Thursday, November 29, 2007

The History of Shred in a Nutshell, Part I: When It All Began (60s and 70s)

Hi again! It’s high time we dug into musical past a bit. Don’t worry, no Bach or Chopin in here (I’ve got no objections against those great guys, but remember we’re on Shred Academy site…)! Anyway, today I bow to those, who are quite new in virtuoso guitar music, trying to describe the most important and influential musicians and albums. Starting from the very beginning…

RITCHIE BLACKMORE – Although there were more than a bunch of amazing players in the late 60s and 70s, it was the Deep Purple axeman who made a breakthrough in rock soloing by implying some techniques formerly associated with classical music. Ritchie liked to replace pentatonic clichés with more “dramatic” lines based on minor scales. He was also the first to make an extended use of triadic arpeggios and fast pedal-tone licks, not to mention his picking technique, which remains impressive after almost four decades (ever heard “Highway Star”?). All of those allow us to call Blackmore the “Godfather of Shred”. Beside that, his riffing was no less excellent than his lead playing… well, ain’t “Smoke On The Water” among the best and most famous riffs ever written? If you don’t know Ritchie’s music well, I’d recommend to you some Deep Purple classics, such as “In Rock”(1970), “Fireball”(1971) and “Perfect Strangers”(1984), but also check out his second band, Rainbow, where he cooperated with some great singers, such as the almighty Ronnie Dio. The group’s second CD, “Rainbow Rising” (1976) is one of the best and most underestimated hard rock albums ever recorded!

FRANK MARINO hasn’t probably achieved the fame proper to his outstanding talent, however, he is mentioned as a major inspiration by many of the business’s biggest names, such as Joe Satriani and Paul Gilbert. Being rooted in blues and funk music, Frank was a perfect, grooving rhythm player and great improviser, but on the other hand, his speed and accuracy exceeded most of his peers. He was equally brilliant playing Jimi Hendrix or Chuck Berry covers and doing his own stuff. Marino was also a tireless effect explorer, making creative use of delays and wah-wah which added spice to his excellent technique. When you want to enter the Marino land, start with “Live” album from 1978 – sounds as fresh and rocking as it did at first release!

EDDIE VAN HALEN. I guess all of you know the “flying Dutchman” of rock, but this article simple couldn’t do without him! After recording “Eruption” (1978) – a minute of ultimate frenzy that turned the guitar world upside down – he could totally withdraw from music and would still have a place in it’s history. Fortunately, he did quite the opposite, making a long, successful career with Van Halen and sharing his talents to other artists, ranging from Michael Jackson to Roger Waters. Treating Eddie as the man, who brought tapping into public eye or simply one of the best wankers of all time is very unjust. He was also a brilliant composer, songwriter, and a soloist with unique style – tapped arpeggios, blazing tremolo picking and cool use of phaser were just a few tricks from his bag. Edward has also discovered new ways of using harmonics and the whammy bar, achieved stunning effects with the volume pedal and played the guitar with an electric drill years before Paul Gilbert; his impact on modern approach to the instrument is just more than impressive. The highlights of his playing can be heard on “Van Halen”, “1984” and “F.U.C.K.” albums. If you haven’t checked them out yet, go on and do it!

Sometimes I wonder, how many of those, who just can’t stand “Wind of Change” going on the radio over and over, have heard marvelous Scorpions albums from the 70s. They sounded fresh and original, they rocked hard, and ULI JON ROTH was the man! Being one of the flashiest players of his generation, and also the pioneer of using the diminished scale in rock soloing, he never forgot to put necessary amount of melody, feeling and emotions into his playing. The highlight of his Scorpions era was the gorgeus LP “Virgin Killer” (1976). After quiting the band, Uli began a solo career, making more ambitious and classical-oriented music and becoming a guru for aspiring shredders of younger generations. When we talk about the roots of neo-classical guitar rock, we simply cannot omit Uli. What is also worth mentioning, are the unusual instruments he’s using. They are called “Sky guitars” and have consideraply extended scale, equipped with 36 or even 42 frets! That’s more than a technical curiosity – that’s what helps the master unleash his ideas and emotions.

