Pedal to the metal, shredders
As a technique, shredding is still only really a baby. Compared to fingerstyle or strumming, the practice of hammering your fingers up and down scales at a million miles an hour isn’t as old as you might think. As a child of the 80s, shredding came to the fore as players of heavier music genres looked for new ways to push the envelope and explore the outer limits of their talent.
It’s not that people haven’t played quickly before – watch any old jazz videos and you’ll see some real players – but the ultra-technical, and at times competitive, world of shredding is a relatively new phenomenon. Thankfully, the tools needed by a shredder are reasonably uniform. Let’s take a look at our top 5 guitars for shredding. Important to note we’re not simply picking out top-of-the-level, AAA grade guitars. There’s something for everybody here. We’re equal opportunity shredders at Dawsons.
It would be sacrilege to write an article about shredders guitars and not mention Steve Vai. The man is seen by many as the high priest of shred (great title) on account of his long career publishing solo albums where he would play at speeds you had to see to believe.
His long-standing partnership with Ibanez has produced a number of signature models over the years. Almost all follow design standards outlined by the man himself. Garish floral inlays? Check. ‘Monkey handle’ in the body? Check.
This Ibanez Jem77P is the most recent of such models. And, Vai fan or not, it’s hard to deny it has a certain flamboyant charm to it. You’ll have to be some player to play live up to this guitar.
It has some technical smarts too though; the Wizard neck comprises five pieces of wood, and titanium bars to keep its rigidity. This presumably ensures total consistency each time you pick it up – no nasty warping if you leave it next to a radiator, for example. Not that you’d do that anyway, we’d wager.
At the other end of the flamboyance scale is the rather more workmanlike Ibanez RG421. Don’t underestimate this cracking little guitar though; the RG421 uses the same RG shape as many of Ibanez more famous guitars from over the years.
Its slender mahogany body has double cutaways to ensure good access to those top register frets. It’s 3 piece maple neck is a dream to play, while 24 jumbo frets feel good under the fingers.
If you’re viewing shredding from afar, and fancy perhaps dipping your toe in the water, then you could do a lot worse than give this guitar a whirl.
Jackson X Series Soloist SLATXMGQ3-6
When a guitar is called a Soloist, you know it’s going to be geared towards one particular element of guitar technique. The Jackson X Series Soloist SLATXMGQ3-6 is one such guitar and, despite its clunky name, is actually a masterclass in ergonomic design.
While this again opts for a fixed bridge, as opposed a chunky Floyd Rose, it has one particularly neat trick up its sleeve. The compound radius fretboard on this Soloist is a shredder’s dream. At the headstock end, the neck is slightly thinner and rounder, making it ideal for chord work. Move towards the bridge and it flattens out, and gets a touch wider, making it easier to accurately hit the right notes when you’re playing at speed.
Jackson Pro Series Rhoads RR3
Another Jackson now, and this time a nod to the legendary shredmaster Randy Rhoads. Before his death in 1982, Rhoads played for Ozzy Osbourne at the peak of Ozzy’s solo fame. He had a reputation for mixing heavy guitar styles with classical techniques, and he became a real cult hero.
His legacy lives on in the Jackson Pro Series RR3, an offset Flying V shape designed to keep the player close to the action. It has a neck-through body for extra sustain, while its Seymour Duncan JB and ’59 pickups offer all the tonal class you’ll need. As far as guitars for shredders go, this one is bona fide iconic.
Kramer Pacer Vintage
We’ll round this post off with a name that may not be too familiar to younger players. Kramer Guitars were big in the 1980s as a rock & metal guitar brand which featured no less than Eddie Van Halen among its endorsees. As shredding and its kin faded from prominence, so did its appeal but under the stewardship of Gibson Guitars its now enjoying a late resurgence in fortune.
The Kramer Pacer Vintage is one example of what the brand has to offer. It features a lightweight basswood body, slim neck and a couple of Seymour Duncan pickups to provide the firepower.
Kramer may not have the reputation or clout of an Ibanez or a Jackson, but it does offer a heck of a lot of guitar for the money.
So there you have it. Five glorious guitars for shredders to shred to their hearts’ content, at affordable prices. Look past the brands and you’ll see guitars for shredders have a few things in common; thin necks, lightweight bodies, fat humbuckers and bagloads of personality.
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