“It’s all about your vibrato and phrasing”: Sophie Lloyd's shred version of Stairway To Heaven adds some fiery fretwork to the Led Zeppelin classic

Stairway To Heaven may have (somewhat controversially) just been voted the greatest acoustic guitar song of all time. However, when it comes to Sophie Lloyd’s new shred version of the Zeppelin classic, there’s not an acoustic guitar in sight.

Lloyd has spent a significant chunk of the past few years winning fans as Machine Gun Kelly’s go-to six-stringer and under her own steam, with debut album Imposter Syndrome. Now she’s taken some time out to get back to her YouTube roots, with this stunning and intricate reworking of Stairway.

The guitarist actually mentioned the song was incoming as part of her recent Guitar World cover feature and explained the process she goes through when putting together her shred-savvy re-workings of classic tracks.

Sophie Lloyd

(Image credit: Future / Jen Rosenstein)

“We’ll listen to all the layers,” says Lloyd. “It teaches me a lot about composition. In terms of playing, I study the guitarists and try to get inside what they do. 

“Like when I did Comfortably Numb, I tried to figure out David Gilmour’s scales and tones. That was a cool one because I learned how you can sound powerful even if you’re not shredding over everything; you sit back and let the music speak. 

“It’s the same thing with the Stairway to Heaven video I’m doing. You speak through just a few notes; it’s all about your vibrato and phrasing.”

A common mistake many technical players make when trying to rejig a rock classic is shredding over the length of a track, losing any sense of the dynamics and pacing that made it great in the first place.

Lloyd’s retooling of Stairway doesn’t lose sight of the track’s melodic signatures or arrangement, but armed with her Kiezel signature guitar, she still finds interesting ways to add a bit of a technical flair, reserving the face-melting stuff for the latter solo sections.

Check out the full clip above, and for more from the UK shred virtuoso, check out our full Sophie Lloyd interview, in which she discusses hitting arenas with Machine Gun Kelly, taking on challenging covers and being the classic guitar “sob story”.

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for GuitarWorld.com. Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.