How To Shred Like Paul Gilbert

Are you stuck in a rut with your guitar playing? Do you get tired of playing the same old sequences and licks using the same articulation? If you answered “yes,” then I am going to show you how to spice up your playing by combining two common techniques: regular picking and legato playing to achieve unique sounding guitar licks.

Paul Gilbert is the first guitar player who comes to mind who uses this technique extensively. Some of his most terrifying licks are based on combining picking with hammer ons and pull offs. I am going to explain to you the basics behind this technique and then show you how to build up to playing cooler-sounding, more advanced runs and arpeggios.

The most fundamental patterns that we are going to build from will be Examples 1 and 2 below. If you want to see videos of me playing each of these examples (fast and slow), visit my site and watch them in the free shred guitar lessons section available to my free newsletter subscribers.

Example 1 (this is a repeating pattern to be cycled over and over):

Example 1

Example 2 (also a repeating pattern to be cycled over and over):

Example 2

Make sure that your accents are totally accurate and precise (as I play in the video and as shown in the tab above). The most important thing is the picking/articulation used here. It is NOT all legato, nor is every note picked. The key is combining the two techniques in a seamless way that produces a very “snappy” sound of the accents when they are emphasized with the pick in the midst of the legato notes rushing by.

To step things up, here is a new lick that builds from the previous 2 patterns. If you are familiar with Paul Gilbert’s playing, you will probably recognize the sound of one of his classic licks.

Example 3:

Example 3

Again, pay very close attention to the picking markings indicated, so that you know which notes to pick and which ones to play legato.

You need to keep your fretting hand very relaxed while you play it, and at the same time focus on making the pull offs loud and forceful (more about this in a moment).

The next lick is one I came up with that combines picking and legato techniques using the basic ideas from the three earlier examples above and some small position shifts:

Long sequence (example 4)

Example 4
Example 4 continued

Make sure that your accents are precise to achieve the right sound (watch the guitar shred video on my site to hear it played correctly slowly and fast). Also, practice a longer lick like this one by breaking it into manageable sections before putting it together.

It may look very difficult, but if you practice it only a few notes at a time, you will get through it without too much trouble.

Arpeggio with string skipping.

This particular method of playing arpeggios was also made popular by the great Paul Gilbert. Rather than using sweep picking, he used string skipping to achieve a more precise and rhythmic effect.

The technique is quite challenging at first, so make sure to practice the regular scalar fragments shown above.

I will show you one of my favorite licks to play that will be used in one of my songs in my upcoming album. It shows some more musical applications to this cool technique.

Example 5

If you want to watch a free video lesson that goes into detail about this challenging arpeggio lick, it is available here.

As you practice these licks, keep the following things in mind:

  1. Your hammer ons and pull offs need to be loud. As I wrote in my article on how to sweep pick, try to make them as loud as your picked notes.
  2. It is very important to practice these licks both with distortion and without. This is important as practicing with distortion helps with increasing your dynamics, and practicing with distortion helps with controlling sloppy noise.
  3. It is very effective to end the licks on a pinch harmonic (watch the video examples to see this).

Practicing this technique will help to open up a new range of sounds for your guitar playing. Be sure to begin applying these ideas to your soloing and improvising right away and you will greatly expand your creative possibilities.

Mike Philippov is a professional virtuoso guitarist, music composer and instructor. He is also a co-author of several instructional products, numerous articles and other free instructional resources available on