What if I tell you that Yngwie Malmsteen is, without a doubt, the most important guitarist of all time?This is guitar techniques from Yngwie
Most importantly, I dare say that understanding “why” Yngwie is so INFRA-rated will have a huge positive impact on your progress as a musician (regardless of the style of music you practice). For many guitarists, such a claim may seem outrageous, and many people would respond with comments such as:
- Other guitarists have sold more albums than Yngwie Malmsteen, so they are more important and have had more influence in music.
- The music and style of Yngwie are based on speed and lack of emotion.
- Yngwie has not done anything new in her music for the past 30 years.
Before going any further in this article, it is worth mentioning that Item 1 is completely irrelevant in this debate (because the number of albums sold by an artist has no impact on the general “influence” and its “importance” in the world of the guitar compared to other things). In addition, points 2 and 3 of the above list are completely false and you will see why you read this article.
It does not matter if you like or not the music of Yngwie at the end of the article. However, there is a secret guitar lesson hidden behind the TRUE reasons for Yngwie’s unparalleled importance in the world of guitar. Knowing these reasons will make you more sensitive to new musical nuances, allowing you to express yourself more fully with YOUR technique.
Here is a short list of innovations that Yngwie Malmsteen has brought to the world of rock guitar that most ordinary listeners do not give due honor:
Solo Guitar Techniques
Although virtually all guitarists would agree that Yngwie’s technical mastery was / is exceptional (especially in his time), most listeners do not realize that their greatness lies in bringing a ‘variety’ of technical advances to the guitar soloist. When considering this point in detail, the importance of Yngwie for the world of electric guitar becomes apparent.
The fact is, most are present long before someone comes and truly dominates them. Think of pickaxe, directional / sweep picking, trills (tremolo picking), string jumps, ligatures, two-handed tapping, intricate rhythms of the metal, as well as general nuances of articulation, speed and fluidity in the execution of these and other guitar techniques. Consider how long these techniques were present before the guitarists began to dominate them all in their execution and musically. Most of the time the ‘evolution’ of these techniques took decades to reach their mastery level. Even though many guitarists used these techniques in their music, there was not only one (previous to Yngwie Malmsteen) who would have mastered ALL with that level never seen or heard before.
Yngwie’s pioneering mastery of such an arsenal of solo guitar techniques goes unnoticed in discussions comparing his musical importance with other musicians. Instead, people tend to embrace all the techniques they mastered in a single category of “guitar techniques,” as if implementing them all counts as one thing (when in fact not).
What does this mean for you?
Whether you listen to Yngwie’s music or not, one thing you can learn from him is his amazing ability to ‘integrate’ (fluently) a variety of different guitar techniques. You must have the ability to freely integrate different techniques into your music, no matter if you play Neo-classical virtuosity or blues solos. Keep in mind that ‘integrating’ guitar techniques is NOT the same as practicing them ‘in isolation’, as most guitar players do. To understand the difference, watch this video about the best way to practice with the guitar.
Yngwie Malmsteen’s vibrato is among the greatest of all time and her own guitar heroes did not attain a vibrato like theirs. Ironically, many guitarists completely overlook Yngwie Malmsteen’s supreme mastery of this technique and claim that their music is “devoid of emotion.” When comparing Yngwie with other famous guitarists, it is customary to hear sentences like: “Guitarist X says more with a single note than Yngwie Malmsteen says with 1000.” Actually, the CONTRARY is true: Yngwie can say more with a `unique ‘note in his style than a typical guitarist with any number of notes. As a test, listen to ANY ‘single’ note from the first track of the first CD of Yngwie’s career (Rising Force) and compare its sound (expression) with any combination of notes played with guitarists who are usually considered to play with ` more excitement ‘than Yngwie.
When you do this analysis, consider how the technical nuances in the balanced velocity, depth, proportion, cadence and pitch of the vibrato allow Yngwie (and anyone who masters vibrato to the same level) to achieve a wide range of emotion and passion while maintaining a note. In contrast, a typical guitarist never analyzes (or practices) the aspects of his vibrato in so much detail and therefore can not fully appreciate the vast difference between a vibrato that sounds great and a mediocre one.
What does this mean for you?
Vibrato is the most identifiable aspect of phrasing for any guitarist. I challenge you to analyze your own vibrato in detail, focusing on the same intangible elements listed above. To test yourself, play a `single note ‘on the guitar and determine if you are able to transmit a variety of musical expressions with ONE tone using only vibrato without touching other notes (if you can not do this then your vibrato needs a lot of work). Watch this free video on how to play vibrato on guitar to know more about this.
Like the great jazz guitarists, Yngwie is a master of improvisation. Although normally their solo bases are not as harmoniously complex as in some more advanced jazz music, no one surpasses Yngwie in the emotion with which she gives EVERY nuance in each chord (and in her ability to adjust her phrasing to reflect this). This goes beyond, much more, than simply knowing “what scales to use over what chords”. True improvisation masters (like Yngwie Malmsteen) know how the inherent ’emotion’ of each chord sounds before they play it, and they know how to adapt their phrasing to get the same feeling in their music. It is important to cite that Yngwie often improvises new solo versions of his songs night after night with great taste and firm performance (compared to other great guitarists who simply play exactly the same solos the same way night after night).
What does this mean for you?
No matter the style you play, being able to hear the emotion of each chord in the tone you are playing (BEFORE playing the chord) is a talent that you must develop absolutely if you want to reach your maximum potential as a solo guitarist. To see a demonstration of what this means, and (more importantly) to learn how to practice to get it, look at this lesson on how to create solos for guitar metal.
Yngwie’s composition technique and his use of melody, counterpoint and polyphony have been other important but often undeveloped and misunderstood aspects of its importance in the world of guitar-based rock music. Although these compositional tools have been with us for many centuries, they were non-existent as methods of writing songs out of ‘some’ styles such as modern jazz and classical.
What does this mean for you?
Many of the writing techniques adapted by Yngwie to rock guitar can be successfully applied in any genre. To see an example of how some of these techniques can be applied to any guitar style, watch this free video on how to play creative guitar chords.
What should you do right now?
1. Listen to Yngwie’s music (yes, do it even if you are not a true fan of his style). If you already like the style of Yngwie, put any of your CDs (especially the first recordings) and follow the next steps.
2. Learn to hear the nuances of your style that makes Yngwie so great (see the points cited in this article on specific things to listen to). If you do not understand how some of the most advanced concepts (such as the melody, or the feelings inherent in the chord functions in the different tones) work in music, find a guitar teacher who can explain these details in detail and show you how they can used in rock music and heard in the compositions of Yngwie.
3. Analyze your own style to master the same items listed above. Even if you play a very different style to that of Yngwie Malmsteen, you still need to develop a mastery level of many (or all) elements quoted to the appropriate level for your music. Evaluate your progress in these areas and take the necessary actions to accelerate your progress in the most deficient areas.
My goal here is not necessarily to take you to Yngwie’s music (although there is a chance that you will appreciate it a lot more after following the steps above) but expand your musical horizons by challenging you to listen to music in a new way that you may never have considered before. If, after analyzing the above points and studying Yngwie’s music in detail, you conclude that you still do not like your style, that’s fine. However, developing sensitivity to these nuances in Yngwie’s music as I have described will help you get more by listening to the guitarists who inspire you greatly. All this will lead you to become a better guitarist and musician in less time.
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