As I practice my ass off (post-2008 bike wreck/wrist injury, years of touring on that wrist, surgery a year ago and recent cortisone shots back in January) trying to get my skills back in place for Halo Orbit shows, I started to get nostalgic about my past shred days. Sometimes, at one of my clinics or at music schools, I will tell kids how I used to practice with Paul Gilbert at Musicians Institute. My routine would start with rehearsal from 6am to 9am, then go to class, home to eat, then over to Paul's to rip on new Racer X riffs. I would practice 16 hours a day all in the name of speed and shred.
Every now and then, I bring up how Racer X would perform our songs a lot faster, live, than on the record. I guess a lot of bands have that habit of playing their songs faster than the record but I think we were notorious for that. We were five dudes with the energy of a thousand and we built our band on speed.
One of the things Paul got me into was practicing 16th note triplets with a metronome. Paul did this, partly, to track his speed improvements. He would get a certain musical phrase and he would start slowly (well...fast for all of us but slow for him) and then increase the metronome's bpm (beats per minute). Say, for example, Paul started a lick at 130bpm...by the time I left his house that day he came up with it, he would get that sucker up into the 160's.
In the spirit of shred, Paul mentioned to me (maybe to keep me practicing) that if he took a day off, it would take him three days to get back to where he was (he only took days off if he got sick). I started to track my own progress and he was correct...you would lose some of the speed you built up and it would take roughly three days to get your phrase back to the bpm you got it up to. My point is, we never stopped practicing in fear of losing speed. We ripped on our instruments everyday to blow away the crowds who were coming to see us.
I remember the goal Paul and I had was to get our 16th note triplets up and over 200bpms because that's how shredders think! I know Paul got well into that range and I got there in 1988 at around 208 (if my memory serves me right). I can honestly say I will never reach that speed again but I know Paul can rip at that bpm to this day.
Now for an actual musical example, lets take the song Scarified. In 1997, Racer X recorded this shred classic at 144bpm's yet live, we would reach bpm speeds of into the 150's! Here is Racer X, a year after recording Scarified, performing it at Oakland's Omni in 1988 at around 152. We eventually would get it up to 160 but I can't find a YouTube of it.
And here is old man Racer X ripping it at 152 back in 2009!