Guitar Shredding Exercises – Your Ultimate Guide To Building Speed & Accuracy

These guitar shredding exercises are designed to challenge your hands! Let’s get to shredding!

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In this free lesson you will learn…

  • 9 guitar shredding exercise patterns
  • How to sweep pick
  • What triplets are & how to play them
  • The harmonic minor scale
  • The natural minor scale

A Lesson In Guitar Shredding Exercises

Shredders – They make up a massive part of the guitar community and they play a mile per minute.

  • These seemingly inhuman virtuosos may look like they have made a name for themselves by playing a lot of notes extremely fast, but there’s a lot more to it than just that.
  • ‘Shredding’ isn’t just a lot of notes, it’s a lot of notes played well and precisely at high speeds. No matter what genre of music you shred over, it has to be accurate.

Do you know what every shred-heavy guitarist has in common?

Practice.

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Effective practice is the key that ties together every great musician throughout history.

  • Without this element, our playing sounds sloppy and unstructured.
  • When we take the time to practice and be conscious of what we are playing (and how), we tend to improve at a quicker pace.

How is ‘effective practice’ different from regular practice?

Regular practice usually involves us playing over the same concepts we already know, or maybe jamming to a song or two. Perhaps we crack open a few tabs and lift a couple lines of music.

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Regular practice, however misses out on one key thing:

Intention.

When we practice effectively, we set an intention, a goal or accomplishment to reach, and a method for reaching it.

Effective practice involves goal-setting and a willingness to advance our skills.

Pro Tip: If you want to start practicing more effectively right now, get yourself a practice journal!

Next question: What is ‘shredding’, anyway?

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What Do We Classify As ‘Shredding’?

‘Shredding’ refers to the art of playing fast and with extreme precision, often in long bursts at a time.

  • Guitarists like Yngwie Malmsteen, John McLaughlin and Joe Satriani have always been associated with shredding.
  • In the past however, ‘shredding’ was closely associated with heavy metal music.
  • In more recent years, many jazz shredders like Moray Pringle have stepped into the spotlight with their own unique brand of shred-style guitar.

Any way you look at it, ‘shredding’ is a fast and precise form of guitar playing that takes patience, practice and skill in order to master.

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In order to learn how to shred with the best of them, we need to develop speed.

Let’s talk about that below!

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How Do We Properly Develop Speed?

Speed is the great challenger of music.

  • When we first begin our guitar journey, many of us tend to obsess over the fastest players in the game and what techniques they use.
  • The thing is, there is no ‘one technique’ for speed – Speed is born out of repeated practice.

The process of building speed in order to ‘shred’ involves repetition – and a lot of it, at that.

As we repeat the process of playing a line of music over and over, our brain begins to better understand the inner workings of that line of music.

This ‘inner understanding’ of the momentum needed, coupled with our brain’s muscle memory are what help us learn to ‘shred.’

These guitar shredding exercises are meant to be practiced repeatedly in order to help you build confidence and momentum in your guitar playing.

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Speed isn’t the only component at play here, though.

Taste is another element we need to consider.

  • Have you ever seen a guitarist play through a whirlwind of notes with no direction whatsoever?
  • Even though the speed was impressive, the piece of music went absolutely nowhere.

Shredding isn’t just about the notes. It’s about how we play those notes, and how tasteful the musical lines are.

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Remember: It’s one thing to learn to play the right notes – it’s another to play them quickly and with character.

A fantastic example of this type of ‘tasteful shredding’ is Sims Cashion.

You can find this young upstart shredding up Instagram at @simscashion.

Pro Tip: What you should take notice of with this guy is the direction he takes his playing. All of the musical lines he plays lead to a point, or a transition to another musical line.

This type of approach to shredding keeps things sounding lively and musical, no matter how fast.

Be like Sims Cashion!

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The Key To Mastering Guitar Shredding Exercises: Accuracy

The fastest guitar shredders in the world all possess an amazing sense of precision and accuracy in their playing.

This is due to – you guessed it – practice.

We cannot stress enough that in order to master these guitar shredding exercises, you need to start slowly and build up speed.

There are many practice methods that we can make use of in order to help develop our sense of accuracy, and we’ve got one of our favourites lined up below for you!

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Pro Tip: A great practice regimen that we love is starting out with a metronome set to 80bpm. Play any line of music of your choosing at this speed, and focus on playing evenly.

  • ‘Playing evenly’ means that every pick stroke should be the same strength and weight as the last.
  • This helps us to develop a consistent pick stroke that won’t miss or falter on us.

When you’re playing evenly at this speed and feel comfortable to do so, increase the BPM (beats per minute) by 10.

If you find this speed is too fast for you, reduce it by 5BPM and start working your way into that tempo. Increase again by 10 when you’re comfortable, and dial back by 5 where needed.

This exercise helps our brain develop its sense of focus, and helps us get comfortable with long practice runs of the same piece of music.

Now, let’s have a quick chat about stretching before we begin.

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A Note On Stretching Before Practice

If you’ve been reading any of our other guitar exercise articles, you’ll know that we talk briefly about stretching in every one of them.

It might seem like we’re beating a dead horse here, but that’s only because we want you to have healthy hands.