You want more? Soon we’ll go to the glorious 80s - flashy soloing heyday. But that’s for the next week – see ya!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Cool Shred Vids

Hello again. Current results of the blog's poll show precisely, that some of you want some links to good shred videos. So here we go!

There are some players on YouTube, who earned considerable popularity and became a kind of YT guitar community stars; I suppose many of you know the names of Gustavo Guerra, Cesar Huesca, Mattrach, or Toni Lloret and have seen at least a few renditions of Canon Rock. However, you can find dozens of equally gifted and skilled guitarists out there... sometimes you just have to search a bit.

Stephen Ross has already released a Shrapnel album entitled "Midnight Drive". It's nothing shocking as he's the man of outstanding skill. Just watch!

Matthew Mills is an amazing neo-classical player as well as Shred Academy instructor. His videos demonstrate just insane technique and also the cool "Yngwish" sound fitting that music style perfectly.

If Muris Varajic had been born in the USA instead of Bosnia, his name would have probably been as big as Vai's today. On the other hand, he wouldn't have composed such an amazig, Balkan-feel song like Mojo Oro. Extremely versatile, extremely creative, extremely precise and accomplished.

Dave Celentano is more known as a renowned guitar teacher and author of several instuctional books than as a player. Despite that fact, his abilities can make your jaw hit the floor and stay there for some time. On of the best tappers out there! Take a look.

Dr.Viossy - great Italian shredder. An awesome rendition of famous Paganini's 24th Caprice.

Fantastic take on Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight Of The Bumblebee by very talented young player - Fernando Dutra. Check out also his version of MAB's No Boundaries and keep this name on mind!

And here's Rainier - another guitar prodigy, this time from Philippines.

Enjoy and wait for more to be posted soon!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Six-string-stars from my country

Time to become a patriot :). Like almost everyone, I began my fascination with guitar after listening to the greatest names in the business (it was Carlos Santana and Brian May where it all began, then some Satch and so on…), however, I quickly realized that I can find equally amazing players much closer, in my home country. Now I’m nothing but pleased to introduce the biggest guys of Polish guitar to you.

Marek Raduli began his musical journey as a drummer, then mastered the art of jazz guitar, made a career as a studio musician and member of some mainstream bands and recently has returned to his origins, playing vigorous jazz and fusion in various ensembles. During his pop-rock days he managed to play a gig in Carnegie Hall and release two solo albums with instrumental material, proving his extraordinary skills. Recently, his most notable project is a powerful fusion trio “πR2” – the “Polish Tribal Tech”, as thery’re certainly influenced by the famous group; however, the band members are enough accomplished musicians to develop their own style and sound. Raduli is the main composer in here, and his cool leads are one of the biggest attractions of πR2 gigs; on the other hand, I cannot skip the trio’s amazing bassist, Wojtek Pilichowski, who provides Mark-King-influenced insane slap solos along with groovy walking lines. The band has released one CD, entitled “Transporter”.

Although Marek is certainly a feel-oriented, melodic player, his chops are no less impressive than his soulful vibrato, bending and whammy work. During long, improvised solos he shows stunning ability to create moving and interesting phrases over complex chord progressions, as well as fantastic legato and arpeggio technique. Recently he’s celebrated 25 years of artistic work, and I think all the Polish players wish him at least twice more. Go on and learn more on ,

Jacek Królik is as incredibly versatile player who was unconsciously heard a thousand times by all Polish people, as he played with almost everyone as a “hired gun”, including pop stars, rock bands, orchestras on TV shows, various jazz ensembles and many more. Well, “gun” is a good term here, as Jacek can probably overtake Kalashnikov machine with his marvelous picking technique. Local guitar fans love him for the passion to throw flashy solos sometimes even in smooth pop songs; anyway, he always fits the piece he’s playing to perfectly, providing diverse range of tones and colors. One of his coolest acts was a folk-rock band “Brathanki” which won considerable popularity. Jacek does a unique job there, creating very original, licks mixing folk melodies with great technical ability - someone named it perfectly as “folk-shred”. However, nothing’s shocking when we talk about the man who’s done studio jobs probably in every possible genre, and sounded always brilliant, regardless of style. unfortunately, a page available only in Polish, but you can find some great Królik videos on YouTube, e.g on this channel.

