Sometimes, I just can't sleep. Soooo much going on in the cranium, I just can't shut it down.
When I was a kid, I used to drown out my brain, playing metal and deep cuts of classic rock, very loudly (either through headphones, or after I got a soundproofed private apartment through a quite loud cd player and amp)... The music just pounded away my obsessive multitrack mind, and attention to everything around me; and after a while I could sleep.
It's how I first learned to love the guitar gods. Hendrix, Clapton, Blackmore, Morse, Moore, Gilmour, Vai, Satriani, Johnson, Vaughn... Hell even Knopfler and Kottke and Cooder, and Di Meola, and MacAlpine. If I could get ahold of a CD and it had great guitar (and bass too; but finding a virtuoso bassist was a lot harder. Billy Sheehan, Les Claypool, Victor Wooten, Stu Hamm, and Stanley Clarke are about the only guys you could actually get albums for at the time), I probably listened to it a hundred or a thousand times like that.
It doesn't work for me anymore. Not sure why, but it doesn't let me sleep like it used too... Though I still find it relaxing. Sometimes I'll just stick my itunes into a loop of my "guitar" playlist, and wipe out as much of the distraction as possible.
So, here's some shredding for you this late night slash early morning, courtesy of Paul Gilbert (one of the best guitarists of all time... and one of the most underrated, because he chose to be in bands that get little respect, and because he became a guitar video hawker):
First a few classical caprices (both literally and figuratively)...
Then some more explicit metal shredding...
Y.R.O (Yngwie Rip-Off... Gilbert has an interesting sense of humor)
"Technical Difficulties" (still one of my favorite pieces of "background metal")
Gilbert is all the more impressive (and this makes his being underrated even more clear), because unlike most shredders who play at his level of speed and precision; he is an alternate picker not primarily a tapper or sweep picker (Gilbert WILL tap, but in his own compositions, and most of his shredding, he is almost exclusively a picker).
He achieves his amazing speed and precision almost exclusively with alternate picking, string skipping, and soft legatos (basic hammer-ons and pullofs); rarely using tapping or sweep picking.
Gilbert has been clocked at sustained 20 distinctly picked notes... not legatos (hammerons, and pullofs), or taps... per second, in actual music (not just speedpicking) when messing around (that's 1200 beats per minute, though only for a few seconds).
Although there are faster players; notably Herman Li (who has several hybrid tapping pieces at 320bpm) , Michael Angelo Batio (who can apparently hit 32 sounded notes per second when tremolo picking; but that's not music, that's just speedpicking), and Tiago DellaVega (who can play "Flight of the Bumblebee" the normal test piece, picked at over 320bpm ); they are all tappers, hybrid pickers (people who pluck with several fingers in addition to the pick, as in fingerstyle guitar, bluegrass, and banjo playing) or hybrid tappers (tapping and sweep or tremolo picking simultaneously); I don't think anyone is a faster picker, while being as musical.
Notably, because of this skill (not to mention soul, and sense of humor), he is the most "musical" of the ultra-high speed shredders; not just depending on speed and technical prowess... and not needing a finely tuned and heavily overdriven electric guitar with funny weight strings to do it (as you need to do with high speed tapping).
He can do things like this:
Which, if you'll note the fingering and picking, ISN'T actual flamenco style guitar (which he says right at the beginning). He isn't fingerpicking or plucking here, hes only using his thumb and index finger to "pick" up and down... so it doesn't sound as fluid as true flamenco would but there is more precision to the notes.
Or this little Hayden piece for example:
Which you will note is exclusively alternate picked; where a classical guitarist would be finger picking, or another shredder (Yngwie certainly. He has also done this piece) would be two handed tapping or hybrid tapping (both faster techniques certainly, but producing an entirely different sound and "feel").
Thing is... though I appreciate the technique, and the foundation Gilbert has (he's certainly one of the best musically educated guitarists out there in terms of technique. He has a degree in guitar theory, and is a professor at the Guitar Institute of Technology)... What I like most about his playing is the soul, and the sheer FUN he has playing. Gilbert is a guy who doesn't take himself, or playing guitar, too seriously... and I like that.
Here he is, having some fun with his Mr. Big bandmate Billy Sheehan: