’Guitar Is Lucky to Be Alive This Long’: Marty Friedman Addresses the Future of the Instrument

According to guitar virtuoso Marty Friedman, the guitar, as an instrument, is “lucky to be alive” at this point.

There’s been no lack of controversy surrounding Marty’s recent statements. Then there was THE scandal, with him saying that “the traditional guitar solo dies a slow and painful death.” Not long after that, he claimed that his words were taken out of context (even blaming potential AI writing, but we doubt it) and then came back to clear things up in a chat with Guitar World, who conducted the initial interview.

But speaking to Ultimate Guitar in a recent episode of their On the Record podcast, Friedman pondered the future of guitar, openly saying that he’s a little surprised that it’s still here.

Marty Friedman on why guitar is lucky to still be around | On The Record

“Guitar is lucky to be alive this long, to be honest with you,” the guitar legend explained when asked about the matter. “If you look at music history, pop music history, sounds change, vibes change, instrumentation changes, the lead instrument changes, musical structures change.”

Yeah, things always change in the world of music. To prove his point, Marty went further back in the history of modern music:

“Back in the very old days, like the swing era, big band era, there was a huge instrumental section that happened before a vocal came in, but that song structure went out the window.”

“Back then, the solos were done on clarinets. After that, when R&B and blues started to happen, the saxophone was the main lead instrument for a long time in the doo-wop era of the ’50s.”

“And then the ’60s, there was these twanging guitar solos, and then in the ’70s, they’d get these distorted guitar solos, and guitar solos had a pretty long life in pop music.”

However, today, pop music rarely ever has guitar solos. Sure, it’s not like they’re completely non-existent in the mainstream. But you can’t say you hear them that often, can you? Marty added:

“Right now, guitars are still… I don’t want to say in vogue, but they’re still very, very popular, probably because they’re just so damn fun to play. If you look at the top 10 in most countries, there’s no guitar solos in there. They’re not in vogue.”

Marty Friedman - Illumination (Official Visualiser)

Nonetheless, the instrument and the solos still live in a different form. In a way, we could refer to it as a niche, but social media shredders have some serious following. Friedman continued:

“But if you get on Instagram or you get on the internet, there’s billions of people having fun playing really cool guitar stuff. And I think that’s just thanks to the fun of the instrument.”

But what this means for the future of the instrument is anyone’s guess. We know that things move in cycles. According to Marty, it’s not going away anytime soon and it still has its significance. He concluded by offering:

“So, guitar in the future — who knows? As long as people are having fun with it, I think it’s gonna stay in the public consciousness. It’s probably gonna go up and down in popularity.”


Going back to the aforementioned controversial statement, back in January this year, Guitar World published an article from a larger interview with Friedman that was included in their printed edition. Reflecting on the guitar’s role as a lead instrument, Marty said:

“Usually, the lead guitarist comes in, gets an eight-bar solo, plays a bunch of stupid licks, maybe adds something hot and fancy that will impress, and then they get out.”

“But I’m replacing the vocalist when I’m soloing, meaning I sing with my guitar. So, rather than saying, ‘Here’s the obligatory eight-bar solo,’ if necessary, I’ll be selfish because that’s exactly what I want instead of a boring old solo.”

“I hope the traditional guitar solo dies a slow and painful death. Guitar solos need to be inventive. They need something to keep listeners involved, especially those who are not learning to play and only listen.”

Marty Friedman - Melodic Control (superior quality)

“Because when you’re learning to play, you tend to be impressed with anything you can’t do, right? And if you’re young and just catching the guitar bug, that excitement can be magical. It’s like, ‘How do they do that!?'”

“That element is awesome, but it means less than zero in everyone else’s eyes.”

Photos: Shadowgate (Marty Friedman 21)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.