The Best Guitars For Shredding: Ultimate Guide

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Pull up your favorite gig chair and get ready to rock as we dive headfirst into a world of rapid-fire runs, precise picking, and sonic mayhem as we compare the best guitars for shredding. Similar to how the right tool can make or break a job for a craftsman, the right guitar can do wonders for your shredding prowess.

From the Ibanez RG series to the Antiquity GS guitars, we’ve scoured the market for the cream of the crop, examining everything from neck profiles to tremolo systems. Whether you’re a heavy metal virtuoso or a fast-fingered rockstar in the making, this article promises to be your backstage pass to finding the perfect shred machine.

The Ibanez RG550 guitar on a white background.

Ibanez RG550

Overview

Diving straight into the heart of the matter, the Ibanez RG550 is a guitar that holds a special place in many a musician’s heart. It’s a reissue of the iconic RG550 model from 1987, known for its high-quality craftsmanship and impressive features. Crafted in the spirit of affordability, it bears a resemblance to Steve Vai’s JEM777 model in design and playability. The 2018 Japanese-made vintage reissue is a masterclass in shred and metal guitars, showcasing exceptional craftsmanship and attention to detail. It’s part of the RG550 Genesis series that offers tremendous value, providing players with a premium Japanese-made guitar at a more affordable cost.

Key Benefits

  • A tribute to the original RG550, capturing its essence while adding modern touches.
  • Use of tonewoods such as basswood for the body and maple for the neck and fretboard, contributing to a rich and balanced sound.
  • Diverse tonal range, suitable for different genres and playing styles.
  • Comes with a warranty from Ibanez, providing coverage for any defective parts or damage.
  • High-quality hardware and electronics ensuring reliable performance and tonal range.

Pricing

When it comes to pricing, the RG550 is quite competitive. Compared to other models, such as the Ibanez RG450DX and the Ibanez Prestige RG652AHM, the RG550 offers excellent craftsmanship and playability at a more affordable price point. This makes it a great option for those seeking premium quality without breaking the bank.

Pros & Cons

Like any product, the RG550 has its highlights and drawbacks. On the plus side, the guitar sports a sleek and futuristic look with pointy horns, a thin Wizard neck, and a range of vibrant color options. Its V7 bridge humbucker delivers sharp and aggressive tones, while the V8 neck humbucker adds a hint of compression for smooth lead lines. The overall playability is top-notch, with a fast and comfortable neck facilitating effortless playing, and the build quality is excellent, reflecting attention to detail and solid construction.

On the downside, though the RG550 can handle a wide range of genres and playing styles, it is most well-suited for high-gain, shred-style playing and might not be the best fit for those who specialize in softer, mellower styles. Despite these minor drawbacks, we believe the RG550 stands out as a fantastic guitar, offering a blend of quality, playability, and affordability.

The Ernie Ball Musicman Majesty on a white background

Ernie Ball Musicman Majesty

Overview

The Ernie Ball Music Man Majesty is a high-end guitar crafted in collaboration with John Petrucci. Known for its speed, playability, and versatility, this guitar is a popular choice among progressive metal players. The 2019 limited-edition Tiger Eye model offers a luxurious experience with its maple top, flamed maple neck, and an alder body. The Majesty’s distinguishing feature is its neck-through design which adds to its ergonomic body shape and versatile sonic capabilities. Produced at the Ernie Ball Music Man factory in San Luis Obispo, California, the Majesty combines quality hand craftsmanship with cutting-edge robotic technology.

Key Benefits

  • Exceptional playing comfort with ergonomic design.
  • Ability to produce a wide range of tones, from clean and crisp to heavy and distorted.
  • Features a resonant unplugged sound and offers a wide range of sonic variations through its pickups and piezo options.
  • The new Rainmaker and Dreamcatcher pickups deliver powerful and articulate tones, especially suited for high-gain playing.
  • The Majesty’s versatility extends to its clean tones, with the piezo pickup providing convincing acoustic sounds.

Pricing

Reflecting its high-performance capabilities, construction, and exclusivity, the Majesty is priced at a premium level. It is a high-end guitar, and its pricing is in accordance with its distinctive features and craftsmanship.

Pros & Cons

From a personal perspective, the Majesty has several pros that make it an excellent choice for guitarists. Despite its complex electronics, the Majesty remains lightweight and well-balanced. The flat radius and slim neck support various hand positions, while the functional and reliable seven-string vibrato system designed by Music Man adds to its appeal. Additionally, the guitar’s control layout allows for quick and easy switching between different pickup configurations. The Majesty also offers excellent sustain and has a neck-through design for added stability.

