Some have called Yngwie Malmsteen a creative hybrid of Ritchie Blackmore, Niccolo Paganini, and Eddie Van Halen all-in-one. Malmsteen became part of the growing shred-rock movement during the early 80s. Instead of contributing to what people like Van Halen were putting out, Malmsteen used a different picking method and vocal vibrato, creating a neoclassical sound at remarkable speeds. This is why Malmsteen is heralded as the founder of the “new metal-classical” genre. His prior work with Alcatrazz and Steeler (not to mention his debut album, “Rising Force,” released in 1984) revealed his talent for playing the Strat. Malmsteen used a modified Fender Stratocaster from 1972 – the first one he ever received – as a teenager growing up in Sweden.
When he was seven years old, Malmsteen saw a documentary about Jimi Hendrix’s death. It showed footage of the musician burning his guitar. Malmsteen couldn’t determine the type of guitar Hendrix was smashing, but he wanted it. When he turned eight years old, Malmsteen received a gift from his sister – the “Fireball” album by Deep Purple. He learned that a Stratocaster was played by Ritchie Blackmore, the same one Hendrix had destroyed. Guitars made in America were scarce and quite costly during the 70s in Stockholm, where he lived. Nonetheless, a ‘72 Stratocaster eventually found its way into Malmsteen’s hands, and he felt a connection with it from the get-go.
The infamous “scalloped” divots you might’ve seen pictures of on the guitar's fingerboard was created by Malmsteen himself. He was influenced by the construction of a lute he saw while working as a repair store apprentice. Malmsteen tried this technique on some of the cheaper guitars he owned, and once he took a liking to the sound, he brought it to his beloved Stratocaster. Others had performed on scalloped fingerboards before, including Blackmore, who was using that very technique for a while. Malmsteen’s instrument technician had a hand in creating the musician’s shredding style. Malmsteen currently has a vast array of guitars - including a lot of pre-CBS ‘50s and early ‘60s Gibsons and Strats – but the Stratocasters produced between the years ‘68 and ‘72 were his preference. He felt that the larger headstock had an improved sustain. In contrast to his peers in the early 80s, Malmsteen wanted nothing to do with Floyd Rose Tremolo systems (because of the tone they produced). His vibrato units were always retained. Besides the jumbo frets and scallops, Malmsteen’s 1972 Stratocaster (and the signature models it influenced) are mostly stock. Modern models each have a Di Marzio HS-3 bridge position pickup and a brass nut (to be used in conjunction with standard pickups on the middle and neck positions). However, these instruments didn’t contain the high-grain trappings that accommodates shredders like Malmsteen. However, when these single coils are rammed up through 20 Marshall JMP 50s, the desired outcome can be achieved.
Next player: Hank Marvin