How To Become A Better Guitarist By Studying Yngwie Malmsteen

by Tom Hess

When it comes to the most important guitar players to have ever played, I believe that Yngwie Malmsteen stands out as one of the most highly influential and ‘underrated’ guitarists. In fact, I would even make the claim that by simply understanding why he is so underrated, you can massively enhance your own guitar playing skills. That said, some people are skeptical of Yngwie’s abilities, making statements such as:

· 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.

My goal with this article is not to turn you into an Yngwie fan. Instead, I want you to understand the reasons behind why Yngwie is such an important figure in the history of great musicians and influence to the current (and future) generation of guitar players. Once you understand what goes into his guitar playing that makes him so great, you can then begin to utilize this knowledge to improve and enhance your own guitar playing.

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:

Expressive Vibrato Technique:
As far as I am concerned, Yngwie has debatably the best vibrato technique of any electric guitarist ever! That said, there are a lot of naysayers who pass over this aspect of Yngwie’s guitar playing entirely. These people focus on his ability to play fast, and disregard his vibrato altogether claiming that Yngwie’s style “lacks emotion”. Comparisons are often made to Yngwie where it is claimed that other guitarists can say more with one note than he can say with an entire solo section. However, the truth is just the opposite. If you want to hear the proof of this, simply listen to the first song on Yngwie’s album “Rising Force” and compare the sound and expressive quality of it to any other guitar players who are commonly compared to Yngwie.

As you do this, think about how the technical and specific aspects in his vibrato technique (such as the rate, depth, balance and rhythmic timing) give him the ability to play with an incredibly diverse palette of emotions while using ‘only’ one note. Compare this to the common guitar player who never truly takes the time to analyze the subtleties in their vibrato technique and cannot appreciate the difference between average vibrato and the vibrato of a virtuoso.

How can you use this idea?

When it comes to great guitar phrasing, solid vibrato technique is absolutely essential. Observe your own vibrato closely to see if you can identify any of the subtleties mentioned above. As a test for your abilities, play a single note on guitar and see if you can create a ‘variety’ of highly musical and emotions expressions from by using vibrato on just that one note. If you are unable to do this, it means you still have a good amount of practice to do on your vibrato. To become a more expressive guitar player by using vibrato technique in your playing, check out this video about how to play vibrato on guitar.

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).

How can you use this idea?

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 integrate guitar techniques together by watching this video that explains a highly effective guitar practicing approach.

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.

How can you use this idea?

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 such techniques to fit your style of guitar playing, watch this free video and see how to come up with creative guitar chords in as you create music for guitar.

Improvisation Skill:
Just like a jazz guitarist, Yngwie Malmsteen has the ability to improvise music at an extremely high level. It is true that he does not commonly solo over jazz-styled harmony; however, after listening to his music it is apparent that he has total control over the emotion created in every chord he plays over. This does not mean that he simply knows “which scale fits over which chord progression”. As a master improviser, he understands how each chord will ‘feel’ in combination with what he plays (‘before’ a single note even sounds) and can quickly adapt his phrasing to create this feeling.

It’s noteworthy as well to understand that Yngwie frequently makes improvisations to create new versions of his old guitar solos with perfect execution. This is unlike most guitarists, who usually play the same guitar solo in the exact same manner every time they play it.

How can you use this idea?

No matter what musical genre you like most, knowing how to hear the emotions that will be created in your improvisation before the chord is played is a crucial skill to develop if you want to become an expressive guitar player. To learn how to do this for yourself, watch this free guitar video lesson about creating metal guitar solos.

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 abovementioned 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.

By writing this article, I not am attempting to necessarily make you a fan of Yngwie; but to help you gain new musical insights that you likely have not yet considered. If you do not like Yngwie’s music after studying him in detail, that is totally fine. However, understand that by observing the subtle nuances in Yngwie’s music as described in this article, you will be able to get much more value out of the music of other guitar players. This will help you become a better guitarist and reach a new level in your overall musicianship.

Author's Bio: 

About The Author:

Tom Hess is a professional touring musician and the guitarist for the epic metal band Rhapsody Of Fire. He also teaches and trains guitarists from all over
the world in his online guitar lessons. On his website,, you can get additional free tips about guitar playing, guitar playing resources, mini courses and surveys.