Neoclassical Shred Guitar

Ewww, boring!

Yes that's right, the title said classical. No this isn't some boring lesson on how to write classical music like Bach. Instead, we're going to take Bach and give him an extreme makover. In this lesson, you are going to learn how to apply classical techniques into a daily practice routine that will make you sound like a pro.

Neoclassical guitar is the new age classical. It involves coordination, fast hands, and some amazing scales and riffs. If you are looking to be inspired or put in awe by some neoclassical guitarist, take a look at some of Yngwie J Malmsteen's songs. He has been the pioneer of this new phenomena and has been building an impressive repertoire of music for decades.

Neoclassical music became known in the early 80's. Before that point, metal and shred guitar weren't as mainstream as genres such as rock. Then, some guitarists such as Malmsteen took a leap of faith and started combining classical sounds into their hard metal songs. They took the best of two genres and combined them to create neoclassical shred guitar.

You need to understand that neoclassical isn't just classical music. "Neoclassic" typically refers (as a definition by most guitarists) to "neoclassic rock / metal", not "current classical music". We're talking about metal, influenced by classical music melodies. So don't worry, you're going to be rocking...hard and fast.

Now here's the fun part, regardless of your taste in music, learning neoclassical shred guitar can assist you in becoming the best lead guitarist in your town. The reason for this is found in the various techniques utilized while playing shred guitar. Once you get a few of these techniques down, you'll have no trouble impressing your neighbors.

If you haven't picked this up yet, shred guitar is fast... Ok, that's an understatement. This is why it's so important to use a metronome. A metronome is a little box that ticks and yes, they are usually over priced. Why would you want to get one of these over priced tickers? Well, for starters, your health and mental well being.

For most people, the sound of a click every few seconds would slowly drive them insane. For a musician, it's their key to success. It allows you to keep time. Start a riff slow and build it up until it's lightning fast. Not only will this make you sound good and make learning the riff easier, it will protect your hands from damage. If you start playing something extremely fast right away, you risk burning out your hands. By starting slow and working your way up, your hands will do a much better job playing the correct notes.

Another reason to use a metronome is phrasing. Phrasing is how you play the riff while speed simply deals with tempo. If you can play each note for the correct amount of time, then switch seamlessly to another string or part of the neck, you will play the music correctly and sound good. However, if you play the notes sloppy, you will come across as not being prepared. Which would you prefer? The only way to get perfect phrasing when you're starting out on guitar is by using a metronome.

The scales...

The scales used in neoclassical shred revolve around the minor scales and modes. In particular, melodic and harmonic minor scales are utilized to give a more regal, classical feel to the music. Let's start by running through E Natural Minor to warm-up.

E Natural Minor

Note: Bold numbers above tab are for fingerings.

Now we'll take the above E natural minor and make some adjustments to create the melodic and harmonic minor scales. Remember, all of these scales are 100% movable. Use the first note of each scale and move the scale up and down your low E string. This allows you to play in different keys.

E Melodic Minor

E Harmonic Minor

...See how the harmonic minor scale is similar to the natural minor scale? There is only one note that is different. This makes switching between natural minor and harmonic minor a breeze while playing.

Run through each scale slowly. Pay attention to all of the details and memorize the pattern. Try moving everything up or down a few frets. You want to experiment as much as possible and get used to playing in a minor key.

Alternate picking...

Alternate picking is a technique where you alternate your pick strokes. All too often, guitarists who are just starting out will use nothing but down strokes to pick their notes. To gain speed, and to sound better, try alternating between down strokes and up strokes. After you play a down stroke to sound a note, use an up stroke to play the next note. Then alternate between the two.

This may seem like a simple concept, but it can get pretty tricky when you start dealing with string skipping and moving around the fretboard. Try using this simple C Major scale to alternate your picking:

...The reason why it's so important for you to master the art of alternate picking is due to speed. It is almost impossible to gain lightning fast speed in shred guitar without the use of alternate picking. The only other option is to tap out the notes, but we won't be covering that technique in this lesson.

Try focusing your attention on one note, let's say 12th fret E on your high E string. Start to alternate your picking on this note. Start slow and gradually build up speed. Eventually you will get this:

... If you're having problems getting that speed, keep practicing. Another tip is to use a hard pick and hold it at a slight angle to the strings. In other words, don't hold it flat like you usually would for strumming. This slight 20 or 30 degree angle will help you "attack" the note and enable you to play it faster.

