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Guitar Lesson – Artist Profile: Yngwie Malmsteen

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Lewis Turner takes us through the techniques of Yngwie Malmsteen.

…Yngwie was also one of the first players to introduce the use of arpeggios in the rock world, using Major, minor and Diminished 7th patterns…

Swedish guitar virtuoso Yngwie Malmsteen burst into the scene in the 80’s, leaving many rock/metal guitarists of the time scurrying back into their sheds to put in hours of practice. Yngwie bought a new sound and style of playing, fusing classical influenced lines with rock guitar tone and a frightening array of new techniques such as sweep and economy picking, not previously witnessed by the players of that time. He is the very innovator of neo-classical music and shred guitar.

Lewis Turner

Lewis Turner

When first listening to Yngwie’s playing there are a few things that leap out; his sheer technical command of the instrument, fast smooth clean lines, but fat tone, and very wide/slow vibrato, often a tone – tone and half wide. Always playing as if his life depends on it and with great phrasing and feel. Yngwie has influenced countless players, but still in my opinion remains the very best at the style he created. Learn more about him here: http://www.yngwiemalmsteen.com/aboutbio.html

Viewing the fretboard:

Yngwie’s main scale choices are Natural minor (Aeolian) and Harmonic minor. Aeolian is constructed; 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7. Harmonic minor differs buy one interval it has a major 7th, 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 7. It is the use of this scale and its subsequence modes such as Phrygian Dominant that will give you the Neo Classical sound. The use of Harmonic minor in the rock genre back then was a very new thing and bought a fresh sound. You wont here many metal bands or shred guitarists that don’t use this sound nowadays.

Yngwie was also one of the first players to introduce the use of arpeggios in the rock world, using Major, minor and Diminished 7th patterns. He will also occasionally use Melodic minor; 1 2 b3 4 5 6 7, and is also an incredibly good blues player favouring the good old minor pentatonic scale, adding in the major 3rd.

Techniques:

One of the biggest aspects of his playing that had people realising they still had some work to do, is his technical command of the instrument. He was heavily influenced by violin players and you can hear this in his use of lurid slides, vibrato and those blistering fast runs.

He bought an economy of motion to his playing, watch videos of him and neither hand looks like it is moving very much. This was down to his use of labour saving techniques such as sweep and economy picking. Both adhere to the rule of the pick travelling in the direction of play.

For example if you take a three note per string phrase going from the lowest to highest string then you would pick it in the following way; down, up, down, down up, down, down up etc, and follow the same idea when descending but starting with an up pick. If you want to play in the style of Yngwie then you are going to have to spend some time getting your rock techniques down, you name them, he uses them!

Tone:

Yngwie uses Fender strats going into a Marshall stack exclusively. He has a signature Stratocaster that has a scalloped fretboard, all his guitars have this. He claims it gives better grip and greater control of vibrato which is his signature sound. He gets a big fat tone from his guitar despite using gage 8 strings and tuning down a half step!

This is probably down to sheer amp volume and the fact that he uses quite a clean tone. No need to cover up with lots of distortion when you have technique like Yngwie!

Yngwie licks and runs:

On the attached tab/notation sheet you will find some typical Yngwie style licks and runs separated into different sections. I transcribed a lot of these from watching videos of him and so have included the fingerings and pick directions that he uses. Some of these may feel odd to you, but give his way a try first and see if it works out better.

None of the voicing’s or picking are set in stone, but it’s how he does it. I have not recorded these examples but instead have done a short video of me improvising in “the style of” Yngwie. I have tried to incorporate as many of the licks and lines, and things I have spoken about above in the video. I have not transcribed the video solo as it was just improvised but have included a backing track for you to try the licks and your own ideas over.

The idea of the video was so you can see the techniques used, although the best thing would be to watch the man himself as I am no Yngwie Malmsteen by any stretch of the imagination!

Arpeggios:

These are some of his favourite and most used shapes, be sure to follow the pick directions and try his way of fingering them. You will need to have your sweep picking down to pull these off.

Single string lines:

These are very common lines that are also used a lot in classical music they sound great and are relatively easy to get up to speed. Yngwie swaps between alternate picking and legato. His alternate picking is very economical coming from the thumb and first finger and a little bit of wrist movement never from the arm.

Ascending and descending sequences:

These are some typical economy picked runs that he uses, be sure to follow the pick directions for maximum efficiency.

Pedal note:

This is one of the biggest tricks in his bag. A pedal note or tone is a note that you always return to, used heavily in classical music and sounds great in a rock guitar situation.

Octave shapes:

Yngwie has certain lines that he uses and repeats in 3 octaves in various ways. A very good trick for getting more longevity out of a lick. Here you have the option of Alternate or legato, he would use a combination of both.

I hope you have enjoyed this lesson, have fun with the backing track and remember to play with fire, passion and big hair!

Resources for this lesson:

Resources for Guitar Lesson – Artist Profile: Yngwie Malmsteen – © Lewis Turner
Download PDF Guitar Jar Lesson – Yngwie Malmsteen Lesson (154KB pdf)
Music Download Guitar Jar Lesson – Artist Profile: Yngwie Malmsteen – Backing Track

All content © Lewis Turner – For more information about Lewis Turner, please visit:

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About the author:

Lewis Turner is a highly accomplished guitarist, with years of performing, recording, session and teaching experience. Lewis performs all over the UK and abroad with various bands as well as Theatre, TV and Radio work

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