He has also collaborated many times with a bit older, but no less amazing player – Ryszard Sygitowicz, who also deserves a few words here, but let his YouTube channel speak for himself - probably I won't describe this great axeman better than he did here.

Marek Napiórkowski is also a regular guest on Polish TV, spicing up shows and festivals with warm, passionate guitar tone, however, he’s mainly a great jazz player. He’s got everything a great improviser should have in his bag of tricks: fast picking and legato lines, odd-time phrasing, crazy chordal stuff, awesome control of dynamics and impressive scale knowledge. Add to this emotive rock drive and decent use of CryBaby and you’ll get a player without weak points. This year (2007) Marek’s second solo album hit the market and was as enthusiastically acclaimed as the previous one. He’s also cooperating with his father-in-law, superb saxophonist Henryk Miśkiewicz (by the way, his daughter and the guitarist’s wife, Dorota, is a brilliant singer) in various jazz bands. Sadly, you can read his website only in Polish, too, however, just type his name in YouTube browser and relish listening to one of the finest jazz/fusion players out there!

The last one I ‘d like to mention here, Jacek Polak, is not as popular as the previous ones and has probably never appeared on the TV or the radio. What a pity!

I accidentally attended a concert he played with his brother on drums as “Mr. Pollack” duo, and what I saw simply made my jaw hit the floor and stay there for some time. A rather short, inconspicuous man, equipped with only one shining Ibanez axe, gave a stunning show-off, playing hi-tech neo-classical stuff and screaming blues licks with enough ease and passion. I’ve heard perfect renditions of Van Halen, Pink Floyd, Gary Moore and Santana classics, as well as thrilling versions of Bach’s "Badinerie" and the famous "Flight Of The Bumblebee". Only a perfect coverman? Never ever! The brothers’ own songs were among the gig’s highlights – nice, melodic, with really impressive soloing.

“Mr. Pollack” has released several albums with their own material and some with cover songs, a notable one is the “Air On 6 Strings” with compositions by Mozart, Bach and many more – probably the best neo-classical shred playing ever done by a Polishman. Some years ago, Jacek has also recorded an instructional DVD, showing his favorite licks and techniques.

And one more thing… can you imagine improvising to Dire Straits’ “Sultans of Swing” using a pick and Ibanez JEM, and throwing sweeping arpeggios here and there, without losing the Knopfler feel, only making it flashier? Yes, he did it, too. Top man!

If have any comments or questions, please send me a message - I'll read it for sure! And if you like that stuff, I'll try to provide you with more information about those and many other guitar wizards from Poland.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Album Review - Outworld "Outworld" (2006)

Some time ago, in the news post, I've mentioned the band Outworld and their eponymous debut CD. After that, I thought some of you may be unfamiliar to this group and the album... so here I give you the chance to learn a thing or two about them :)

Ever heard of Rusty Cooley? Yes, I mean that crazy dude who easily rips 18 notes in a second using any technique you want. Such players are often said to be unable to become an integral part of a band, as their overgrown ego forces them to solo all the time. Well, those who believe in such myths should immediately get a listen to Rusty’s band’s self-titled debut which proves them wrong.

Warning! Despite containing some of the craziest shred lines ever heard, it’s NOT a typical shred album! Instead you get over an hour of a very good, complex thrash/prog metal.

From the very first seconds of the very first track you know where you are! Outworld doesn’t waste time on soppy ballads – their music is heavy, intense, and technical from the beginning to the last note.

