Guthrie Govan - Musical Shredding Guitar Ideas


As many of you know (to be fair, we go on about it enough), much of Hybrid Nightmares' influence comes from outside of metal. Today, I was lucky enough to see the shred-master, Guthrie Govan at a workshop in Melbourne (nice one Thump Music!), where the man showed off some of his songs and answered a fair few general questions around guitar, music and his experiences with Asia and a session player/Youtube sensation. Guthrie has played a variety of styles for guitar, and I'd classify him as a prog-fusion player (though others may call him a rock or metal player based on his shredding chops - he admits he listens to all styles so it makes sense that he's a hard one to genre-fy).

Whilst many questions at these events can be very mundane and standard (how do you deal with getting screwed over by promoters was one such example today), there were a three really great gems I took away from Guthrie's approach to music that match up well with the Hybrid Nightmares approach to writing, composing and playing.


1.  Music is about playing with others, not about getting the fastest speed or finding the best techniques to impress others.


Guthrie is fast. And his technique is out of this world. In one sense, it's easy for him to argue that connecting with musicians is a much more valuable skill than technique and speed, because he's a master of those facets already. However, there's something to be said for this. Who cares how fast you can play that scale? Who cares how great you sound in your bedroom by yourself (unless you have no interest in playing with others, in which case, you're the only person whose opinion matters, so you can ignore Guthrie!). Guthrie himself even references players who can play the entire Dream Theater catologue faster than the recordings - that's great, but can you put that skill into practice with fellow musicians.

If you're getting into your instrument, get out there, and play with someone! I've personally improved as a guitarist more from learning from my brothers in Hybrid Nightmares than I have from any teacher, course, practise regime or book.


2. Play the notes that you want to hear, don't just hear the notes you've already played.

Guthrie_Govan2Similar to point 1, music isn't limited to an instrument. The amount of times I've heard people sing along or add parts to our songs live - and made them better, I might add, I'm convinced everyone, no matter whether you've had musical training or not, hears melodies and harmonies in their head.

Don't let your instrument shape what you hear, use your instrument to give voice to the ideas in your head! If you can't technically do it - then that's what you've got to practice!


3. Every note can be played perfectly. Aim for perfection in practice.

Guthrie_Govan_AristocratsOften a touchy one for musicians, what Guthrie means is that rather than thinking 'Can I play that riff', we should be asking ourselves as musicians, 'did I make every note sound the way I wanted it to?' I'm a big advocate for the less is more approach to lead writing, and I really try to make sure each note serves a purpose. As such, it's imperative to make sure each note sounds exactly the way I want it to, and conveys the message I want to.

However, when you're playing with others, mistakes will be made. I'm sure I've never seen a flawless performance (I've definitely never given one!). The point is, we aim for perfection, and accept that it's an unattainable goal, a quest with no end.


Do any of the Nightlings know Guthrie's work? I'll leave you with a sample of one of his masterclasses to have a listen. Share your thoughts below!