Yngwie Malmsteen is somewhat of an enigma in the guitar world. You may love him or hate him, and he certainly has his fair share of critics, but there’s just no denying that he is incredibly good at one thing: being Yngwie Malmsteen. From this one seemingly superficial fact, we can derive a whole host of others that will serve as a guide to finding yourself on the instrument. So, if you love Yngwie, keep reading, and if you hate Yngwie, keep reading too as what you dislike about someone else can often give you an insight into what you dislike about yourself.
Yngwie is Yngwie
You’ll often hear other guitarists remarking, ‘Yngwie is Yngwie’, or something to that effect because the first thing you should learn from him is that he’s not trying to be anyone else, not in the slightest. Yngwie is and loves himself, and while perhaps this requires a certain degree of narcissism, it ensures that he stays true to himself in everything he does. If you think about it from this perspective, Yngwie displays unheard of levels of congruence and commitment to his own cause.
Do One Thing
…and do it well. Yngwie, as we all know, is the master of neo-classical shred guitar. In all honesty, there is no one that comes close. Yngwie does this one thing extremely well, he’s been doing it since the mid-80s and he’s still around–this is one of his greatest achievements and one that is barely ever mentioned. Guitar fads come and go, players too, but Yngwie is always there when in theory, he should have faded into obscurity a long time ago.
In much the same way as Allan Holdsworth with horn players, Yngwie’s influences are, for the most part, not other guitarists. He was heavily influenced by classical composers, in particular Paganini and Bach, believing classical music to be, ‘the peak of the development of music’. If your influences are largely other guitarists, you’re destined to repeat what’s already been done with only a slight variation. Taking classical music, on the other hand, and fusing it with the showmanship of 70s rock will put you on the map. Malmsteen himself remarks, ‘If guitar players just listen to other guitar players it’s almost impossible to avoid sounding like them’.
Another of Yngwie’s strengths is that he is completely uncompromising when it comes to his playing and what he wants to achieve. I’m sure he was disliked in the early bands he played in such as Alcatrazz and Steeler because of this uncompromising nature which would appear outwardly as intolerance, inflexibility or just plain arrogance. This, of course, is also reflected in his playing, and he’s even quoted as saying, “I’d rather have people dislike my style than change it,” he says. “If someone says, ‘Hey, Yngwie, you play too damn much’ –- I don’t care. They way I play is the way I like to play. If people like it – great. If they don’t, it’s still fine with me.
You May Not Approve but…
… Yngwie plays the blues on his latest album, and he always has done. The first time I saw him play blues was on his REH video back in the day. Again, Yngwie plays blues guitar as you would expect Yngwie to play blues guitar, nothing more, nothing less. You may cringe harder than ever but with one lick you know who it is–and is this not the hallmark of a master guitarist and one that has crafted his own sound to the point where it’s identifiable with a handful of notes?
So, don’t dismiss Yngwie Malmsteen as a Paganini wankfest, he’s just being himself, relentlessly and uncompromisingly by sticking to his guns and his goals no matter what.
Perhaps you should do the same?