MARTY FRIEDMAN On Guitar 'Shredding': 'Playing Slow Is A Thousand Times More Difficult Than Playing Fast'
June 18, 2021
In a new interview with Kylie Olsson's YouTube show "Life In Six Strings", former MEGADETH guitarist Marty Friedman discussed why he hates being called a "shredder." He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "To me, it just sounds like someone just playing mindlessly fast. When I played in the really early part of my career and even now, sometimes things sound really fast because the choice of notes is so unusual that the notes go by and they make different clicks in your head when it's registering in your ears. If you play a succession of notes that people are used to hearing, you have to really play it fast, like two hundred beats per minute, for it to sound fast. Like, if you just play a scale up and down, it's gonna sound fast. But if you do unusual groups of notes and unusual subdivisions of notes and unusual melody note choices, it can be not even that fast at all and it'll just sound fast because so many things are going by that you're not used to; you're not accustomed to hearing these sequences of notes. So people think that, 'Oh, it's so fast,' because they try to play it and it's quite difficult. But there's a difference between speed and difficulty, for sure."
He continued: "It's a term that happens with a lot of young guitarists that doesn't exist in the real world. I think a lot of young guitarists, and myself included when I was a little kid, they're fascinated with things that they're unable to do, and one thing that they're not able to do is play really fast when you're a beginner. Your fingers just don't work that way, and your mind doesn't work that way yet. So when you see a guy across the street in his basement playing really fast, you're, like, 'How come I can't do that?', and it just becomes this holy grail for one-year-, two-year, three-year guitarists. And those are the people who are active [in online] chats and things like that, and those are the people who buy guitar magazines and buy lots of gear, those are the people that are keeping the industry of guitar alive, and those are the people who are fascinated by quickness of fingers and just really fast playing. But little do they know, playing slow is a thousand times more difficult than playing fast — it really, really is. Playing slow is where you can separate the men from the boys, so to speak… When you hear somebody play something slow, you can tell if they're any good right then and there; you can tell. When you hear something fast — even eight-year-old kids can play really fast and really clean and really accurately. So it's really an illusion, but it's the thing that keeps guitars selling. You've gotta have something that is like a holy grail for beginner people to get inspired by. So a lot of 'em hear this fast stuff and they're, like, 'I wanna do that so bad.' Okay. Now you've done it. You practiced for a couple of years. You've done it. Now what?
"I kind of don't like being lumped into that because there's a lot of people out there who just play really, really fast all the time, and to me, it just sounds like noise," Marty added.
"Playing fast was interesting when I just picked up the instrument, but it certainly lost its interest quite quickly after you were able to do it. Then it became interesting [to play] interesting things on the instrument, creating interesting music.
"Now, it has really has nothing to do with speed, whether it be slow, medium, fast or anything in between, because music is of all tempos — every tempo is in music; every single tempo.
"But, again, that term is just something I don't like to be lumped into," he repeated. "But at the same time, if you love shredding and you think I'm a shredder and you love my music, we're bros. I still love you. It's all good. It's all terminology. It doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is if you like the music or not. So you can call me anything, as long as you like the music. And even if you don't like the music, it is what it is."
Marty's latest album, "Tokyo Jukebox 3", received a North American release on April 16 via The Players Club/Mascot Label Group. The record, which was made available in Japan last October, is the third in a series that began with "Tokyo Jukebox" in 2009, and then "Tokyo Jukebox 2" following in 2011. The trilogy presents Friedman's inspired performances to Japanese repertoire he's chosen to cover.
Marty has spent the last few years working on a documentary called "Spacefox". The film, which is being directed by Jeremy Frindel, the founder of Substratum Films, follows Friedman's reinvention from lead guitarist in MEGADETH to one of the most famous TV personalities in Japan.