Herbst, Jan-Peter (2017) Shredding, tapping and sweeping: Effects of guitar distortion on playability and expressiveness in rock and metal solos. Metal Music Studies, 3 (2). pp. 231-250. ISSN 2052-3998

‘Shredding’, the fast and virtuous guitar playing, is a central stylistic element of many rock and metal genres. A recent empirical study reported metal guitar solos having become faster over the last six decades, thus indicating that shredding still is common in metal guitar, as argued in the earlier literature in rock and metal music studies. The present study extends such research by experimentally investigating the effects of distortion on playability, virtuosity and expressiveness based on a multi-methodical analysis from musicology, acoustics and music informatics. The findings contribute to acoustic-based evidence of distortion’s simplifying effect that increases the electric guitar’s potential as a virtuoso solo instrument. Yet, the results also highlight challenges of distorted guitar playing less commonly considered in research, journalism and performance practice. The article closes by advocating greater acknowledgement of the skills required for distorted metal guitar playing.

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