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The Science of Shredding


A young shredding Dimebag (Diamond) Darrell Abbott

Applying scientific laws to the art of shredding involves some physiological factors. Although a higher tension with regards to tonality raises a frequency, tension inside the physical body while attempting to play with speed and accuracy has an opposing effect and slows down the muscles. To perform with speed and agility one must be calm and relaxed so that the muscles and tendons used to physically play out the music are not held back from achieving their peak level of performance.

Another important physiological factor of shredding is the creation of muscle memory. We have all learned from the beginning of our musical training that practice makes perfect and this is especially true when it comes to any type of performance that is physically challenging. Practicing scale patterns or cadences at a slow steady pace and then slowly increasing the speed after several repetitions of correct execution not only helps to build your strength to play faster, but also it creates a memory of the physical motion in your muscles. Much in the way a martial artist would do a kata or particular attack or defense pattern repeatedly until perfection is achieved before trying to do it with great speed, a musician can perfect their performance in the same manner.

When I first started learning to wield the nunchaka not only did I have to start slow as to not knock myself out with each swing, but also I learned the importance of getting it right before speeding it up. Starting with basic hand over hand movements I would do 100 or so repetitions and regardless if I was at 9 or 95 reps if I made a mistake I would start from the beginning. By taking the time to correct a false move or wrong notes in a pattern of music we further ingrain in our minds and our bodies the right way to perform with intensity. Speed then becomes the next natural progression and is much easier to achieve.

It is also important to always practice with intensity. Although intensity and attitude usually are associated with the mind, by adding that conscious intent into your repetitive action your practice is just as powerful as your performance and this needs to be instilled in that muscle memory as well. There are a lot of great materials out there that will offer great tips on shredding techniques, scale patterns and much more but the first part of really understanding the power of speed and how to achieve it comes with understanding how it works and why. Now that you have gained an insight into the science of shredding you can apply it to your music. So put the pedal to the metal and rip it up!

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