Can you Actually Shred on a Les Paul?


There’s no doubt about it, shredding is one of the hardest techniques to master, but it’s also one of the coolest. Usually, you’ll see shredders using guitars with super thin and flat necks, like Ibanez’s or Shecters. But what about the classic Les Paul? Is it possible to shred using this hefty guitar?

In this article, I’ll answer this, and some of the other most frequently asked questions about shredding and which guitars to use. So let’s get started!

The Quick Answer

It’s possible to shred on any electric guitar, however, it’s usually slightly more difficult when using a Les Paul. They have wider and more rounded neck profiles than most guitars, meaning it can be harder to move quickly around the fretboard when shredding. Most shredder’s guitars have super thin and flat necks instead. 

With that said though, it’s definitely still possible to shred on a Les Paul, it just may take a bit of getting used to, especially if you’re used to playing on a guitar with a thinner and flatter neck profile. 

Does the Guitar Matter for Shredding?

So first, let’s address how much the guitar actually matters when it comes to shredding. 

Most guitar’s that are advertised as shred machines, have the following features:

  • Thin and flat neck profiles 
  • Jumbo frets
  • Satin neck finish, as opposed to gloss
So why do these features make shredding easier?

Well, the thinner and flatter neck means that it’s usually quicker to play on. This is a really helpful thing when it comes to shredding, because the ability to move around the fret board at lightning speed is pretty essential.

The jumbo frets are also pretty useful. Having wider frets means that you can position your fingers in a more comfortable way when fretting a string. You aren’t restricted as much as you would be with narrower frets.

Finally, the satin neck finish feels a lot more smooth than the gloss finishes, which have a lot more grip. The satin finish allows you to move up and down the neck without getting stuck to the glossy finish. 

But how much does this all matter?

Well, it’s all personal preference really. Whilst having a thin, satin neck with jumbo frets is helpful for most players, it isn’t the best option for everyone. Some players find thin necks too flimsy feeling, and prefer something thicker and more sturdy. 

It’s also true, that you’ll get used to what you’re playing on. If you have always used a Les Paul, and you feel comfortable playing it, then you’ll probably find shredding easier than if you switched to an Ibanez with a Wizard neck. 

The main thing to do, is pick a guitar, and stick to it. Swapping around and trying other guitars will likely slow down your progress. So if you want to use a Les Paul for shredding, then just go for it!

Issues with Shredding on a Les Paul

With all that said though, there are a few things that make a Les Paul a bit more difficult to learn to shred on, for the majority of players. These are:

  • Thick and deep neck profile
  • Standard frets
  • Gloss neck finish

Firstly, the thicker neck, can feel a bit too weighty and hard to hold, particularly if you have smaller hands. This can make it hard to move your fingers quickly on the fret board, from the low strings to the high strings.

The standard fret sizing also means you have to be more accurate, and you’re more restricted when it comes to fretting the strings. You’ll need to be more precise than if you have jumbo frets. 

Finally, having a gloss neck finish means it has a lot more grip. This can slow you down when you’re trying to work your way up and down the fret board at speed, as your fingers can get stuck on the back of the neck more easily. It is possible to sand the neck down, to remove this finish though. So it’s an option to consider if you’re not too attached to the glossiness of your Les Paul’s neck. 

Which Shredders Use Les Paul's?

Even though some players may find the neck of a Les Paul a bit difficult to shred on, there are plenty of guitarists that actually prefer it to the typical “shred style necks”.

Here’s some of the most famous guitarists that can shred using a Les Paul. 

  • Slash (Guns ‘n’ Roses)
  • Eric Clapton
  • Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society)
  • Jimmy Page (Led Zepplin)
  • Randy Rhoads ( Ozzy Osbourne’s lead guitarist)
  • Ace Frehley (Kiss)
  • Joe Perry (Aerosmith)
So don’t think that shredding using a Les Paul isn’t possible. Keep practising and you’ll get there. 

Tips to Improve Shredding Technique

Here are some quick tips to help you improve your shredding technique, no matter what guitar you’re using. 

  • Keep your picking motion swift and short. Try and improve your picking speed by reducing the distance that your pick moves when plucking a string.
  • Use a metronome to help you build up speed. Don’t try and go too quickly at first. Always master accuracy before building the speed up any more. 
  • Try and hold the pick quite close to the tip. It’ll help with accuracy and speed.
  • Keep your fingers and wrist relaxed and free from tension. This will help you to shred more quickly, whilst still maintaining the accuracy.
  • Don’t forget about your picking hand. Both the fretting hand and picking hand are equally important, so don’t let sloppy picking technique hold you back. 
  • Work on your sweep picking and economy picking techniques to improve your shredding ability. 

Summing Up

It’s important to remember that shredding is far less about the guitar, and far more about the player. 

A great guitarist will be able to shred on absolutely anything, including a Les Paul. But a newbie shredder will struggle even on a guitar specifically designed for shredding, with a super thin neck and extra jumbo frets.

Pick a guitar and stick to it. Learn how to shred properly, using the tips I’ve just been through, and don’t worry about what guitar you’re using. 

 

So there you go! That’s how to shred using a Les Paul! I hope you’ve found this article helpful, thanks for reading. Here are some other posts you might find useful:

Heather

Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

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