THE TECHNICALLY ADVANCED GUITAR
STYLES KNOWN AS “shredding” owe much to the
1978 release of Van Halen’s first album, as well as to the
discoveries of some extraordinarily talented players in the 1980s by
guitarist/producer Mike Varney, Through his Spotlight column in
GP, and the albums he produced on his Shrapnel label,
Varney helped introduce guitarists around the world to such icons of shred as
Jason Becker, Marty Friedman, Paul Gilbert, Vinnie Moore, and Yngwie
Shredders, of course, also needed guitars that could facilitate their
blazingly fast legatos, sweep picking, etc., and with the exception of Yngwie
(who stuck with a Fender Strat) many of these players gave valuable input to
companies like Charvel, Jackson, ESP, Carvin, and Ibanez—all of which
were early responders to the call for guitars that featured such
shred-essential elements as natural-finished necks with thin profiles and flat
fretboards, sleek double-cutaway bodies, and pickups that had power
and definition. By the end of the 1980s, nearly every
major manufacturer offered guitars that met these requirements and had the
pointy headstocks to prove it.
Fast-forward to 2013, and nothing has fundamentally changed in the
shred scene. The speed and technical barriers broken by Yngwie and Becker 25
years ago still serve as high-water marks of shred, and shred guitars still
look like 6-string equivalents of Formula 1 cars.
On deck for this roundup are five shred-worthy guitars from Carvin,
ESP, EVH, Ibanez, and Jackson. They all carry DNA that can be traced back some
three decades, although the ESP EC-1000 scores evolutionary points for
featuring the groundbreaking Ever- Tune bridge.
We tested these guitars through an EVH 5150 III 2x12 combo and a PRS
2-Channel 1x12 combo, and each guitar was evaluated on tone, playability,
construction, and value. —ART THOMPSON
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