However, all good things come with a cost, and the Majesty is no exception. Its premium pricing may put it out of reach for some players, especially those on a tight budget. Despite this, the Majesty is a versatile instrument that can fulfill the roles of multiple guitars, making it a great choice for musicians who want a single guitar for different playing styles.

The Charvel Pro-Mod San Dimas Style 1 on a white background

Charvel Pro-Mod San Dimas Style 1

Overview

The Charvel Pro-Mod San Dimas Style 1 HH FR is an ode to the iconic San Dimas model from the 1980s, recreated with a blend of traditional style and modern comfort. Built in Mexico, this guitar features a transparent, tobacco sunburst quilted maple top on an alder body, and zebra humbuckers. It doesn’t use expensive woods, nor does it have a neck-through build or weight relief, yet it promises a balanced tone due to the alder body and maple neck. The 25.5″ long scale guitar sports a comfortable C-shaped neck profile, reinforced with dual graphite truss rods for added stability and easier adjustments with a handy spoke wheel truss rod.

Key Benefits

  • Versatile Seymour Duncan pickups that provide a range of tones and can be split for more tonal options.
  • A tone knob with a no-load option for transparent sound and tonal shaping.
  • Excellent build quality, suited for various musical styles.
  • Floyd Rose 1000 Series Double-Locking Tremolo bridge for dive bombs and pinch harmonics.
  • Locking nut and retainer bar for improved tuning stability.
  • A lightweight design ranging between 8.05lbs and 8.4lbs for comfort during extended playing sessions.
  • A 3-way switch and a coil split option for tonal versatility.

Pricing

The Charvel Pro-Mod San Dimas Style 1 HH FR M is a budget-friendly option for its robust features and sonic versatility. Compared to its competitors, it comes around 18% cheaper, providing a good price-quality relationship without compromising on the features or the build quality.

Pros & Cons

Speaking from personal experience, the Charvel Pro-Mod San Dimas Style 1 stands out in its performance. It produces a tight low end, making metal-boogie riffs and percussive rhythms sound clear and powerful. Its comfortable profile, combined with rolled fretboard edges and a forearm contour, enables fast and agile playing.

While this guitar is beginner-friendly and comfortable to play, especially for those with relatively smaller hands, it does lack certain features. It does not come with locking tuners, luminescent inlay, or a 21:1 tuner ratio, which might be a downside for some. But these minor drawbacks do not overshadow the overall impressive performance and tonal versatility that this guitar offers.

The Jackson American Series Soloist SL3 Guitar on a white background

Jackson American Series Soloist SL3

Overview

The Jackson American Series Soloist SL3 is a powerhouse in the world of electric guitars, specially designed for those who love to shred or play rock/metal. As the inaugural model in Jackson’s new American Series, it embodies the brand’s dedication to top-notch quality and exceptional performance. It boasts a three-piece maple neck running through the body, reinforced with graphite to ensure superior sustain and stability. The guitar’s alder body is available in multiple finishes, such as Gloss Black, Riviera Blue, Platinum Pearl, and Slime Green.

Key Benefits

  • Comes with a three-piece maple neck with a graphite reinforcement for great sustain and stability.
  • Features an alder body in various finishes to suit different aesthetic preferences.
  • Equipped with a Floyd Rose 1500 locking bridge and nut for precise tuning and stability.
  • Uses Seymour Duncan pickups for a wide range of tonal possibilities.
  • Includes Gotoh locking tuners and Dunlop strap-locks for high-quality hardware.

Pricing

The Jackson American Series Soloist SL3 is a premium guitar coming with a price tag of roughly £2,449. While this may seem steep to some, the quality and the wide array of professional-grade tones that this instrument offers justify the price tag.

Pros & Cons

From our point of view, the Soloist SL3 is a fantastic guitar. Its neck has a compound radius and jumbo nickel frets, allowing for comfortable and fast play. The Floyd Rose 1500 locking bridge and nut enhance tuning precision and stability, a feature that is much appreciated, especially with aggressive tremolo usage. The Seymour Duncan pickups, featuring a JB TB-4 humbucker in the bridge position and two Custom Flat Strat SSL-6 single-coils in the middle and neck positions, offer a fantastic tonal range. The guitar also has a five-way blade selector switch and master volume and tone controls.

