How To Shred On Guitar - Harmonic Minor Shred Guitar Lesson

by Tom Hess
Double Your Guitar Speed e-Guide

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If you like harmonic minor shred guitar licks in the style of Yngwie Malmsteen...

... you’re going to love this guitar speed article.


Because I’ll show you several straightforward guitar speed licks (that are proven to help you play guitar fast.

(These licks all use Yngwie Malmsteen’s signature Phrygian dominant scale.)

And then...

... I’ll show you how to practice these Phrygian dominant guitar licks using guitar speed ideas that can help anyone learn how to shred.

I used these licks to help many of my guitar students to play guitar fast and rip through shred guitar solos they once thought were impossible for them.

Now it's your turn.

Double Your Guitar Speed e-Guide

By submitting your info, you agree to send it to Tom Hess Music Corporation who will process and use it according to their privacy policy.

So, grab your guitar...

... and let’s work on sharpening up your harmonic minor shred guitar playing.


First, watch this video that explains how to shred on guitar using the Yngwie Malmsteen-inspired Phrygian dominant scale.

Now that you know what goes into playing Phrygian dominant and harmonic minor shred guitar licks a la Yngwie Malmsteen…

Here are several more guitar speed tips and strategies that will help you learn how to shred and play guitar fast:

Harmonic Minor Shred Guitar Tip 1: Learn Harmonic Minor Scale Shapes All Over The Guitar

Yeah – it’s pretty hard to play harmonic minor shred guitar licks all over the guitar like Yngwie Malmsteen if you only know one scale shape.

This severely limits not just your ability to play guitar fast (and come up with cool shred guitar licks), but to be creative on guitar in general.

So, your first task when learning how to shred using the Phrygian dominant scale is to learn all 7 shapes of that scale.

Question: “Tom Hess, are the Phrygian dominant shapes the same or different from the harmonic minor shapes used in shred guitar solos?”

Answer: The shapes your fingers play are identical between harmonic minor and Phrygian dominant shapes. (That’s because Phrygian dominant is simply shape 5 of harmonic minor.). However, you need to pay attention to where each guitar shape starts to make sure you are playing in key.

Here is how to best practice harmonic minor (and Phrygian dominant) shapes as you’re learning how to shred and beginning to play guitar fast:

1. Be consistent. It’s better (for learning how to shred) to practice memorizing your Phrygian dominant scale shapes every day for 5-10 minutes than to cram your practicing into 3 hours on a weekend.

2. Spend some time learning your shred guitar scale shapes away from the guitar. Literally put your fretting hand on your picking hand’s forearm and move the fingers around – seeing the frets in your mind’s eye. This will help you get more practicing in throughout the day and help you develop the fretboard visualization skills you need to play shred guitar like Yngwie Malmsteen.

3. Create sequences from the basic harmonic minor scale patterns. Scale sequences are the basis of fast shred guitar runs (scale sequences sound much cooler than regular scale shapes played straight up and down).

Here is what I mean:

Question: “Tom Hess, is it better to memorize Phrygian dominant shapes one at a time until each one is mastered? Or to work on all 7 shapes a little bit at a time?”

Answer: Do both. Focus on one shape at a time during your shred guitar fretboard visualization practice sessions… but then run through all 7 shapes near the end of a practice session (even if you have to play them slowly at first). Rotate which one of the 7 scale shapes gets most of your attention, but also play through all 7 shapes each day. This helps you memorize them quicker and makes it easier to play guitar fast.

Bonus tip: when playing all 7 shapes of the Phrygian dominant (or harmonic minor) scale, find the top tempo where you can play ‘all’ 7 shapes without making mistakes or playing out of time. As your musical memory of these shred guitar scale shapes improves – increase the tempo.

Harmonic Minor Shred Guitar Tip 2: Use Guitar Speed Bursts

Speed bursts are a fantastic way to learn to play guitar fast and build guitar speed without any slow practice.

“Why not simply do more slow practice to play guitar fast”, you ask?

Because when you practice shred guitar licks at slow speeds – many of your guitar speed flaws are darn-near impossible to see, hear or feel.

This also means …

… When you practice Yngwie Malmsteen-inspired guitar speed licks very slowly, there are many guitar speed problems you don’t get to work on.

So, what are guitar speed bursts and how do they help you build guitar speed and play guitar fast?

Answer: this is where you speed up the metronome past your top shred guitar speed and play a short fragment of your shred guitar lick you’re trying to build guitar speed with. This trains your ears, your brain and your hands to play guitar fast at higher speeds (while only playing a few notes).

As each guitar burst gets easier, add more notes (at the same tempo) until you are able to play the entire guitar speed lick at the new higher speed. At that point, you can increase your guitar speed yet again and continue the process of learning to play guitar fast with the Phrygian dominant scales.

Here is what this looks like:

Here are a few more tips for using guitar speed bursts to play guitar fast and rip through harmonic minor shred guitar licks like Yngwie Malmsteen:

- base your guitar speed bursts around shred guitar lick fragments that don’t start on the most predictable notes. By predictable notes I mean: the first note (or last) note you play on each string or the first (or last) note of each beat. Start (and stop) your guitar speed burst instead on some note in the middle of the beat. This makes you think about what each guitar speed burst is going to be and it’s a much more effective way to learn how to shred.

- use the time you have between speed bursts to relax your body (and assess how each guitar speed burst sounds). If you notice yourself having to relax a lot – it’s a sign that you are holding too much excess muscle tension. Tension is a big roadblock on your journey in learning how to shred.

