Herman Li responds to criticism that shredders “don't have any feel or emotion in their music”

Herman Li of Dragonforce performs on stage during their ?The Power Within? world tour at Rock City on October 3, 2012 in Nottingham, United Kingdom
(Image credit: Ollie Millington/Redferns via Getty Images)

As long as there are shredders, there will be guitar fans insisting that people who play a lot of notes “don't have any feel or emotion in their music.”

And there will also be those who make a career out of playing a lot of notes defending what they do.

The latest to take up the mantle is DragonForce electric guitar player Herman Li, who was asked about this criticism on an episode of Music is Win’s Guitar Villains podcast.

To which Li responded: "You know, this is the same thing I've heard for years and years and years. And once upon a time, this is when I first started playing the guitar and I discovered  Jason Becker, this is back in '92, '93, and I went to my music teacher and I said, 'Listen to this guy.'

"I played him Altitudes from [1988’s] Perpetual Burn. And my music teacher listened to it and said, 'This is terrible. This guy can't play. There's no music there. It's just masturbation. It's terrible. You shouldn't listen to this kind of stuff.'

"You know, some people just don't have the ear for certain type of things," Li continued. "That's why there's music for everybody."

As for why Li likes to shred?

“I like playing fast because I find it exciting,” he said. “It's fun for me at the same time. And that's it. Some people like it; some people don't like it. And me, myself, I listen to all kinds of music. So it's all okay with me. But I don't think you have to have listened to music for years to like that kind of music.

"The first time I heard a guitar solo, which was Richie Sambora on a Bon Jovi song, I thought, 'Man, I love this sound. What is it?'" Herman recalled. "Some people are just never gonna like guitar lead solos, and things like that. And you can see the trend how it went right? There was nu-metal, there was metalcore, and everyone was, like, 'Oh, we don't play guitar solos. We're songwriters now.'"

Li went on to say that he is affected by criticisms of his playing.

“I was pretty disappointed when so many people were talking shit about me, about how terrible I am as a guitar player – DragonForce is terrible, the solos, this and that," he said. "And they were saying, 'Oh, well, Steve Vai will kick his ass — Steve Vai and Satriani.'

“I was thinking, If you met me in a bar, I would be your best friend. Because I hung out with so many people, talking about guitars. I was the guy lining up for G3 three nights in a row – I love that kind of music. 

"But it’s like when you became something like in a band, people have this thing against me. It's like, well, sorry, if I was a normal guy, you'd have no problem with me."

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.