On top of that, the build quality is impressive, featuring top-quality hardware like Gotoh locking tuners and Dunlop strap-locks. The versatility of the Soloist SL3 is also noteworthy, as it offers a broad spectrum of tones, from high-gain metal to clear, sparkling clean sounds. It is designed for exceptional playability, featuring a slim and fast neck profile for effortless shredding and precise fretting. This guitar might excel at metal tones but is versatile enough to handle other genres like blues, country, funk, and fusion too.

In terms of shortcomings, the only thing we can mention is its price, which might be a little high for some, but considering the quality of the instrument, we believe it’s a worthy investment for serious musicians.

The Strandberg Boden Original NX6 guitar on a white background

Strandberg Boden Original NX6

Overview

The Strandberg Boden Original NX6 is an innovative, modern guitar that stands as a testament to the design ingenuity of Strandberg Guitars. Sporting a headless design and a compact body, this guitar is appealing for its lightweight and detailed features. The body of the guitar is uniquely designed with chambered sassafras, overlaid with a flame maple veneer on a solid maple cap. The neck of the guitar is laminated from three pieces of quarter-sawn maple, embedded with two graphite stripes, and topped with a bird’s eye maple fingerboard.

Equipped with Suhr SSH+ and SSV pickups, the guitar offers a versatile range of tones, from powerful to vintage. It also features the EGS Rev7 fixed bridge and string locks, black anodized hardware, and eye-catching Luminlay™ green side dots and inlays. The guitar is also available in different finishes—Charcoal Black for the flame maple version and Autumn Red for the quilt maple version—giving it a sleek appearance.

Key Benefits

  • The Strandberg Boden Original NX6 is perfect for progressive musicians who aim to push musical boundaries.
  • Its proprietary hardware ensures optimal tone and sound transmission from the strings to the body.
  • It boasts high-quality materials, including aircraft-grade aluminum and carbon fiber, offering peak performance and minimal weight.
  • With its wide range of tones, it can create powerful bridge-pickup sounds and vintage neck pickup tones.
  • Its balance and lightweight design make it comfortable to play for long periods.

Pricing

The Strandberg Boden Original NX6 can be purchased online at the price of roughly $2,295.

Pros & Cons

In our experience, the Strandberg Boden Original NX6 has received positive reviews for its playability, balance, weight, and sound versatility. The control knobs and switches are well-designed and provide smooth operation. The unique design and features of this guitar may not appeal to everyone, but it is widely appreciated as a high-performance instrument.

Furthermore, this guitar is suitable for a variety of musical styles, delivering a dynamic and lively tone with a sharp treble response. It offers a low action and excellent fretwork, making it easy to play and allowing for effortless bends, hammer-ons, and pull-offs. The unique EndurNeck™ profile even helps promote a correct playing position and prevent injury, allowing musicians to perform longer and faster.

The Schecter Aaron Marshall AM-6 guitar on a white background

Schecter Aaron Marshall AM-6

Overview

The Schecter Aaron Marshall AM-6 is an electric guitar that forms part of the 2022 Artist series by renowned guitar manufacturer Schecter. Designed in collaboration with guitarist Aaron Marshall, it boasts a 25.5″ scale length and a 12″ to 16″ compound fretboard radius. Crafted from basswood, the body is complemented by a quarter-sawn wenge neck and a Macassar ebony fretboard. This guitar features a bolt-on neck joint, a Gotoh Vintage 2-Point Tremolo bridge and is equipped with Schecter USA Solstice and Equinox pickups. With 24 XL jumbo stainless steel frets and Hipshot Grip-Lock tuners, the Aaron Marshall AM-6 is available in a stunning Arctic Jade color.

Key Benefits

  • The Schecter Aaron Marshall AM-6 boasts a comfortable shape and an easy-to-use bridge, making it a great choice for beginners.
  • With its locking tuners, tuning stability is enhanced, and changing strings becomes faster and easier.
  • The Black Tusq XL nut ensures stable intonation and tuning, delivering a consistent sound every time you play.
  • The bolt-on neck joint allows for easier neck replacement if needed and facilitates travel by making the guitar more compact.
  • The versatile sound provided by the Schecter USA pickups makes the guitar suitable for a wide range of genres, including hard rock, heavy metal, jazz, blues, funk, and country.

Pricing

Priced at $1,399.00, the Schecter Aaron Marshall AM-6 offers an array of high-quality features and a versatile sound, providing excellent value for its price.

