the Old School era — each of which contains 10 albums. The gallery is arranged in that order.