“Technical playing can get cleaner, and that’s possibly even more challenging than just being faster”: We met the academics who study shred guitar for a living – they explained why it’s changed dramatically since the ’80s, and the 3 ways it can develop

Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders performs during Swanfest at Heart Health Park on April 23, 2022 in Sacramento, California.
Tosin Abasi: one of today's foremost rock guitar virtuosos, and pioneer of the 'thump' technique (Image credit: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Back in December, we reported on a study published by Cambridge University Press titled Rock Guitar Virtuosos. It charts advances in electric guitar playing, as well as technology and culture, from the ‘60s to the present day.

Of course, we’re always delighted to see the wonderful world of shred being deemed worthy of academic discussion. But beyond providing a historical deep-dive into the instrument we all know and love, the study serves up some thought-provoking takeaways for contemporary creators.

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Ellie Rogers

Since graduating university with a degree in English, Ellie has spent the last decade working in a variety of media, marketing and live events roles. As well as being a regular contributor to Total Guitar, MusicRadar and GuitarWorld.com, she currently heads up the marketing team of a mid-scale venue in the south-west of England. She started dabbling with guitars around the age of seven and has been borderline obsessed ever since. She has a particular fascination with alternate tunings, is forever hunting for the perfect slide for the smaller-handed guitarist, and derives a sadistic pleasure from bothering her drummer mates with a preference for “f**king wonky” time signatures.