What's The Fastest Riff/Lick Ever Played On Guitar?

Wordman: no worries, mate. As much as I like to listen to some of this stuff, the desire to listen to much of it anymore, or try to play it, has largely passed. Just thought it would be an interesting guitar-related topic for a slow day.

And I’ve seen that Jason Becker video…it’s impressively fast. That’s the stuff.

Paul Gilbert is an interesting dude. He was/is an excellent shredder but he seems to have largely eschewed that style of playing these days. I’ve seen videos of him playing rhythm guitar behind John Paul Jones’ mandolin on Zeppelin covers and he seems to take a great delight in teaching guitar as he’s got endless videos out there of him doing just that. He’s an extremely accomplished player.

Yeah, that’s why I listed CAFO as my first cite. Go back and check out that opening riff; its a discreet scalar run of several dozen notes. Abasi plays it so fast he sounds like a sequencer.

Here’s a guy who explains how to play the riff and then demonstrates it himself (at what seems to be a slightly slower tempo than the AaL recording). That link goes to as he finishes explaining the riff. 5:48 is where he plays it at (near-)tempo

If that doesn’t meet your criteria, then I guess I just don’t understand what you’re after.

I’m just going to concur with Wordman.

Also, I play flurries of notes so fast you can’t even hear when one flows into the next, densely packed microtonal note clusters that shimmer with beauty. I call it “slide guitar”.

I love it! When I have a good slide day, it really re-wires my head with regard to sound and lead work.

It’s funny - I had a guitar day with my son last week - we went to the Met to see the Martin Guitars from 1833-1865 and the emergence of the American Flattop - very cool. We also went to my favorite vintage guitar store - RetroFret in Brooklyn. Swoon. Added a few other playing experiences to my guitar-watching mental journal - an old Gibson Super 400 (owned by Ry Cooder!), a golden-era 1933 Gibson L-5, etc.

Anyway, on the way driving in, we listened to a variety of guitar music, including hard rock / metal. We put on Superunknown by Soundgarden - My Wave, Black Days, Black Hole Sun*, Superunknown, etc. Kim Thayil plays so little - and fills in the sound with these little riff/figures that don’t sound like conventional hard rock/metal at all - but are totally heavy and fill in the sound so damn well. That’s what I am talking about!!

*We’re listening, and my son says “why the heck did they call this CD “Superunknown” - when “Black Hole Sun” is clearly the coolest name ever - that should be the name of the album. Just imaging how great the cover art would be!!” I realized that I completely agree :wink:

Jimi Hendrix could play fast enough to seem to be shredding except that the notes are individually realized and they made musical sense. Check out from the 1:30 mark in Come On, Part 2.

Well, I’m not the biggest Stevie Ray Vaughan fan in the world, but he gets my vote for being at the nexus of fastest/cleanest/musical. “Scuttle Buttin’” on this sound check is goddam fast.

He could do it faster (check out the Montreux clip), that’s just my favorite version. It’s nice and relaxed.

Freudian slip? :smiley:

:smack: Scoville Scale. Too funny and yes apparently a mental connection to guitarist John Scofield.

No love for the opening of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck? :smiley:

It may not be the all-out fastest, but it is an impressive blend of speed, musicality, and consistency. (it is played in rhythm, instead of just freestyle)

Over-played song sure, but I still love watching the fingers fly.


Off topic, but I’m planning on going to this show – this is the Early American Guitars exhibition, right? Can’t wait - there must be some wonderful guitars there.

Did you catch the guitar exhibition there a couple of years ago with a bunch of incredibly beautiful archtops by D’Angelico and Monteleone and D’Aquisto? Some of the most beautiful instruments I’ve ever seen. I wish I could have heard them, too.

Did you check out the video I posted of Rev. Peyton? He’s playing slide with his pinky finger and chords with his other fingers.

When it comes to fast and clean I don’t think anyone can beat Steve Morse.

If your tone is that bad, you’d better play fast. :wink:

I just watched it again and I honestly can’t tell if it’s meant as a joke or not.

Here is one that seems to take great pains to appearing legitimate. I must say, assuming there is no trickery involved, the notes are actually clear enough to consider it a success. In fact it’s so clear I find it hard to believe it’s not just a sped up video. Is this guy pulling one over on me? Because I’ve been playing for 25 years and I can’t even comprehend his 700 BPM version, let alone 1300.

Yes - very interesting stuff for your inner early-guitar geek. Yeah, I saw the jazz guitar exhibit. It was a bit meh for me - such amazing guitars I’d be afraid to play them!

Dragonforce is known for speed riffing on guitars. This is my favorite song by them, Through the Fire and Flames. It pretty much starts at 100mpg and keeps it up throughout the whole song, but there’s a few good guitar parts from the very beginning, 1:36-1:53, and the big one from 3:01-4:27


Al Di Meola strived for many years to be the fastest. IMHO his best playing was after he gave that up and slowed down. I often wanted to say:


As good as he was, Di Meola was no Mozart.

Steve has my vote for the bestest of the fastest, and he can play real nice and slow too.

The slowest guitarist, most of the time, is David Gilmore. That’s just one of the reasons he’s one of the best. And it certainly wasn’t because he can’t play fast, because he can (though not a contender for fastest, by far).

I also occasionally enjoyed Johnny Winter’s blinding speed playing blues. He was fast, but probably not a contender compared to modern standards. There’s another super fast but also tasty blues player of the 60’s and 70’s whose name I just can’t call to mind right now.

But in general … too many notes! Quit the gymnastics and play some music already.

This is proof of the value of pure speed.

In this clip Sergiy Putyatov plays a 27 note run in 1 second.

Honorable mention for the acoustic folks…Roy Clark takes it to infinity and beyond…