Although it’s their first full-time release, Outworld consists of five mature, experienced musicians who have been playing together for a couple of years. So it’s no surprise that they have already developed their own, distinctive sound, relying heavily on Rusty’s guitar style and Carlos Zema’s vocal manner. He is an example of my favorite kind of metal singer, having a strong, masculine voice and great phrasing skills. What caught my attention, is his rare ability to sound aggressive and melodic at the same time, avoiding growling and pointless screaming, keeping everything under control instead.

Mr. Cooley shows that he fully deserves the “Metal Guru” title, under which he led an instructional column, by masterful use of a vast range of patents and textures used in modern heavy music. He builds a solid rhythm basis with an extremely thick tone, while his clean parts perfectly create a dark, thrilling mood. When it comes to soloing, the best adjective to describe Rusty’s work would be “intense”, but it absolutely doesn’t mean mindless shredding all the time! The axeman perfectly combines fretboard-melting lines with slower, more melodic phrases. Personally, I really enjoy the “City of the Dead” solo every time I listen to it – by the way, the whole song is a great composition with Symphony X – feel. However, the album’s guitar highlight is “Riders”, where a technical climax turns into an anthem-like melody reminiscent of Jason Becker at his best! Another memorable moment is the crazy instrumental part from “Outworld” that shows the whole band’s skills and great cooperation.

The shortest, and probably also the strangest track in here is “Prelude To Madness”. Notable feature of this small composition is quite unusual arrangement – just heavily distorted guitar with intriguing piano backing. I personally find Rusty’s approach to the tune slightly annoying, as what worked perfectly over typical metal background (wide vibrato, „gain knob over 10” tone and superhuman picking) doesn’t go that well with delicate keyboard sound. However, the benefit of this short piece is a break in the overall metal mayhem.

I’ve picked up some of the songs in above description, simply because these are the ones that drawn my attention the most. But the rest of Outworld’s musical material firmly keeps up to high level, and each of you can mark another tracks as the album picks, it’s just a matter of your taste as we really have eight equally good compositions in here. But some of you must rely on my opinion just as long as you haven’t heard the whole record… hey folks, time to change it!

Overall Rating: 8/10

Track Listing:

1. Raise Hell
2. Riders
3. Warcry
4. Outworld
5. The Never
6. City Of The Dead
7. Prelude To Madness
8. The Grey Tide
9. I Thanatos


Rusty Cooley – Guitars
Carlos Zema – Vocals
Shawn Kascak – Bass Guitar
Matt MacKenna – Drums
Bobby Williamson - Keyboards

Friday, November 9, 2007

Album Review - David Shankle Group "Hellborn" (2007)

Although I have known David Shankle’s name well from his glorious Manowar days, I must admit that “Hellborn” was my very first contact with his solo project (I feel slightly embarrassed with this fact ;). Anyway, memories of Manowar’s “Triumph of Steel” have prepared me or a solid dose of intense, high quality heavy metal, so have done the cover and the title. And the musical content definitely met my expectations.

An interesting feature of the record is that despite a pretty cool opening, it steadily gets better when getting closer to the album’s end. The first tracks precisely define the overall sound, as they’re full of heavy riffs, blazing solos and majestic, melodic choruses. What’s also worth mentioning is the rhythmic section, which can be described briefly but accurately as “ground-breaking”. The singer, Dennis Hirschauer, also does his job well, as his distinctive voice is an integral part of the quartet’s tone. These are all essential elements of a cool heavy/power metal record, but from a musician of Shankle’s experience and ability I would expect something more… and I finally get it in “The Tyrant”, one of the best songs here, which provides great, catchy melody without losing the impact of the previous ones.