  • By stretching, we allow our muscles the room they need to be flexible and adapt to new challenges.
  • No matter what age you are or how long you’ve been playing for, you’ll need to give your arms and hands a fighting chance at mastering these guitar shredding exercises.

Focus on your arms, shoulders, hands, fingers and wrists when you stretch in order to maximize your practice time.

Check out this video from GuitarLessons365 on proper stretching protocol here.

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Guitar Shredding Exercises I – Combining Techniques

One of the most crucial things that we can do as we progress in our guitar journey is to combine the skills we develop.

If you’re learning how to shred, odds are you’ve probably developed a pretty good sense of technique already.

  • From hammer-ons and pull-offs to bending, sliding and even finger tapping – When you learn how to shred, you throw in the whole kitchen sink.
  • These guitar shredding exercises will teach you how to combine the techniques you already know to conquer every drill in the book.

This first drill takes us through the A harmonic minor scale. The defining note of this scale is the G# at the 6th fret on the D string.

Follow the playing directions carefully on this one:

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Our second example of these guitar shredding exercises involves just as much up-and-down motion as the first, and in the same key.

This time, we begin from our high E string instead of the low E. This exercise lets us break out of traditional box shapes, taking us all the way down to the first fret before ascending back up the fretboard.

  • The harmonic minor note that we saw in the first example (6th fret D string) makes an appearance in a higher octave at the 9th fret on the B string this time.
  • The harmonic minor scale is ideal for guitar shredding exercises, as it gives us that dark heavy metal tonality that many shredders seek.

Make use of alternate picking to navigate the wave of this musical line.

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Guitar Shredding Exercises II – Keeping A Tight Picking Hand (8th Note Triplets)

When we learn how to play with speed and accuracy, one of the first things we should take into account is the spread of our pick.

How wide do you pick when you pick a string? Do you anchor your pick to the next string, or do you keep it close to the string you just plucked?

  • These are important things to consider, as these tiny movements all contribute to our overall speed.
  • Picking extremely wide requires extra effort to maintain, but picking in a very close range to the target string will require much less.

Try alternate picking through these guitar shredding exercises.

Each string holds three notes, so the direction of your alternate picking pattern will change from string to string.

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Pro Tip: These patterns are written in triplets – That means we play three notes per beat.

1 beat = 3 8th notes inside a triplet.

The easiest way to remember this is to count ‘Tri-P-Let’ out loud to get the feel of playing three notes per beat.

Double Pro Tip: For a different approach to these guitar shredding exercises, you can try palm muting.

Palm muting gives us a dampened and subdued sound, but it also helps tighten the sound of the guitar. This works especially well for those of us who use distortion pedals or drives.

Palm muting itself requires a tight form of guitar picking, and thus it is perfect to use with this drill.

Give it a shot!

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Guitar Shredding Exercises III – Sweep Picking

Sweep picking is an elusive skill that takes time to build up.

This technique goes against our traditional methods of alternate picking, and instead uses what we call ‘directional picking’ to blaze through an arpeggio of notes.

  • Directional picking means that our pick will only face the direction it is headed in until we run out of strings in the arpeggio.
  • When we descend the arpeggio, we will face our pick in the opposite direction.
  • In this first example, we will ascend an E minor arpeggio from the A string to the high E.

Play this one slowly and don’t alternate pick your notes:

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When we descend this E minor arpeggio, we want to make sure that our pick faces the other direction so we transition smoothly from one direction to the other.

When you complete the first arpeggio above, flip your wrist ever so slightly so that it moves toward your chest.

This will greatly help your momentum when learning how to sweep pick through these guitar shredding exercises.

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Now, we’re going to put these two patterns together and play them as one arpeggio.

Pro Tip: We’ve included a hammer-on and pull-off at the high E string to help you turn the arpeggio around at the top.

Hammer-on, then immediately pull off and begin descending the arpeggio according to the tab below.

Remember to flip your wrist when you hit the high E string!

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Guitar Shredding Exercises IV – Two Strokes Per Note

We’re going to double-down on our picking in this last set of drills.

  • Picking twice per note helps us develop an essential sense of accuracy, as our picking hand has to move at twice the speed of our fret hand.
  • These guitar shredding exercises are meant to tighten up your picking hand, but they are huge aid in developing coordination between both of our hands.

We’re going to return to A natural minor for this last exercise, picking twice per note. Give it a shot below!

Pro Tip: In all of these guitar shredding exercises, we want to make sure that we’re keeping our playing clean and even.

If you practice with distortion, listen for excess string noise. This can make our playing sound a lot messier if we aren’t careful.

We always recommend that you practice on a clean channel for absolute clarity first, then move to practicing with distortion after.

This will help to ensure your playing stays clean, smooth and sharp!

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Where Do I Go From Here?

Want more out of these guitar shredding exercises? We suggest:

  • Practice speed training with a metronome
  • Use these same practice principles to master your favourite fast-paced song
  • Put these techniques to use over other scales you already know how to play!
  • Use speed training to master a new song
  • Pick up Shred Boot Camp – A comic book that teaches you how to shred!

Recommended Resources

If you loved this free guide to guitar shredding exercises, you’re going to love some of the other free guitar content that we’ve got for you!

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