How to play guitar like... Yngwie Malmsteen

The shred maestro's signature techniques

How to play guitar like Yngwie Malmsteen

Yngwie Malmsteen has an unmistakable, idiosyncratic approach to guitar. Very much based in Baroque and Classical-era harmony from the likes of Vivaldi and Bach to Mozart, he seamlessly blends this with rock phrasing, influenced by greats such as Ritchie Blackmore, Jimi Hendrix and Uli Jon Roth.

His love of classical harmony often manifests itself with either the harmonic minor scale or its fifth mode, the Phrygian Dominant. This can be heard in such tracks as Riot In The Dungeon and Far Beyond The Sun.

Sweep picked arpeggios, diminished runs and legato phrases can be found in everything from Trilogy Suite Op 5 to Bite The Bullet.

Basic neo-classical riff

This typical Malmsteen style riff is based around the classical-sounding E harmonic minor scale (E F# G A B C D#). The rhythm is a triplet-feel shuffle groove. Particularly challenging is the stretch from C to D# at the end of bar 4. Make sure you're not cutting corners here; your fret hand should stay in one position.

Basic neo-classical riff tab (right-click to download)

Basic neo-classical riff audio (right-click to download)

Trilled approach notes

This lick takes advantage of the minor 2nd intervals in the harmonic minor scale. Executing this many trills can be tricky, so practise in one area of the fretboard initially.

Trilled approach notes tab (right-click to download)

Trilled approach notes audio (right-click to download)

Sweep-picked arpeggio

After the initial hammer-on, play one steady downstroke from the fifth string to the first. Fret each note individually so you can silence each string as soon as you have played it.

Sweep-picked arpeggio tab (right-click to download)

Sweep-picked arpeggio audio (right-click to download)

Phrygian Dominant lick

By playing notes from the E harmonic minor scale of a B chord, we've produced one of Yngwie's favourite modes: the Phrygian Dominant.

Phrygian Dominant lick tab (right-click to download)

Phrygian Dominant lick audio (right-click to download)

Ascending diminished 7th lick

The basic four-note pattern is repeated three frets higher each time you move, so you can practise it in just one or two positions until it starts to feel familiar.

Ascending diminished 7th lick tab (right-click to download)

Ascending diminished 7th lick audio (right-click to download)

Descending pull-off lick

This lick is typically fiery, so you'll benefit from practising slowly until you get the hang of the nine-notes-per-beat pattern.

That said, notice in bar 1 that the first note grouping is actually four notes in the space of three, so just play a bit faster to cram all the notes in. Switch to a bridge pickup for a snappier tone.

Descending pull-off lick tab (right-click to download)

Descending pull-off lick audio (right-click to download)

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