Pros & Cons

From our perspective, the Schecter Aaron Marshall AM-6 comes with many benefits. The guitar is suitable for hard rock and heavy metal due to its Schecter USA Solstice and Equinox pickups. The locking tuners enhance tuning stability, while the Black Tusq XL nut ensures better intonation. The guitar also features a Gotoh Vintage 2-Point Tremolo bridge which allows for smoother bends and pitch changes.

The guitar’s scale length of 25.5″ is considered long and provides a bright sound, while the thin “C” neck profile allows for fast playing and easy movement across the neck. Furthermore, the compound fretboard radius, ranging from 12″ to 16″, provides comfort for both chords and solos. The narrower nut width of 1.643″ (as compared to the typical 1 11/16″ width) is ideal for players with smaller hands, making it easier to reach each string.

However, while the bolt-on neck joint offers many advantages, including easier travel and neck replacement, it may not be suitable for everyone, particularly those who prefer a set neck for increased sustain. But overall, the Schecter Aaron Marshall AM-6 is a well-crafted, versatile guitar that can handle a wide range of musical styles.

The ESP E-II Horizon FR-II guitar on a white background

ESP E-II Horizon FR-II

Overview

The ESP E-II Horizon FR-II is a hand-crafted piece of musical brilliance originated from the hands of experts in Tokyo, Japan. It is a part of ESP’s awaited 2021 Horizon series, known for its quality and precision.

As a 6-string guitar with a 25.5″ scale length and a 12″ fretboard radius, it is designed for versatility. Its beauty is undeniable, featuring a mahogany body complemented by a quilted maple top, all in a mesmerizing Tiger Eye Sunburst finish. The guitar’s thin “U” shape 3-piece maple neck, 24 jumbo nickel frets, Floyd Rose Original bridge, and Gotoh locking tuners are just a few of its distinctive features.

The ESP E-II Horizon FR-II’s sound is particularly noted for its vintage, PAF-like tone provided by the EMG 57/66 pickup combo with Alnico 5 magnets.

Key Benefits

  • Exceptional sustain and tuning stability courtesy of the neck-thru design and mahogany body
  • Outstanding performance in reproducing an 80’s metal sound and handling big, jazzy chords without losing clarity
  • High-quality features, including locking tuners, top-brand pickups, and a neck-through build
  • Versatility in playing, suitable for heavy metal, hard rock, jazz, blues, funk, and country
  • Excellent playability score of 83, with commendable performance for bending, vibrato ease, chord and solo playability
  • High output and clear, defined sound from the versatile HH pickup configuration with EMG 57TW and 66TW pickups
  • High-quality construction comparable with US-made guitars

Pricing

When it comes to pricing, the ESP E-II Horizon FR-II is a premium product, reflecting the high quality of its design and features. You can expect to find it on the market at an average price of around $1949.

Pros & Cons

From our perspective, the ESP E-II Horizon FR-II possesses many strengths. The neck-thru design and mahogany body ensure excellent sustain, while the maple neck brings in a touch of brightness and ensures tuning stability. This guitar excels in nailing the 80’s metal sound and can handle big, jazzy chords without losing clarity. Its locking tuners, expensive wood construction, and top-brand pickups are some of the features that add significant value.

On the flip side, there are a few elements that could use improvement. The fret wire feels a bit cheap, and there’s no weight relief built into its design. It also lacks a luminescent inlay and a compound radius fretboard. For some, the wider fret spacing may make it a bit challenging to play, particularly for those with smaller hands. But overall, the ESP E-II Horizon FR-II’s benefits significantly outweigh its limitations.

What is Shredding On Guitar?

Shredding on guitar is a playing style characterized by fast and technically-challenging playing. This virtuosic style of playing requires advanced techniques such as rapid alternate picking, sweep picking, and finger tapping. Originally born out of genres like heavy metal, shred guitar playing has since permeated a variety of other styles, becoming a staple in the repertoire of many guitarists.

A great shred guitar is one that has been designed with these specific requirements in mind, aiming to facilitate the fast playing and speed goals characteristic of the style. Key features often include a slim neck profile that allows for quick and smooth movement across the fretboard, jumbo frets that facilitate easy bending and vibrato and a low action that allows for effortless playing.

In addition to these physical characteristics, the right shred guitar should also be equipped with the right electronics. High-output humbuckers are typical, as they can handle high gain and still provide clarity and definition even at fast speeds. Some models might also include a tremolo system, such as a Floyd Rose, which allows for a variety of expressive techniques, including dive bombs and other guitar theatrics.

