How Yngwie Malmsteen Can Help You Massively Enhance Your Guitar Playing

Author: Ed Cupler

Yngwie Malmsteen SpellboundIf you have ever put thought into who you consider to be the all time most important figures in guitar playing history, there are many popular names that probably came to your mind. That said, if Yngwie Malmsteen did NOT come to mind for you, get ready to make a drastic change in the way you think of great guitar players. Without a doubt, you can greatly enhance your guitar playing skills by learning from the legacy that has been left behind by Yngwie. But first, to address the skeptics…you may have heard some guitar players make the following (false) statements to make about him:

  • Other guitar players have sold more albums and have a stronger influence and importance in the music world than Yngwie Malmsteen.
  • Yngwie only plays fast and doesn’t play with passion and feeling.
  • Yngwie has not done anything new with his music since his early days in the 80’s.

Before I go more into detail, I’d like to point out that the first claim above is a total misnomer; the amount of records someone sells has little to nothing to do with their influence on the guitar playing world (in comparison with other factors). On top of that, the other two claims are entirely incorrect, and you’ll find out why by reading the information in this article.

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It is not necessarily important that you read this article and become a ‘fan’ of Yngwie; instead it IS important that you understand that there is a hidden guitar lesson to be found when you learn why Yngwie is so influential to the guitar playing community. By understanding this, you will gain new perspective on many new musical ideas that will give you the insight needed to become highly expressive as a guitar player.

The following is a small list of innovative musical ideas that Yngwie Malmsteen has brought to the table in the guitar playing community that most guitarists do not give him his due respect for:

Integration Of Lead Guitar Techniques:
It is well accepted by guitarists that Yngwie is a very accomplished technical guitar player and the fact is most people write him off as simply being a “shredder”. However, in reality he is not merely ‘another’ shred guitarist but rather THE guitarist who raised the bar for virtuosity in lead guitar playing to an entirely new level. This point alone is enough to place Yngwie into the category of all time best.

Historically speaking, most guitar techniques are available to guitarists for a long time before someone takes the opportunity to truly master them ALL. Consider things such as sweep picking for arpeggios, various picking styles used to play speed licks, tapping, complex rhythm guitar plus the ability to integrate these and other techniques together in a highly musical manner. How long were all of these ideas around before guitarists finally began to master them and use them in a technical AND musical manner? Answer: A very long time! In fact, most of these techniques took guitar players several decades to learn and master. Although there had been guitar players who used some of these techniques and ideas in their music, Yngwie was the first to truly master them ALL to a level that surpassed that of any guitarist prior to him.

Yngwie truly led the way by mastering such an expansive arsenal of lead guitar playing techniques. Yet, this goes unnoticed by those who compare his musical influence to other guitarists and musicians. Many guitarists often throw all of the techniques that Yngwie perfected into the generic category of “guitar technique” to be counted as a single entity (when it is not like this at all).

What can you do with this information?

You might not be a listener of Yngwie’s music, but even if that is the case you can still gain great insight from his ability to combine together a large variety of guitar techniques. It is crucial for you to be able to integrate various techniques in a smooth manner throughout your music regardless of the musical style you play in. Note that when I say ‘integrate’ guitar techniques, I am not referring to practicing them separately on their own like the majority of guitarists. Learn how to put together guitar techniques by watching this guitar practice video.

Vibrato Technique: Without a doubt, Yngwie Malmsteen is a shining example of a guitar player with excellent vibrato technique. Keeping this in mind, know that Yngwie’s guitar idols did NOT play vibrato like him. Many guitarists completely overlook his ability to play expressive vibrato claiming that his style “lacks feeling”. This is commonly paired together with the claim that he plays “too many notes”. However, the truth is that Yngwie is a master of expressive guitar playing and can say much more with a single note than most guitarists can say with an entire guitar solo. To hear proof of this, check out his guitar playing on the first song of “Rising Force” and compare it to the playing of any other guitarist who is commonly considered to be a ‘more expressive’ player than Yngwie.

