Shredding The Myth: KIRK HAMMETT Says Guitar Solos Are Irrelevant For Non-Musicians

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Kirk Hammett, the guy behind Metallica‘s solos for 4 decades, has revealed his opinion about guitar solos: most people don’t actually give a flying riff about them. In a recent interview, the axeman admitted that while guitarists obsess over shredding epics, the average listener just wants a catchy tune.

“People are not going to remember a great guitar solo. I hate to say it to all your readers out there. They will remember a great melody. They will remember a great song. And I am not talking about musicians. Yeah, musicians will remember a great guitar solo, but non-musicians, who are the majority of the fucking listening world, are not going to remember guitar solos.” Hammett said.

“Yeah, they are gonna remember a great melody and they’re really gonna remember a great song, especially a song that’s gonna bring them to a different place from where they were five minutes previously,” he added.

But wait, before you ditch your wah pedal and pick up a ukulele, there’s a deeper message here. Hammett‘s not saying solos are irrelevant, just that they shouldn’t overshadow the song itself. He fondly recalls his teenage days, figuring out the power of songwriting with his buddy John Marshall (former guitar tech and fill-in Metallica guitarist).

“I figured it out when I was 15 years old. John Marshall and myself had literally been playing guitar for six months when I said to him, ‘We need to start writing tunes. Look at KISS, they write all their own songs… and AerosmithVan Halen.’ So John and I started writing music. And it was a lot of crap, but it was something.”

And that’s exactly what he did on Metallica‘s latest album, “72 Seasons.” Instead of meticulously crafting solos, Hammett embraced improvisation, churning out 20-30 takes and letting the producer and drummer choose the best bits. His goal? To capture that raw, “Angus Young” vibe – a reminder that solos should serve the song, not the other way around.

“I wanted the solos to be more ’70s rock solos, or in a nutshell, Angus Young. Because I love Angus‘s groove, and over the last couple of years or so I have found a bigger appreciation of his playing because Angus always plays for the song. Some of his solos are crazy and wacky and out there but they always, always are in that context of the song, and it never, ever sounded like Angus worked anything out. It sounded like he just went in there and went for it, and so that’s what I did. I had to do it this way because it was how I felt inside. I wanted spontaneity. I didn’t want picture-perfect solos because some of my favorite players’ solos were kind of rag-tag and I love that.” Hammett explained.

This shift in perspective isn’t a rejection of his guitar roots. Hammett still admires the greats, even the “rag-tag” ones whose solos might not be technically perfect. But he recognizes that in the grand scheme of things, a killer melody and a powerful song will always trump a flashy display of technical skill.


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