According to Marty Friedman, one of the most influential guitar virtuosos of our time, guitar solos in their traditional sense should be a thing of the past. Or, as he put it, they should suffer “slow and painful death.”
The statement may seem controversial, especially coming from a metal guitar icon known for writing some of the most respected lead guitar parts in the genre. But he isn’t the only one with this stance since Metallica’s Kirk Hammett also shared a somewhat similar statement near the end of 2023.
Friedman shared his take on the matter during his interview with Guitar World. According to the former Megadeth guitarist, things are often too uninteresting with solos and he focuses on a different approach.
“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,” he explained. But instead, he does something a little different, explaining:
“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.”
And Marty then openly said how this “boring solo” thing should go extinct. He continued:
“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.”
It may sound like a harsh thing to say. However, Marty stands by his words and goes into more detail on the matter. As he said, this should be more than just being impressed by someone’s skill, offering:
“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,” he pointed out.
And getting down to the core of the issue, music is something that listeners are supposed to feel, not just experience as a string of notes performed in an impressive manner on a guitar.
“We need guitar music that makes those people feel something,” Marty explained. “It’s the responsibility of guitarists to bring something to solos that will achieve that.”
On the other hand, Friedman seems to be thrilled about the current state of things within the guitar scene today. Things seem to be slowly moving away from the old ways and into some new territories.
“Things look promising because there’s a ton of great guitar work,” he said. “There are a lot of exciting approaches out there by people who look at the instrument in cool ways.”
“All that other eight-bar and tapping stuff — that’s got to be over. There must be something melodically unique that connects us on a higher level. That’s what I’m looking for from guitar today, and I hope it’s what young players are searching for, too.”
Going back to Kirk Hammett’s recent statement that we mentioned, Metallica lead guitarist addressed the state of things within the guitar-oriented world and pointed out that most music listeners these days aren’t that interested in guitar solos.
“I hate to say it for all your readers out there, but non-musicians, who are the majority of the f***ing listening world, they are not going to remember guitar solos,” Hammett said.
“They are gonna helluva remember a great melody, and they’re really gonna remember a great song – especially a song that’s gonna bring them to a different place from where they were five minutes previously.”
“I figured it out when I was 15 years old,” he pointed out and then added:
“John Marshall [Metal Church guitarist] and myself had literally been playing guitar for six months when I said to him, ‘We need to start writing tunes. Look at KISS, they write all their own songs… And Aerosmith, Van Halen.'”
“So John and I started writing music. And it was a lot of crap, but it was something!”
Photo: Shadowgate (Marty Friedman 12)