This guitar technique video shows you how to control excess muscle tension, so you can build guitar speed faster:


Harmonic Minor Shred Guitar Tip 3: Integrate Harmonic Minor Shred Guitar Licks With Other Guitar Speed Techniques

One of Yngwie Malmsteen’s most impressive shred guitar skills is his ability to integrate harmonic minor (and Phrygian dominant) guitar scale runs with other guitar techniques.

And that means:

You too better be practicing integrating (connecting) harmonic minor shred guitar scale patterns with other techniques as you are learning how to shred.

The simplest way to do this is to combine Phrygian dominant patterns with sweep picking arpeggios.

That’s because sweep picking is another signature technique Yngwie Malmsteen uses a lot that helps him to play guitar fast and rip through blistering shred guitar solos.

Here is what it looks like when you connect harmonic minor scales with arpeggios:

Here are a few more tips that help you integrate shred guitar techniques together as you work on your guitar speed:

- Isolate the transition point between the shred guitar techniques you are integrating. The transition point starts on the last 2-3 notes in the first shred guitar lick you are trying to play guitar fast with. And it ends on the first 2-3 notes of the second shred guitar lick you’re integrating with the first guitar speed lick.

Practice that shred guitar fragment until it is clean. Then extend it (until you are eventually playing the entire fragment that integrates the 2 shred guitar techniques cleanly and fast).

Watch this video to see an example of this process in action:

Question: “Tom Hess, did Yngwie Malmsteen really practice like this to develop his insane shred guitar chops?”

Answer:  I can’t speak for Yngwie Malmsteen, so I can’t say what he did or didn’t do when he was learning how to shred and developing his guitar speed. But I can speak for the many hundreds of guitar students whom I’ve helped learn how to shred and play guitar fast. And all of those who mastered shred guitar were practicing the way I describe.

On that note:

- Make sure the final note of your guitar speed licks sounds as expressive as possible. In particular, make sure that your Phrygian dominant scale runs end on dramatic vibrato. Yngwie Malmsteen is famous for his vibrato. So, as you are learning to play guitar fast shred guitar licks, pay equal attention to your vibrato as well.

Here is an example of how to integrate fast shred guitar licks with expressive vibrato (this is a great example of combining learning how to shred and playing with emotion):

Harmonic Minor Shred Guitar Tip 4: Work On 2-Hand Sync

Your shred guitar speed with harmonic minor (and Phrygian dominant) scales is only as good as your ability to keep your hands in sync.

And if your hands are out of sync, your shred guitar playing will never sound good. (Especially if you are trying to sound like Yngwie Malmsteen.)

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So, how do you get your hands in sync and master this area of shred guitar playing?

First, (temporarily) stop trying to ‘build guitar speed’ and striving to play as fast as Yngwie Malmsteen.

Instead, focus on cleaning up the harmonic minor shred guitar chops you already have.

Ironically, that is one of the keys to learning how to shred.

Question: “But Tom Hess, what if I'm impatient and really want to play guitar fast and shred like Yngwie Malmsteen as quickly as possible? Should I still temporarily stop trying to play guitar fast?”

Answer: Yes. When you get your hands in sync, you clean up your guitar technique and reach a more advanced guitar playing level. And when that happens, it becomes much easier to keep building guitar speed and play shred guitar licks and solos you are finding impossible right now.

Here are the best 2-hand synchronization tips that enable you to play guitar fast and clean like Yngwie Malmsteen:

Fix guitar playing mistakes

- Practice single-string guitar technique licks that alternate open strings and fretted notes.

This shred guitar drill exaggerates the difficulty of 2-hand synchronization (because the string tension changes when you switch between fretted notes and the open string). Because of this, when you go back to playing harmonic minor guitar licks (and Phrygian dominant scale sequences) where every note is fretted – it becomes much easier to keep your hands in sync, build guitar speed and play guitar fast and clean.

Find the guitar speed where your hands just begin to get out of sync and practice slightly below that tempo.

That will help you improve your shred guitar technique and play like Yngwie Malmsteen sooner.

Plus, this approach takes out all guesswork from figuring out what tempo to practice at to build guitar speed.

- learn the motions of each hand separately. Getting clarity over the motions each hand needs to make is one of the keys to being able to play guitar fast.

This video shows you how:


Harmonic Minor Shred Guitar Tip 5: Work On Guitar Speed Endurance

When it comes to guitar speed, it is much easier to play something fast ‘once’ than to play guitar fast (repeating the same shred guitar lick) over and over.

This is one thing that makes guitar players like Yngwie Malmsteen so special. They not only can play guitar fast, but also do it for long periods of time.

So, as you practice your harmonic minor and Phrygian dominant scale runs – focus on building your guitar speed endurance as well as your top guitar speed.

Watch this guitar speed video where I show you how to do this:

Now that you know how to play harmonic minor shred guitar lick sin the style of Yngwie Malmsteen, the next step is to master all the other elements that go into playing guitar fast. I show you how in my free eGuide called: “Double Your Guitar Speed While Cutting Your Practice Time In Half”. Download your copy today and discover the secrets of playing guitar fast most guitarists never know.

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Tom Hess
About Tom Hess: Tom Hess is a guitar teacher, music career mentor and guitar teacher trainer. He teaches rock guitar lessons online to students from all over the world and conducts instructional live guitar training events attended by musicians from over 50 countries.

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