YNGWIE MALMSTEEN - Guide to the World's Best Guitarists
A Complete Guide To Sounding Like Yngwie Malmsteen
Born in Sweden, he is known to his fans as a guitar playing god. To others, he's simply a superego with a gift. But no matter who it is, nearly everyone will acknowledge that Yngwie Malmsteen is one of the fastest guitar players out there today, if not the fastest. Now, if you look closely, you'll see there's more to this speed metal player than meets the eye. And the differences start with…
Yngwie names a number of the usual suspects for his influences: Steve Hackett (Genesis); Brian May (Queen); Alex Lifeson (Rush); and Ritchie Blackmore from Deep Purple. Then it gets a bit unusual: other influences include Bach, Vivaldi, Beethoven, and Mozart. The most interesting (and perhaps most relevant) influence he cites is that of 19th century violinist Niccolo Paganini.
How can this be, you ask? It's simple, really: when you listen to his music you begin to understand. The kinds of 16th note and 32nd note passages those baroque and classical era composers wrote for instruments like the harpsichord and piano can also be adapted to an instrument such as the electric guitar. And when they are, what you end up with sounds something like Yngwie Malmsteen.
As a teenager, Malmsteen worked in a guitar luthier's shop, where he saw a guitar with a "scalloped" neck for the first time on an old 17th century lute. A "scalloped neck" is one where the wood between the frets is actually carved away, creating a space underneath the string when it is pressed against the fret. After trying it out on an old guitar in the shop, he was so impressed with the increased speed and control it gave him over the strings that he went home and did the same thing to his own guitars at home. Interestingly, the Signature Edition guitar Fender introduced with Malmsteen's name on it also has a scalloped fretboard.
He did brief time in a couple of bands, Steeler and Alcatrazz, in 1982 and 1983, before deciding to go it alone. With the release of Rising Force in '84, Yngwie soon found a certain level of commercial success, and more importantly, a level of critical recognition. It hit #60 on the Billboard charts that year, and garnered a Grammy award nomination for Best Rock Instrumental as well as the award for Best Rock Album (Guitar Player magazine). All of which might lead you to ask…
Far Beyond The Sun - Yngwie Malmsteen
…What Makes Him So Malmsteen?
And the answer is: two things.
The first thing that makes Yngwie so different from every other player that can rattle off a pentatonic minor scale or two is that he didn't quit guitar lessons after the first one. He stayed on, and learned all about things like the harmonic minor scale, and all the different modes (Ionian, Phrygian, and so forth). Not only did he learn 'em, but he mastered 'em. A cursory glance through Malmsteen videos on YouTube shows him demonstrating all kinds of scales at speeds previously only thought attainable by supersonic aircraft. Being able to use those scales in solo passages and at the drop of a hat, in a way that makes musical, is one distinctive of Yngwie's playing.
The Legendary "Arpeggios From Hell"
Like any player with a career spanning several decades, Malmsteen's gear setup has changed a lot over the years. Since the '80's was sort of the "Golden Era" for metal, we'll just focus on the setup for that era. According to the page on his official website, an exhaustive list of Yngwie's gear setup for that time would be:
Marshall Mark II 50-watt heads (vintage 1971)
Marshall 4x12 cabinets with Celestion G12 30-watt speakers
Bob Bradshaw effects rack:
- Korg KMX-62 six-channel mixer
- two Korg SDD 2000 digital delays
- Hush II-C noise reduction unit
- Boss octave divider
- Furman PL-8 light module
- Marshall 400-watt power amp, model 6040
- Moog Taurus synthesizer bass pedals
- Jim Dunlop Cry Baby Wah-wah
- Vox flanger (vintage 1970's)
Obviously, not all of the effects are used all the time when he plays.
His most well-known guitar is a 1972 blonde Strat, affectionately known as "The Duck," although he's been known to use a number of different Fender Stratocasters from the '68 to '72 era. One in particular that he has been seen using is a double neck Fender made in Japan, with a 12-string acoustic top and the Malsteen Signature Strat on the bottom.
Anyone looking for Yngwie Malmsteen signature equipment on the internet won't get far without bumping into scads of it. Yngwie, along with Eric Clapton, was one of the first two artists honored by Fender with a Signature Series guitar in 1988. It was revised in '94, '98, and most recently in 2007, and all of the Signature models feature the scalloped fretboard for which Malmsteen is known. He has three sets of Dean Markley Signature strings: Yngwie's Magic, Yngwie's Ball End, and Yngwie Approved. As of 2006, he's got a signature guitar cable made by DiMarzio, the YJM Signature Guitar Cable 2006 with gold-plated plugs. And he's even got a signature pick, made by Jim Dunlop, 1.5 mils with his John Hancock imprinted on them.
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