Why Yngwie Malmsteen Is Underrated

author: tomhess date: 01/18/2013 category: artists' discussions
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Why Yngwie Malmsteen Is Underrated
What would you think if I said Yngwie Malmsteen is absolutely, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the most underrated guitar player of all time? The truth is, most people pass over him too quickly in discussions of great guitar players without giving due credit to ALL the elements that make him great. By learning about why he is underrated you will gain a new perspective that will allow you to become a much better guitar player for yourself. That said, some guitar players would respond to the claim of Yngwie as "the most underrated" with comments like:
  • 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. Now, before I continue on with the rest of this article, I want to mention that the first point made above is entirely off topic to what I will be discussing (the amount of albums a guitarist sells has no impact on their overall importance in the guitar playing community as a whole). Additionally, the other two points are NOT true at all and you will find out why shortly as you read below. 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: Lead Guitar Playing Techniques: Most people will give credit to Yngwie as being a highly technical guitar player (especially considering what other guitarists were playing during his time). However, most people overlook the fact that his true genius comes in the form of the variety of improvements he has accomplished in the realm of technical lead guitar playing. By merely considering this point on its own, it becomes very clear that Yngwie is of great importance to the world of electric guitar players. The truth is, many guitar players (of Yngwie's time) did not take the time to master all the possible guitar techniques that they could use to make music. Consider techniques such as tapping, sweep picking, alternate picking, string skipping, speed picking, not to mention subtle techniques like playing with articulation and fluent guitar phrasing. Think about how long these guitar techniques were available to be mastered before someone actually came along and mastered them all on a technical and musical level. In most cases, these guitar techniques took the span of many decades to get to the point to where they were being played at a level of true mastery. Although there were guitarists who were playing with some of these techniques at various levels of proficiency, there was no guitarist (before Yngwie Malmsteen) who had achieved a level of virtuosity for ALL of them in his guitar playing. 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? Regardless of whether or not you listen to Yngwie's music, you can learn a lot by observing how he combines together various guitar techniques. It is important that you are able to connect various techniques together in music regardless of the genre you specialize in. That said, most guitar players practice their techniques separate from each other, and do not learn how to integrate them together. 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 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. 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 vibrato guitar technique video to learn 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. 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. 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. Music Composing Skills: Yngwie has brought a lot to the rock guitar community through his ability to write music that utilizes intelligent and innovative use of the foundational songwriting principles. It is true that these principles have been used for hundreds of years prior to his music; however, no one had utilized them in quite the same manner as him outside of "some" jazz musicians and modern classical composers. 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 such techniques to fit your style of guitar playing, watch this video and see how to play creative guitar chords.
    What action should you take now? 1. Listen to Yngwie's songs (yes, even if you are not a big fan of how he plays guitar). If you are already into his music, find any one of his albums (I recommend his earlier releases) and complete the next steps. 2. Listen closely and identify the subtle nuances that make Yngwie an excellent guitarist (use the ideas mentioned in this article as a reference). If you are not sure how some of the more advanced musical ideas utilized in Yngwie's playing work (such as musical expression, songwriting techniques and improvisation in different keys), locate a guitar teacher who can help you understand them in great detail and use them to enhance your own guitar playing. 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. 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 an electric guitar teacher online, recording artist and the guitar player of the band Rhapsody Of Fire. He trains guitar players from around the world how to reach their musical goals in his correspondence guitar lessons online. Visit his website tomhess.net to receive many freeguitar playing resources, mini courses, guitar practice eBooks, and to read more articles about guitar playing.
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