Art of Shredding: Mark Morton

Originally published in Guitar World, December 2010

Lamb of God's Mark Morton gives some insight on shred guitar.

For flat-out, unapologetic soloing, who blows your mind?

I'm still most blown away by grimy, rootsy blues stuff. Billy Gibbons, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan still give me goose bumps and make me want to throw my guitars away. I guess from a pure speed and "shred" perspective, Jeff Loomis is one of my favorite modern players in that realm. I still trip out on some of that early Yngwie stuff. I can't forget Zakk Wylde either, because he's a dude that kind of bridges both those worlds for me. Even early on, I appreciated how he fused bluesy licks with a high-speed delivery.

What album/song inspired you to play fast?

The first couple of Van Halen records really set the bar for me, and for a lot of people, really. Eddie's work was the benchmark for a long time, in terms of how far and how radically players were going to take soloing as an acrobatic exercise. As I said, Yngwie blew everybody's mind shortly after, and everybody seemed to be copping those two dudes for a long time. Probably still are, really.

What helped you progress dramatically as a guitarist?

Learning songs and solos and jamming with my friends in our basement bands. I think it's definitely constructive to play along with an album or a video, but setting up and jamming with like-minded and similarly skilled players as a band really takes what you've learned and applies it at the next level. There are a million and one bedroom virtuosos, but it takes something more to make that happen in a group context. Ultimately, those are skills you're going to need if you want to progress as a guitarist.

What was your biggest technical hurdle?

Speed! Honestly, the patience and repetition to memorize speed-oriented licks is something I've always found boring, because it really is just repetition and muscle memory. But if you want to shred, you've got to sit through it. I've always gravitated to the more "feel" oriented, expressive approach of the bluesier styles, but in our genre of music I've got to be able to pull a little shred off the wall as well.

What key performance in your discography is a successful example of what you try to achieve?

I'm most satisfied with a solo if its memorable. Of all our songs, I think "Grace," from the Wrath album, is my favorite lead performance. It's got some really fast licks, but it's also melodic, memorable and musical.

Is shredding a good thing?

Shredding is a great thing! I'm not sure if it's the most important thing. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's not. But it's absolutely an important part of your overall bag of tricks. Used correctly, it can turn a lot of heads and be a lot of fun.

What are you currently working on, and what is your goal as a player?

I'm most focused on songwriting. For me, I feel like that's one of my strong points as a musician and one I'm continually trying to expand on. As far as my soloing, I definitely could stand to have a little more depth and diversity in my collection of speed-oriented licks. That's always a work in progress.

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