It’s important to note that while there are specific models and makes of guitars that are well suited to shredding; ultimately the best shred guitar is the one that feels the most comfortable in your hands and best allows you to express your musical ideas with ease. After all, shredding is about more than just speed – it’s about precision, creativity, and musical expression.

What Makes A Great Guitar For Shredding?

A top-tier shredding guitar is defined by a combination of several key factors: impeccable craftsmanship, high-quality materials, tonal diversity, and excellent playability. The guitar must be designed in such a way that it facilitates fast and agile playing, an aspect that is crucial for shredding. A shredding guitar is typically equipped with a thin and fast neck, jumbo frets, and a flat fretboard radius. These features contribute to a smoother, more comfortable playing experience, allowing the guitarist to perform rapid-fire notes and complex techniques with ease.

Craftsmanship is another significant aspect. A well-crafted guitar not only lasts longer but also affects the overall sound and playability of the instrument. High-quality woods such as maple, basswood, and alder are commonly used in the construction of these guitars due to their tonal characteristics. These tonewoods contribute to a rich, balanced, and versatile sound, allowing the guitar to handle a wide range of genres and playing styles, which is an important characteristic for a shredding guitar.

Moreover, premium shredding guitars often feature high-quality hardware and electronics. Reliable tuners, a robust bridge system, and high-output pickups are some of the features that can significantly affect the guitar’s performance. These elements are crucial for achieving a wide tonal range, excellent tuning stability, and robust, aggressive tones that are a hallmark of shred-style playing.H2: What Makes A Great Shredding Guitar?

A great shredding guitar is not just about speed, it also requires precision, creativity, and the ability to express musical ideas with ease. In order to achieve this, the guitar needs to be designed with specific characteristics in mind. A slim neck profile is essential as it allows for quick and smooth movement across the fretboard. Jumbo frets facilitate easy bending and vibrato, and a low action allows for effortless playing.

High-output humbuckers are also a crucial feature in a shredding guitar. These pickups are made to handle high gain and provide clarity and definition even at fast speeds. This clarity is especially important when playing intricate solos that are a hallmark of the shredding style. Some models of shredding guitars may also include a tremolo system, such as a Floyd Rose, to allow for expressive techniques, including dive bombs and other guitar theatrics.

While there are specific models of guitars that are suited to shredding, ultimately, the best shred guitar is one that suits the individual player. It should be comfortable to hold and play and allow the guitarist to express their musical ideas with ease. When choosing a shredding guitar, it’s not just about the name on the headstock or the price tag; it’s about finding the right tool to express your creativity. Whether it’s an Ibanez RG series, a Schecter Omen, an ESP, or an Antiquity GS, the best guitar is the one that feels like an extension of you, the one that allows you to perform at your best, and the one that best serves your musical vision.

Final Word

To take your shredding journey to new heights, choosing the right guitar is crucial. Whether you resonate with the affordable excellence of the Ibanez RG550 or lean towards the premium capabilities of the Ernie Ball Musicman Majesty, remember that the ideal guitar for you is the one that meets your unique musical needs and aspirations.

Despite the differences in pricing, design, and features, guitars like the Ibanez Prestige RG550, Jackson American Series Soloist SL3, and Strandberg Boden Original NX6 all possess a unique character ready to enhance your musical creativity. Each of these instruments brings to the table an individual amalgamation of tonal versatility, playability, and craftsmanship that can cater to a variety of musical styles and performance requirements.

One thing that stands clear from this rundown is that the world of shred guitars is filled with remarkable diversity. Whether you’re a metal enthusiast, a blues aficionado, a country twanger, or a jazz groover, there’s a shred guitar out there for you. Each model we’ve discussed today offers its unique flavor to the musical mix, thereby enhancing the universe of sounds you can discover on your six-string shred journey.

Ultimately, the right shred guitar is like a loyal companion on your musical voyage – it complements your style, amplifies your expression, and echoes your passion. So, pick it wisely, play it with heart, and keep the spirit of shredding alive. After all, every note you play is not just music to the ears but a testament to your dedication and love for the art of shredding.

 

Andrew Scrivens

Andrew Scrivens

I am a live musician and guitar teacher from Brisbane, Australia, with extensive experience playing live, in the studio and for TV shows. I play in many venues, studios, music shops and with my students and as such am exposed to a lot of different gear. I form my opinions based on my experiences playing instruments in these locations.

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