Marty Friedman Points Out Why Playing Technique Shouldn’t Be a Goal, Shares Opinion on John Mayer

Although one of the most technically proficient guitar players out there, Marty Friedman points out that the pursuit of good technique only for the sake of it makes no real sense.

There’s always this discussion between “shred” and “feel,” and most guitar players seem to fall into one camp or the other. But the discussion is far from being that simple. At the end of the day, being a skilled player can, theoretically, only be a positive thing. However, it’s a power that should be used for good — and that’s for expressive qualities in music.

Or, it’s at least a stance that Friedman shares. Appearing in the new edition of Ultimate Guitar’s “On the Record” podcast, he pointed out that it all comes down to playing music that represents yourself.

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

“If technique is a goal on its own, that’s like really, really pitiful,” he replied when asked whether technique should be a tool for expression. “Really, there’s nothing really else to say about that.”

“I mean, every single person playing music has some amount of technique to get their music done. You know, every single one. So let’s put that aside. The only thing that matters is that you are playing the music that you want to represent yourself. That’s all that matters.”

“I really don’t know how to answer that question,” he argued. “But I know that a lot of people who watch guitar media or read guitar media are at the stage where they’re developing their techniques.”

“So they’re very in tune with, ‘Can I play this? Am I able to play that? That guy can play this, I can’t play it. I can play this, this guy can’t play it.'”

And that’s what Marty kind of has a problem with. The former Megadeth virtuoso and the man who came up with that “Tornado of Souls” lead part simply doesn’t fall for this whole meritocratic approach. It’s not about who can do the most impressive things but what helps you get your message across.

“A lot of the focus is on the ability to do things,” Marty continued. “And once you develop into a professional musician at some point or a recording artist or whatever you wind up being, you start to realize that the only techniques that matter are the ones that allow you to bring the music that’s inside of you out. That’s the only techniques that matter.”

In the end, it all comes down to what you want and nothing else. Expanding your knowledge and improving your skills is only a positive. And goals differ, just bear in mind that there’s no one solution to this equation. Marty continued:

“So what can I say about that? Learn as much as you possibly can from everybody, and develop as much abilities as you possibly can, but make sure that as you’re doing that, you’re doing that with the purpose of your own goal, which is, well, various goals.”

Marty Friedman - Illumination (Official Visualiser)

“People have various goals, but for the most part, I think people, everyone has some kind of music inside of them. Everyone has like this life force of music inside of them.”

“And if you channel the technique that you learn to support getting that out of you, you’re going to reach your goal as opposed to being a person who’s amassed a whole lot of technique that can play every single thing they’ve ever been put in front of them, but they don’t know what it is that they’re trying to say on their instrument. I can’t stress this enough.”

During the same chat, Friedman also ended up praising John Mayer, who’s one of the most beloved guitar players among musicians and fans of all genres. This came up when he was asked to share guitar players who do this balancing act the best. The answer, once again, wasn’t that simple. He replied:

“Everybody, man. Everybody. Everyone who is making music that people are enjoying is doing just that. That’s what it is. Balancing technique and expression is the most basic core thing that any working musician does that it should not even be thought about. Anybody, pick a name.”

The Marty Friedman Interview: From Megadeth to Japanese Guitar Icon

“It doesn’t matter if you have the technique of someone who can do anything under the sun or you have very limited technique. The only thing that matters is that, like you said, balancing your technique with your music. You know what I mean?”

Marty then added:

“You take a guy like John Mayer — he’s doing a great job entertaining people with his music, and he’s got just tons of wonderful abilities on the instrument, as well.”

“Anybody really, anybody who’s making music that people are enjoying or even if people aren’t enjoying, if the artist himself is satisfied with the music he puts out, that is the only main goal, really.”


Photos: Shadowgate (Marty Friedman 12), Thatcommonkid (JohnMayerin2019)

  • 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, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.