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Top 10 Most Insane Shred Guitarists

VO: Matt Campbell

Script by George Pacheco

Get ready to set fire to those fret boards. Welcome to, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Insane Shred Guitarists. For this list, we'll be ranking the guitarists who are known for their fast playing skills or for releasing albums which focus upon an instrumental "shred" approach.

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Top 10 Insane Shred Guitarists

Get ready to set fire to those fret boards. Welcome to, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Insane Shred Guitarists. 
For this list, we'll be ranking the guitarists who are known for their fast playing skills or for releasing albums which focus upon an instrumental "shred" approach. Many hard rock and heavy metal bands are known for their impressive guitar work, but these axe wizards up the ante and go that extra mile in showcasing some truly dizzying techniques.

#10: Marty Friedman

This guitarist may have first impressed audiences with his work in thrash metal leaders Megadeth, but Marty Friedman has continued to release manic instrumental music since leaving the band in 2000. Friedman enjoys a particularly rabid fan following in Japan, where fans have flocked to the long-locked guitarist's heavy, technical and melodic sound. Friedman also lent his axe skills on a number of guest spots with Christian metal group Tourniquet, while continuing to earn praise for the genre defining work he helped create on Megadeth's classic Rust in Peace.

#9: Paul Gilbert

Irreverent humor and no-nonsense technical skills are two defining aspects of the next guitarist on our list, Paul Gilbert. This Illinois-born musician first rose to fame in the mid 80s with the speed metal group Racer X, before forming the highly successful hair metal group Mr. Big alongside bassist extraordinaire Billy Sheehan in 1988. Gilbert's insanely fast chops are the stuff of legend, and have gone on to inspire legions of young guitarists in his wake. The guitarist also knows when to slow it down, however, as evidenced by the enduring popularity of Mr. Big's 1992 hit ballad "To Be With You".

#8: Joe Satriani

Although some of the guitarists on our list may enjoy niche or cult status among their fan base, very few of them can lay claim to being a multiple Grammy Award nominee. That accolade does belong to our number seven shredder, Joe Satriani. The New York native known as "Satch" to his loyal fans has been an influential fixture in the shred guitar scene for years, having collaborated with artists as diverse as Mick Jagger and Deep Purple. Satriani also founded the guitar-centric G3 tour in 1995, and even found time to join the super group Chickenfoot in 2008, all the while enjoying album sales which total over ten million albums worldwide. Not. Too. Shabby.

#7: Jason Becker

The story of Jason Becker is a complex one. One man's determined defiance in the face of overwhelming odds. Becker first rose to fame alongside Marty Friedman in the shred/thrash group Cacophony in the 1980s, before solo albums and a collaboration with David Lee Roth severely increased the axeman's stock in the early nineties. Since, then, the guitarist has fought a battle with ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease, losing his ability to speak, walk, and play guitar in the process. Becker, however, still composes music using a computer, and serves as an inspiration to fellow musicians through the passion and love he shows for the creative process.

#6: John Petrucci

Dream Theater have long been one of the reigning kings of progressive metal music, thanks largely in part to the six- and seven- string efforts of the band's guitarist and co-founder, John Petrucci. This New Yorker is another shredder who can move from incendiary instrumental passages to moments of calm and quiet with ease, deferring to his Dream Theater band mates to inject their own stamps on the band's songs. Petrucci has been a longtime guest on Joe Satriani's G3 tour, and has even done production work on Dream Theater's more recent albums, making him a threat both in front and behind the scenes.

#5: Buckethead

The enigmatic axeman known as Buckethead may sport a bizarre bit of stage wear, but make no mistake: the man's guitar skills just might impress you. Known to his mother as Brian Patrick Carroll, the music of Buckethead ranges from delicate and beautiful to lightning-quick and aggressive. This versatility made the guitarist tailor made for the sideman scene, collaborating with a wide variety of artists, including a four year stint with rock legends Guns 'n Roses. Buckethead has also composed music for film soundtracks, making him a truly diverse and engaging shredder who can do just about anything with his guitar.

#4: Michael Angelo Batio

Nothing exceeds like excess. This is a motto followed to the letter by one Michael Angelo Batio, a notoriously over-the-top shredder who made a name for himself in the 1980s as lead guitarist for the bands Holland and Nitro. Batio's style is notable not only for the man's flashy technique of playing under and over the fretboard, but also for his mastery of the multi-necked guitar! Indeed, it seems as if Michael Angelo's instrumental prowess simply can't be contained by only a traditional guitar, with the man's dizzying speed and ambidextrous approach truly coming to the forefront on his dual and quadruple-necked models.

#3: Eddie Van Halen

While some trace the roots of shredding to Uli Jon Roth, Alvin Lee or Ritchie Blackmore, Van Halen's debut album in 1978 is widely viewed as its watershed moment when it crossed into the mainstream. Eddie Van Halen and his contemporary rival, the late Randy Rhoads, were far more than mere shredders, but Eddie Van Halen's instrumental solo masterpiece Eruption off their debut album would forever tie Van Halen with the technique and propel him amongst the all-time greats.

#2: Steve Vai

Steve Vai has played alongside some of the biggest names in the rock world, from Frank Zappa and Whitesnake, to David Lee Roth and even Spinal Tap! This is no accident, as this former student of Joe Satriani has consistently earned top honors as one of the world's most talented and in-demand guitar players. Vai's style is almost effortless in its fluidity, lending it an almost otherworldly style all its own. This has led to Vai lending his talents to the world of cinema, playing on the soundtracks for John Carpenter's "Ghosts of Mars," as well as the most excellent "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey”.
Before we reveal our most insane shredder, here are a few fiery honorable mentions!

Eric Johnson
Shawn Lane
Zakk Wylde

#1: Yngwie Malmsteen

As Sweden's universal King of Shred, Yngwie J. Malmsteen pioneered the European style of neoclassical metal via a series of influential albums during the 1980s. Malmsteen quickly earned a reputation not only for his fiery musicianship, but also for his equally volatile temper, which would result in the guitarist ousting multiple members of his band over the years. Still, Yngwie Malmsteen's contribution to the world of explosive shred guitar simply cannot be overstated, as this Swedish sensation managed to blaze his own, unique trail, one which practically dared other guitarists to try step up their game to his level.
Do you agree with our list? Which guitarist do you think unleashes the flocking fury? For more fret board burning top ten lists, published every day, be sure to subscribe to

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