The Swedish genius has been unleashing his fretboard fury since the early 1980s. Charlie Griffiths takes a look at his amazing chops.
The astonishing Yngwie Malmsteen comes under Charlie’s Hard Rock spotlight this month.
Yngwie Johan Malmsteen was flown over from his native Sweden to the USA in 1982 by Shrapnel Records boss Mike Varney, after being blown away by Yngwie’s demo tape. After some experience playing in the bands Steeler and Alcatrazz, Yngwie released his first solo album, Rising Force. This 1984 release was to become the first of 21 studio releases; the most recent being 2016’s World On Fire. For over three decades he has remained true to himself and uncompromising in his style. He remains the same today.
Throughout the years Yngwie has utilised a lot of different musicians on his records, but his work with the Johansson brothers is perhaps the most revered by fans. With Jens on keyboards and Anders on drums the triple whammy of Marching Out in 1985, Trilogy in 1986, and Odyssey in 1988 not only earned them a legion of lifelong muso disciples, but also had a wider appeal with songs like I’ll See The Light Tonight; I Am A Viking; You Don’t Remember, I’ll Never Forget; Heaven Tonight and Crystal Ball. The songs were not only packed with virtuosic, technically demanding playing, but also had accessible song formats and catchy singalong choruses.
So impressive and virtuosic is Malmsteen’s Paganini-inspired maelstrom of sweep-picked arpeggios and Phrygiandominant scale runs, it is easy to forget that he is also a master of riffs and catchy songwriting. Although Yngwie is most often described under the ‘neo-classical heavy metal’ banner, in this feature we will look at the Maestro’s more hard-rock tinged works.
We have five riffs for you that illustrate some of Malmsteen’s signature approaches. Our first example is quite keyboard-esque in that it comprises diatonic Major and Minor triads interspersed with lower notes from the
(1-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7). A Aeolian mode Example 2 is a raunchy riff inspired by tracks from the Seventh Sign album, which also happened to be the seventh Yngwie album. This part uses bluesy, slinky bends that are enhanced with a wah-wah pedal. For our third example we NEXT MONTH Charlie gets to grips with the style of Journey’s fabulous guitarist, Neal Schon
Yngwie’s Musicianship and COMPOSITIONAL skills are staggering, and his guitar technique Utterly Beyond reproach
look to the Fire And Ice album on which Yngwie uses lots of vibrato to make the three-note chord shapes sing, as well as some cool palm-muted arpeggios. Example number four looks back to the Odyssey days with a riff that has a 12/8 time signature, played with a triplet feel and performed in unison with double kick-drum groove. The riff combines two of Yngwie’s favourite tonalities as it is largely based in E Blues
(1-3-4-b5-5-b7), scale but switches to the classical sounding E Phrygian Dominant at
(1-b2-3-4-5-b6-b7). the end
For our 5th and final riff we seek out influences from the Magnum Opus album. Yngwie’s Bach influence often emerges as an open-string pedal note against which he plays notes from the scale - in this case is D
(1-b2-3-4-5-b6-b7). Phrygian Dominant
Example 6 is a full Yngwie-style solo in the key of A Minor and alternates between
(1-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7) the A Aeolian mode and
(1-2-b3-4-5-b6-7]. the A Harmonic Minor The solo features Yngwie’s signature moves, including sweep-picked arpeggios, twohanded tapping, fluid scale runs and wide vibrato, fast fluid runs and violin inspired scale patterns.
Yngwie’s detractors characterise him as all about flash and no content; but his musicianship and compositional skills are staggering, and his guitar technique utterly beyond reproach. Practise all the examples slowly and build up the tempo gradually so that you can play them with Yngwie’s biggest attribute: confidence!
Yngwie Malmsteen: one of instrumental rock’s greatest ever musical forces