The gear...

Neoclassical shred guitar has a very distinct sound that comes from various distortion and overdrive pedals. Some of the most popular pedals used in this genre of music include the following:

  • DOD overdrive pedal
  • Ibanez Tube Screamer
  • Boss Compression/Sustainer
  • Boss MT-2
  • Boss DD-5 Digital Delay
  • Dunlop Original CryBaby Wah Pedal
  • Vox Flanger

...As far as the guitar is concerned, you can find success with any electric but the Fender Stratocaster seems to reign supreme amongst the world's hottest shredders. However, Ibanez, Jackson, and B.C Rich have all seen their fair share of action in neoclassical as well. It comes down to personal taste and style. Les Pauls and similar style guitars are rarely used in this style because they don't have a tremolo bar, which is a popular item to have for shredders.

The choice of amps is just as diverse as the guitar. Marshall is a favourite with shredders such as Yingwie Malmsteen. Whatever the case, the amps are big and they're loud!

The music...

To get the feel of shred, you need to get a good handle on your technique. Hammer on's, pull off's and coordination between your left and right hand are a necessity.

As far as the sound is concerned, neoclassical works around patterns. Let's take these four riffs for example:

...The above four riffs will continue to repeat forever. All I'm doing is using the scale to my advantage and working around the notes. No one said you are only allowed to use the notes in the scale pattern, so long as they are the correct notes in that key, you can play them anywhere on your neck. This adds texture to the music.

Planet Waves - See The Future?

In today's society, the guitar industry is continually changing. With new inventions, patents, and refinements around every corner, knowing who to trust and who's the leader is tough. Not any more. Introducing Planet Waves natural perspective of innovative design. This is a company on the leading edge when it comes to the tool that make your life easier.

Last week we took a look at a few of the gadgets from their "Smart Tools" series. This week we will be continuing our mini series as we take a closer look at capos.

If you don't know what a capo is, relax. It's not the end of the world. A capo is a tool that's used to transpose and make difficult chords easier to play. They are a valuable tool for song writers and rhythm guitarists.

Finding a capo that offers functionality and keeps your chords in tune can be a wearisome task. Rarely will you find capos that offer a balance of the two. Planet Waves new Ratchet Capo and NS Capo open up new options to guitarists like you.

Ratchet Capo

The Ratchet Capo is the perfect solution for stage guitarists. Nothing is more aggravating than wasting time between songs putting your capo on, adjusting the capo so your strings aren't too much out of tune and trying to sweet talk your audience in the meantime.

With the Ratchet Capo, you simply take the capo, put it on the fret you want and squeeze. You can move the capo to any place on the fretboard within seconds. This is done through a clever quick release latch.

One of the unique features about Planet Waves capos is that they add hardly any additional weight to the neck of the guitar.

NS Capo

While the Ratchet is great for doing live gigs, it's not the best option for the studio. Capos may be a fantastic tool for transposing, but they often pinch the strings so hard that they make the strings buzz and go out of tune.

To counteract this problem, J. D'Addario and world renown product expert Ned Steinberger teamed up to produce the NS capo. This capo utilizes a sleek design with flawless performance. Getting perfect pitch has never been so easy with velvet smooth dial. Simply turn the dial to adjust for perfect in tune performance and eliminate string buzz at the same time!

The NS capo is light weight as well and is a fantastic choice for all guitarists.

...In my humble opinion, I recommend the NS capo for most guitarists. The NS capo will serve your purposes a little better. Whatever the case, both capos deserve due consideration. Made for guitarists by guitarists. What more could one ask for?

Click here to go there now.




That raps up yet another edition of our Guitar Tips newsletter. I hope you have enjoyed learning about neoclassical guitar.This style of music is of benefit to anyone who desires to be able to play with confidence, speed, and accuracy.

It's important that you leave your comfort zone to aquire new skills. I'm a blues guitarist and found that shred guitar enabled me to add more body and life to the music I create. It can do the same for you. Even if you never plan on using the above information, the technique you'll gain will assist you as you grow into a better guitarist.

Whatever way you look at it, neoclassical shred guitar is a great tool to add to your toolbox.

Join us next time as we take a look at some of the latest gear to help your playing. We'll also have our Guitar Tips Feature band. You won't want to miss what we have in store for you!

Until next time, keep on picking.

Jordan Warford
Editorial Manager
Elmore Music Pty Ltd


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