Zakk Wylde is definitely one of the best and most recognizable guitar players in the world of metal music. For years he's been Ozzy Osbourne's no.1 guitarist as well as the leader of Black Label Society. His inimitable guitar style has had a huge impact on metal guitar worshipers all over the world.
When looking up-close at his playing style there are a couple of things you can easily notice - his musical influences are clearly rooted in blues and southern rock, hence his frequent use of pentatonics and the blues scale, and he has a killer picking technique. The licks that I'm about to show you are not for the inexperienced - they sound best when played at high speed and they require pretty good synchronisation of both hands. Therefore, in order to be able burn through the examples below, it would be best to already have at least some experience in speed guitar training.
1. A true Zakk classic - this lick is derived straight from the A minor pentatonic scale box:
It's really difficult to get it up to speed but it also sounds good played at a moderate tempo. Try playing it ascending as well.
2. Another minor pentatonic lick, this time incorporating the first two scale boxes:
The picking pattern looks deceptively simple, but it's actually quite difficult to play clean. Apply vibrato to the last note to get closer to the Wylde sound.
3. Zakk likes combining the Dorian mode with the blues scale. The lick is an example of this approach:
Notice the picking pattern - a sequence of three notes is repeated on every string. Mr.Wylde uses this approach in the first few bars of BLS's "Bleed For Me" solo.
4. A short repeated run, as Zakk could play it:
The string-skipping technique used in this example makes it even more challenging when played at a Wylde tempo. Repeat the lick as many times as you want.
5. The last one is a classic rock cliche. However, played up to speed it sounds great!
The scale used here could be described as natural minor with an added blue note. Watch out for the large stretch! You can move it up the neck to make it a bit easier. All licks are straight 16th notes. Feel free to move them all around the fretboard. To get closer to Zakk's sound use a mahogany body guitar equipped with active humbucking pickups and an all tube Marshall amp (JCM 800 preferably) with an overdrive stomp-box in front.
StanB is a rock guitar player, composer and guitar instructor. For more lessons & guitar related info check out his Free Guitar Lessons blog.