If you’re a fan of guitar shredding, you should know about Mrs. Smith. We recently profiled the “The First Lady of Shred Guitar” and her search for her missing cat, Carlyle. As it turns out, she can not only rip some truly amazing solos, she’s quite knowledgeable about the history of guitar shredding too. Recently, she gave the keynote address at the Voyager Institute‘s State of Shred event at Los Angeles’ Resident DTLA, a downtown music venue.
Mrs. Smith has had a lot of success with the guitar. She’s had her own hit off-Broadway show, she’s appeared in a Gucci ad and she opened up for guitar legends Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen. So, she was an obvious choice to kick off the State of Shred lecture series last Saturday.
In her lecture, Mrs. Smith doesn’t shred herself, but she still commands the entire room’s attention with her personality and well-researched lecture. Of course, she peppers her speech with jokes — this isn’t a dry, academic lecture, but you’re sure to learn a lot (and maybe rock out a bit).
But first, here’s a video of Mrs. Smith shredding hard:
Her lecture examines the full history of guitar shredding from the prehistory to today, starting with Jimi Hendrix laying the foundation. However, as influential as Hendrix was, Mrs. Smith points to Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption” as the true birth of shred. It’s Van Halen’s marriage of amazing technical dexterity and engineering skill — or, in other words, “technology leads to new technique.”
Guitar shredding has since fallen out of favor — Smith notes that the end of shred’s popular heyday cam at both the rise of Nirvana as well as the daunting perfection of Steve Vai’s Passion and Warfare album — but she tells people to check out the guitar gods and goddesses working today. Of her picks, our favorite is Li-Sa-X, a 12-year-old girl from Japan who can outplay any adult.
And if Mrs. Smith makes you want to explore modern shred-masters, she’s helpfully compiled a playlist of artists name-checked in her lecture below.