“I hope the traditional guitar solo dies a slow and painful death”: Marty Friedman explains why the guitar solo as we know it needs to be put out of its misery

 Marty Friedman.
Marty Friedman.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Marty Friedman is heralded as one of the greatest lead virtuosos of his generation, having supplied some of the finest guitar solos committed to tape throughout his time both with Megadeth and Cacophony, and as a solo artist.

Therefore it might come as something of a surprise to find out that the Jackson signature artist wants the traditional guitar solo to perish. Not only that, he wants it to go slow and painfully...

Friedman makes the statement in the latest issue of Guitar World, in which he is quizzed on how he avoids becoming over-indulgent with his playing. To that, he asserts he is self-indulgent, just in different ways – ways that see him “play these long melodies like a singer, which is very self-indulgent as a guitarist”.

But that melodic and lyrical approach that explores new ideas isn’t one that’s adopted by the majority of mainstream players: “Usually, the lead guitarist comes in, gets an eight-bar solo, plays a bunch of stupid licks, maybe adds something hot and fancy that will impress, and then they get out.

“But I’m replacing the vocalist when I’m soloing, meaning I sing with my guitar,” he continues.

“So, rather than saying, ‘Here’s the obligatory eight-bar solo,’ if necessary, I’ll be selfish because that’s exactly what I want instead of a boring old solo.”

To that end, Friedman notes there was a specific mindset that “killed guitar solos in American mainstream music... The obligation to say, ‘I need to do something flashy and get out’ – and that’s where the death of the solo notion comes in.

“I hope the traditional guitar solo dies a slow and painful death. Guitar solos need to be inventive,” Friedman stresses. “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.

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

Marty Friedman
Marty Friedman

Luckily, the course is being corrected, and as Friedman is keen to note, “Things look promising because there’s a ton of great guitar work. There are a lot of exciting approaches out there by people who look at the instrument in cool ways.

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

Somewhat surprisingly, Friedman isn’t the only modern day guitar virtuoso who has wished for a swift end to the guitar solo – and, in fact, isn’t even the first lead maestro to specifically use the phrase “painful death”.

Back in 2019, Polyphia’s Tim Henson said he sees the future of guitar music “being less guitar-centered”, and even went so far as to say he hopes “guitar music dies”. Despite the somber sentiments, his position was similar to Friedman’s: the guitar needs to evolve to survive.

“I want it to die a painful death, because so much of it is just bullshit,” Henson told Total Guitar.

“And I feel like people should focus more on the music itself and use the guitar as a tool to make music versus, like, ‘I’m going to play guitar music,’ you know what I mean? Because so much of it is just not good.”

To read the full interview with Marty Friedman, head over to Magazines Direct to pick up the March 2024 issue of Guitar World.

UPDATE 02/01/24: A previous version of this story stated Marty Friedman was an Ibanez signature artist. This is incorrect – he is currently a Jackson signature artist.