Right after the last measures, there come “When Is It Wicked” and “Sins and Promises” two seven-minute-long epics that stand out from the rest due to their more complex and sophisticated structure and arrangement. David skillfully builds up tension making bigger use of clean guitar sounds and more diverse soloing approach (mixing hyperspeed licks with more intriguing, slower parts). I dare say the band enters the prog metal territory here as you can hear echoes of Dream Theater in some of the riffs… I’ve described probably my two favorite tracks together, anyway, on the album they’re separated with shorter song “Monster”, which brings you back to well-known heavy metal world. Setting the track list this way prevents the album from sounding monotonous. Then, as we move towards the CD’s end, we get a nice piece entitled “No Remorse” with very “Yngwish” riff (anyway, the Malmsteen spirit can be felt on “Hellborn” from the beginning, but do you know a neo-classical player who hasn’t been inspired by the fabulous Swede?). However, some top-class stuff has been put aside for dessert.

Now, shredheads, there comes something for you! “The Voyage” is the track none of you can miss out! Why? Because you rarely get the chance to hear four of the music industry top virtuosos crossing their axes in such a shred battle, like the one we hear on “Hellborn”’s last song. Just take a look at these names: TD Clark, Joe Stump, and the mighty Michael Angelo Batio (yes, yes, yes!). Then you can just imagine the sonic firestorm they create. They shred with no mercy, striking over and again with mind-boggling arpeggios and fiendishly fast and precise picking lines. Of course, David gets his piece o’ cake, too. Although there are some moments on the whole record when I’d rather hear more melodic soloing than Shankle’s beloved speed frenzies, no one can argue that his playing skills are simply jaw-dropping, and “Voyage” is the best proof for it. Seven minutes of pure guitar wizardry pass by quickly so… it’s time to listen once again! At least I did so :).

To sum up, “Hellborn” should satisfy a vast range of heavy sounds enthusiasts, as it contains enough hi-octane shredding for guitar-maniacs, as well as enough cool riffing and songwriting to be enjoyable for an average metal fan. Worth checking out!

Overall Rating: 8/10

Track listing:

1. Asylum God
2. The Lie
3. Bleeding Hell
4. Living For Nothing
5. Left To Die
6. Hellborn
7. The Tyrant
8. When Is It Wicked
9. Monster
10. Sins And Promises
11. Cold And Diseased
12. No Remorse
13. The Voyage

David Shankle - Guitars
Dennis Hirschauer- Vocals
Jeff Kyloe - Bass Guitar
Brad Sabathne - Drums

For more about David and the band, go to

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Oscar Ortega interview - This shredder-on-the-rise gives us some tips on the industry

What steps have you taken to forge a career in the music industry?
Read as much as possible about the music industry and its laws.
I bought a few books before starting a mentoring program that Tom Hess has created. I am currently in this program and have not needed to purchase any more books. However, I am confident in recommending the following books:

Legal Aspects of the Music Industry by Richard Schulenberg, All You Need to Know About the Music Business: 6th Edition by Donald S. Passman, The inner game of music by Barry Green.

What advice do you have for people looking to get into the music industry?
Understand that the music and the music industry are separated by a very, very fine line.
When you are in the music industry/business you have become a product.
It doesn’t matter if you like it or not, the music business IS a business and the product to sell is your music and you.

Before you take a leap into the unknown, I would recommend you do some research and try and find info about managers, laws, copyrights, agents and what they do for you. They all have an important role in the music industry and sometimes you might not even need a few of them because you can do it on your own, it just takes more time.

Completely lose your ego. Talk about karma at its best - your ego could potentially destroy your musical career if you use it in a negative way. In the music business you have to be smart, humble and own the ground you walk on.

What are the pressures in the industry and how do you cope with them?
There are no true pressures in the music industry (unless you are a huge pop celebrity). The pressures are made because of the choices you take. You can have either a successful career without the drama or you can have a successful career WITH drama. It just depends on how the person handles the celebrity status they gain after a few touring shows. The ego could play a huge part in this.

During your formative years, what sort of practice regime did you have?
In all honesty, I practiced about 3 to 4 hours a day. Sometimes I would try to practice for 12 hours but with my case of ADD, that wasn’t really practical. Now, I have a schedule for each day and only practice for an hour or two, tops. I concentrate on my weaknesses but also evaluate my strong points and make them stronger. This could mean in composition, technique, scales and chord shapes, reading jazz charts, sight reading, slide guitar, etc.

