Friday, April 6, 2012
Who is the fastest guitar player in the world? This question is asked a lot throughout the shred community. I asked this myself for several years. There are certainly a handful of guitar players out there, famous and non, who will be regarded as some of the fastest players there will ever be. So how do we know who is the absolute fastest of all time? In my opinion, there is no single all time fastest, and there can never be. Read on to find out why I feel this way.
Many of you know I have broken the Guinness record for Fastest Guitar Player not once, but twice. The rules they set forth were to play Flight of the Bumblebee without error and was measured in 16th notes. I did this at 600 bpm and 620 bpm. Guinness said I was the fastest guitar player because I followed their rules. As of now, there is no Guinness record for Fastest Guitar Player. Let me repeat that; there is no Guinness record for Fastest Guitar Player as of this time. Here is what Guinness told me after I received news of their freezing of the record:
“The guidelines for fastest guitar player are undergoing a review to ensure that we are able to accurately assess the speed of play in a way that is fair to all challengers and representative of the high levels of musicianship that are required for this record.
There is currently no deadline in place for the reinstatement of this record, or even any guarantee that it will be if we do not consider it possible to amend the guidelines in such a way that the challenge conforms to Guinness World Records requirements of fairness.”
As happy as I am to have accomplished what I did in breaking the record twice I am actually relieved to see that Guinness is either going to discontinue the record all together, or at least make improvements in how the record is set. (I explain this further on.)
I am certainly not the fastest at every style of guitar playing nor every piece of music playable on the guitar. No one person could ever know enough to be able to blaze through everything faster than everyone else. You can't be the master of everything; you can only master one thing. Even then, can really call yourself a true master of anything?
A flamenco player could kick my butt at their style of playing. If Guinness required you play a song flamenco style to break the record I would never beat it. I can't play like that!
Using distortion, compression, etc. certainly gives everyone an edge in playing faster. In fact, you simply cannot play at world record speeds without distortion and compression because it would sound absolutely terrible! The distortion and compression help to bring out every single small detail of what you play. Playing something on the acoustic would be a whole different story.
If the record was to be broken/set on an acoustic what kind should it be? A nylon string classical guitar that has a wide neck with the strings spaced out to make better finger placements for classical style playing or should it be done with a steel string acoustic where the neck is closer to that of an electric? Again, these are two different types guitars which bring about two different styles of playing. Who's to say which one should be the style that sets the standard for speed? I'm certainly in no position to make a call such as this.
Even if the general consensus is that the record can or should be set with an electric guitar, and even using distortion and compression, why should the record only be limited to straight picking chromatic runs? Why not sweep picking and/or finger tapping? Why not a particular chord progression? I have had plenty of students who devote all their time to picking single notes really fast and sweeping all the time, but they couldn't play a Creedence Clearwater Revival song to save their life. How could someone like this ever be considered the true fastest of playing the guitar when they lack something so fundamental as being able to play basic singer songwriter open chords?
Yes, I broke the Guinness record because I followed their rules, but a jazz player could kick my butt at so many different crazy jazz chord changes because I never took the time to make that my focus. So in all seriousness, how can I ever be truly considered the fastest guitar player?
Whenever I am asked if I'm the fastest guitar player, all I can say is “according to Guinness, I am”. Do I consider myself to be the fastest guitar player of all time? Of course not. I have never met every guitar player out there, and I never could even if I wanted to. How do any of us know there isn't someone out there who could smoke me in playing Flight of the Bumblebee, but they simply choose not to put themselves in the limelight?
Yes, I do consider myself to be one of the fastest guitar players there has ever been. I feel I have earned that. I have not earned the right to say I am the fastest at everything because I'm simply just not. No one is.
I have met some new and wonderful people having since broken the record, and even was flown to China to break the record again. These are events that never would have happened had I not broken the record. Having my two certificates on my wall at home and work is a tremendous and wonderful feeling. I feel that I will always be extremely proud of my accomplishment and nothing can change that. Even if Guinness never brings the record back, or if they bring it back and change what you must do (they've done this twice that I know of), I can always say I am the only one to have ever broken it twice in a row, and am the last person to have broken the record with that set of rules.
So let the record come to an end. I've seen this record breed a lot of negativity and arrogance. With all the good this record has brought myself and others I think it would truly be best to end it once and for all. I thank all of my friends, family, and fans who have supported me and continue to do so. I hope you come along with me for the rest of my music career. Thank you all so very much. Special thanks to Vanny Tonon (aka: Vanny Live). Your support has meant the most of all.