As you are doing this, observe how Yngwie uses great detail in his vibrato by utilizing subtle nuances of the technique (through balance, changing speed, using wide and narrow depth, precision of timing, etc.) to generate highly expressive musical emotion with just one note. Compare this to most other guitarists who rarely consider the subtleties of vibrato technique and cannot truly understand the difference between everyday vibrato and virtuoso vibrato.

What can you do with this information?

When it comes to playing guitar with nice phrasing and interesting melodies, your vibrato technique is what will stand out the most. I encourage you to take note of the subtle elements mentioned above to analyze your own vibrato technique. To start with, see how big of a variety of musical expressions you can create by playing only one note and apply vibrato to it. If you are unable to utilize vibrato to create a variety of emotions in your guitar playing, you have a lot of work to do! Watch this video on how to develop guitar vibrato technique to find out more about improving your musical expression.

Improvising: Similar to great jazz musicians, Yngwie has mastered the ability to improvise great guitar melodies and ideas. Although he does not commonly improvise over harmonies consisting of complex jazz chord progressions, Yngwie’s ability to create intense emotion by maximizing the expressive effect of each chord is unmatched. This is much more complex than merely understanding “which note goes over which chord”. When you truly master improvisation (as Yngwie Malmsteen has), you will know the feeling and emotion that will come with the notes that are played over each chord… ‘before’ the chord is even played. This way you can adapt your playing in the moment to create whatever emotion you wish to express.

Additionally, Yngwie frequently improvises newer versions of his old guitar solos on a consistent basis (…and with great precision). Most guitar players simply re-play their old material in the exact same manner every time they go on stage.

What can you do with this information?

Regardless of your preferred musical style, it is crucial for your success as a lead guitar player to able to identify the emotion of each chord ‘before’ the chord is actually played. To learn how you can do this for yourself, check out this video about how to create metal guitar solos.

Music Composition Ability:
Yngwie has an incredible ability to write expressive music while using songwriting skills in the realm of part writing, complex rhythmic groupings and neo-classical harmony. Unfortunately, these mostly go unnoticed to the guitar playing community as a whole (with the slight exception of his neo-classical influence). These songwriting ideas and techniques have been around for centuries but were almost completely absent in music outside of ‘some’ jazz and modern classical music.

What can you do with this information?

The truth is, a lot of the compositional techniques used by Yngwie in his music can be translated to fit into any musical style. To learn how you can apply techniques like this to fit your genre of guitar playing, watch this free video and find out how to creatively play guitar chords.

What is the action that you should take right now?

1. Take the time to listen to Yngwie’s songs (even if you do not particularly care for his guitar playing style). If you already like his music, grab any of his albums and go through the steps below.

2. Listen for all of the nuances described throughout this article that combine together to make Yngwie such a special guitarist. If you are uncertain how some of the guitar playing or songwriting concepts described in this article work, find an experienced guitar teacher who can show you more about these ideas so that you can identify how Yngwie uses them and master them for yourself.

3. Look into your own guitar playing to identify your level of mastery for the elements discussed in this article. Regardless of your guitar playing style (even if it is totally different than that of Yngwie Malmsteen), it is still important for you to achieve a high level of mastery for the above mentioned elements as they relate to your own style. Track your progress toward achieving mastery in these areas and do what it takes to improve in the weaker areas of your guitar playing.

My purpose for writing this article is not necessarily to get you into Yngwie’s music, but instead to give you the opportunity to grow as a guitarist by getting you to listen to music from an alternative perspective that you likely have not explored. If you analyze the ideas in this article, study Yngwie’s music and still decide that you do not enjoy his playing, that is fine. However, by developing the ability to identify the subtleties in his music as I
have mentioned throughout this article, you will be able to take away much more value from the guitar players you do enjoy listening to. This will help you to become a better guitarist in a much shorter period of time.

About The Author:

Tom Hess is a touring musician, composer and the guitar player for the metal band Rhapsody Of Fire. He teaches electric guitar online lessons to guitarists around the world. On his website, you can find guitar playing tips, free guitar resources and more guitar articles.

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