Nita Strauss weighs in on the ‘shred stigma’ debate: "Yngwie Malmsteen’s three notes are no more or less valid than BB King’s"

Nita Strauss live
(Image credit: Matthew Baker/Getty Images)

We like to think that, no matter your favorite style of guitar playing, most players can appreciate those who play in genres that are wholly outside of their own comfort zones.

Fans of emotive, single-string players can respect the technical prowess of million-miles-an-hour fretboard navigators, while those partial to speed can also appreciate the comparatively stripped-back nature of their peers’ playing.

This, however, is not always the case, as noted by Nita Strauss, who recently spoke out against the “shred stigma” that exists within the guitar community.

In a recent interview with Ultimate Guitar, the Alice Cooper guitarist and solo artist leapt to the defense of those labelled solely as shredders, and said that one style should not be held inferior to any other.

“You know, I think this shred stigma has been around for so long and I don’t understand it,” Strauss said. “Yngwie Malmsteen’s three notes are no more or less valid than BB King’s three notes.

“They’re just three notes played differently, at different speeds, on different guitars, in different styles. It’s always baffling to me when people say, ‘That person is just a shredder.’ It’s just a stylistic preference. I never mind it. I take it as a compliment.”

On her own approach to playing, Strauss continued, “I work really hard on playing fast and if someone is saying I play fast, that’s okay because it’s something I work really hard at. It doesn’t bother me.

“I think if you have that label on you, you have to go the extra mile to show that not only do you play a lot of notes, you play them with a lot of emotion.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Strauss recalled the time she played guitar for Jason Becker, which she called “the most terrifying experience of my entire life”.

“It was extremely humbling and a huge honor to not only get to meet one of my heroes but to get to play a song for them that has meant so much to me.

“To get to have that experience that [manager] Josh [Villalta] created for me, and to be able to play for Jason and put a smile on his face after so much happiness he has given me and so many other guitar players, that was a really cool feeling,” she added.

Nita Strauss is one of many members of the guitar elite who recently took part in a two-month marathon fundraiser for Jason Becker, which raised money for the guitar legend, who has been living with ALS for the past 30 years.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.