What advice do you have for beginner and intermediate players who are trying to achieve a highly advanced level of playing?
Take the time to make mistakes. And once you notice that you have made a mistake; correct it. Muscle memory could have a huge impact on you if you have done something wrong for several years then try to correct it. I am mostly self-taught and I learned some bad habits that I am not trying to change.

Check out who is the best teacher in your community and try to take lessons from them. The value of the guitar lessons from a great teacher is something that you will carry for the rest of your life, so why not learn the right way from the start?

What gear do you use and (more importantly) why?
I am currently endorsed by Halo Guitars. This guitar is a beast! It’s an 8 String guitar with EMG pickups. The most amazing guitar I’ve ever owned. Action is really low, and I can get a massive low with the F#. I use the best cables out there IMO,, I am also endorsed by them and they make the cables to your preference! They are fantastic.

I’ve wanted the best instruments possible, always. Not for bragging rights, but more because of the dynamics I have to have when performing gigs. One day I can play in a metal band and the next day I could be hired to do a latin jazz combo.

My guitar, cables, amps and pedals HAVE to be there in order for me to be the best. However, equipment is a 10% part of what makes a guitar player amazing. It’s the heart of the player that communicates the most, not the 25K replica guitar.

For my guitars I like to use a mahogany body with maple neck to achieve the most sustain. I only use BOSS pedals. I think they are the best for my situation. The guitar picks vary. I sometimes use the lightest I can find or the heaviest I find, it all depends on the type of gig I have to do. For metal, I use Jim Dunlop (the purple picks) and for jazz I use a Jazz III guitar pick.

What parts of your playing reflects your personality and self expression most accurately?
Everything I play on the guitar reflects my character and personality.
Every time I grab my instrument, I become close to it and in return I leave a little part of my soul in that performance or recording. In music, I either have to give it my all, all the time, or nothing at all. Freedom exists in music and this is where I am free.

What are you trying to achieve compositionally?
I try to achieve self expression. It’s a real simple concept, but a few people understand it. Since I am no poet with words I have to make my instrument tell a story with music. For example, in my song ”Power of One”, the song is an achievement of what 1 person can do. 1 person can make a difference and when I wrote that song I was filled with adrenaline! I was ready For the world and the world wasn’t ready for me! That’s why the song has a fast passed groove and an intense solo and interesting riffs that make it powerful.

Talk about the process of recording your album. Are there any tips and trick that you could pass on? How did you choose the other instrumentalists (if you did).
I could go on for days on this, but I’m going to give you a list of things to do before you set foot in the studio.

1. Know your songs
2. Choose the right musicians for your project
3. Have a schedule for the musicians you are going to hire
4. Write a contract for the musician’s time. If you are paying them or not.
5. Copyright your material after it has been recorded
6. If possible, rehearse the songs with the musicians before they go to the studio
7. ONLY use the time needed at the studio and don’t fool around at the studio. The more time you spend at the studio, the less money you will have.
8. If you have an engineer working on the CD, talk to that person and express your gratitude in working with them. No matter if you pay them or not. They can either make your CD crap or make it awesome.
10. Enjoy the process of recording and learn from the things you do there. It’s a huge eye opener on how much time artists spend time doing a full CD.

My tip to everyone: Enjoy, live and breathe music. Set goals for yourself and try to achieve them. You have the power to become great or to become weak and powerless. What will you choose?

Oscar Ortega

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Free Example From Upcoming EBook

Hey guys, here is an example from my upcoming ebook (which is now complete, it needs only the recordings to be done) based on Arpeggios. How to form them, how to play them, and how to use them. The book deals mainly with the sweep picking form but also ventures slightly into tapping and other techniques. The book covers playing arpeggios right from simple lines on one string, all the way upto six string progressions and eveything in between. There is also a section at the end that focuses on more advanced shapes and a few licks in the style of some well known players. The book will probably be for sale at Shred Academy sometime around christmas. Until now, i hope you find the following example page useful.

Click on the link to download your free sample