Firstly, let’s begin with defining the word “shred” which in the guitar playing world is a slang term that means one who plays very skillfully at a high rate of speed. Think of Vinnie Vincent, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Yngwie Malmsteen and David T. Chastain just to name a few, and someone is bound to be overheard exclaiming “Man, that guitar player totally shreds!” And they would be right.
Admittedly, I too enjoy listening to guitar players who shred, but I also listen to players who would very likely never be referred to as shredders but are still great players in their own right. In my humble opinion, not every single chordal sequence, riff, phrase or solo needs to be or should be played at mind-warping speed. In fact, sometimes it is good to hear or play a song that has notes and chords that are sustained for a period of time as is the case with slow and moderate speed ballads.
As impressive as shred guitarists are, there is a slightly negative side to this type of playing, and that is that you as a guitar student may at some point start to believe that you will actually have to play that way in order to be both effective and acceptable as a guitarist. This is a complete misnomer. Think of such players as Leo Kottke, Jim Croce, James Taylor and George Strait, none of whom are shredders, and yet they are really great guitarists/songwriters.
The lesson in all of this is to learn as much as you can from your favorite and not so favorite guitarists/songwriters so that you can develop into being the best guitarist that you can possibly be. Don’t allow others to judge, mold or shape the development of your own personal playing style. Another thing to keep in mind is that no matter what some other player is doing or has done, you are always going to sound like you and I am always going to sound like me even if we were to have the exact same guitar tone, and that is as it should be.
In conclusion, regardless of where you are in your personal development as a guitarist, there is still so much more to learn and a lot of improving to do. Remember, you will be a better player this week than you were last week and as long as you stay grounded and put in the practice time there is absolutely no reason why you can’t see some real positive results take place.
Finally, this shouldn’t be a race to see who can play the fastest. Concentrate on playing clean and clear first. You are good enough and you do have what it takes to be truly great in your own playing style.