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“We need guitar music that makes those people feel something”: Marty Friedman wishes “slow and painful death” upon the traditional guitar solo and has some ideas on what should replace it

 Marty Friedman, plays onstage in 2023.
Marty Friedman, plays onstage in 2023.

Marty Friedman’s name will forever be synonymous with his box-office lead playing during Megadeth’s golden era, redefining what was possible with metal guitar with his spectacular solos on tracks such as Tornado Of Souls and Hangar 18. But Friedman has admitted that he has had it with the solo, at least the traditional format of the solo, and says he hopes it “dies a slow and painful death”.

Speaking with Guitar World, Friedman he wished a pox upon the eight bars of hot licks that we have come to expect of the guitar solo in rock and metal, declaring it out of date, unimaginative, and worst of all it boring. The audience might be listening, but unless they're a beginner player who will naturally be impressed by technical wizardry, they’re not feeling anything.

“I hope the traditional guitar solo dies a slow and painful death,” he said. “Guitar solos need to be inventive. They need something to keep listeners involved, especially those who are not learning to play and only listen. 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”

Friedman’s comments differentiating between the section of the audience who are players or aspiring players, and general admission music fans, echoes sentiments made by Kirk Hammett to Total Guitar, who argued that those who don’t play the instrument – i.e. the overwhelming majority of the audience – won’t remember your solos (though in our case, they might remember them for all the wrong reasons).

Not that Hammett was cursing solos into oblivion; he was stressing the importance of the song to do its thing, and without a good song you don’t have anything.

“People are not going to remember a great guitar solo,” said Hammett. “I hate to say it for all your readers out there. They will remember a great melody. They will remember a great song. And I am not talking about musicians. Yeah, musicians will remember a great guitar solo but non-musicians, who are the majority of the fucking listening world, they are not going to remember guitar solos.”

So what can be done to make guitar solos a more memorable experience for the general public? Hammett’s approach on Metallica’s latest studio album, 72 Seasons, was to prize spontaneity over all else, leaning into his Angus Young influences, and classic British rock of the ‘70s, and to react to whatever was going on in the song, and with James Hetfield’s vocals. Friedman says it’s a question of emotion.

“We need guitar music that makes those people feel something,” he said. “It’s the responsibility of guitarists to bring something to solos that will achieve that.”

Thinking like the vocalist can help. That’s how Friedman might approach it, he says, and that gives him an alternative to the “boring old solo”.

“All that other eight-bar and tapping stuff; that’s got to be over,” he said. “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.”

Friedman did, however, sound as though he saw enough evidence in a new generation of players that suggested eight bars of flashy licks was on its way out.

Some of that next generation of players were similarly forthright about solos when they were breaking out, like in 2019 when Tim Henson of Polyphia went one step further and wished guitar music as a thing would “die a painful death”, which is to say he wanted people to “use the guitar as a tool to make music versus, like, ‘I’m going to play guitar music’… Because so much of it is just not good.”

But Friedman might have other cause for finding hope in tomorrow's player. He is presently offering a Truefire masterclass in soloing via the online guitar lessons platform. The full program “immerses guitarists in a revolutionary learning experience focused intensely on cultivating their unique originality and own artistic identity”. It is priced $99.99, and you can sign up now at Truefire.

You can read the full interview with Marty Friedman in the March issue of Guitar World, which you can find at Magazines Direct.