The secret Malmsteen rule

Scroll down to see tablature

If it doesn't feel great, get rid of it!

The second principle that Yngwies brain seems to work by is the concept of “The path of least resistance” Choosing the easiest way around anything sounds like a no-brainer but in this case it isn't. This principle can make or break your success in shredding and when I started applying it to everything I did, I made so much progress in so little time, I couldn't believe it.

When I first began to study Malmsteen, I noticed that every technique he used and every lick he played was governed by this simple rule: If it feels great to play stick with it, if it doesn’t; get rid of it. This was quite a revelation to me. But at the time, I had created several rules that didn’t correspond too well with “the path of least resistance” Here are some of them:

1. Playing licks and sequences on only one string is too easy
2. The harder it is to play the cooler it sounds
3. Short cuts are for wussies
4. Economy picking is cheating

3's and 6's combined

This is a variation of the lick from my last article. The original lick was based on a four note pattern. In this example I'm mixing that with a six note pattern. I use alternate picking for this one, but you can use economy picking here also! Play around with this and see if you can come up with more variations yourself.

The Malmsteen rules

Rules like this will ensure that you have very little fun shredding. Because everything becomes a matter of technique rather than a matter of music and fun. It is paradoxical though, that the guy who’s known for long haired speed guitar can teach us so much about focusing on the music instead of technique and skills. My rules wheren’t very effective but Yngwies rules produced one of the most admired playing styles of our time. His rules might look something like this:

1. Always choose the easy way over the harder
2. If it’s possible to play the lick without shifting strings, then do it!
3. Intelligent short cuts are for intelligent people
4. If it isn’t easy you wont use it anyway
5. So discard anything that doesn’t become easy

What your fingers love to play

When you master Yngwies favorite licks and sequences you realize that all of them feel extremely cool to play. It’s like your fingers want to play them. When I discovered this I started discarding licks and sequences that didn’t feel good after some time. Today I still do that, all though I sometimes stretch myself to play licks that are quite uncomfortable. But as a main rule, I don’t want to spend too much time practicing something that I know I wont use in a live situation anyway! And boy have I practiced a lot of licks that never saw the light of day because they just wasn’t any fun to play in the end.

Scroll down to see tablature

Every lick should be your favorite

Here’s how to use this in your own development: When ever you start practicing a new lick, be very alert to how it feels to play it. Of course, every fast lick feels uncomfortable to play in the beginning but how does it feel as you progress and become better? Can you see yourself playing it in the future with ease and enjoyment? Or is that not going to happen? The more you focus on this when you take up new things, the better you become at discovering “bad licks” faster. You don't want to spend weeks practicing something that you'll never actually use.

Look at some of the things you are playing now. Are there any licks, runs or sequences that you need to get rid of because they don't feel very good to play? And are there licks that you really, really dig that you could expand upon and get more out of?

Easy for you doesn’t mean easy for everyone

What do you instantly play when you pick up the guitar? Every lick you learn should eventually end up feeling like those favorite licks. At least 75 % percent of the licks on this web page I never actually use in live situations. Why? Because they don’t “come to me” when I improvise. My hands just doesn’t go there because they don’t feel that good to play.

But the Yngwie licks I have to consciously avoid playing (in order not to sound completely like him) because they feel so good. But a lick that doesn’t feel right to me, might be the lick that you love and vice versa. Most of what Paul Gilbert plays would be impossible for Yngwie to play and the other way around. So you can’t tell in advance what your fingers might like, so be open to anything and be attentive as you practice.

One string Neo-classical sequence

This is one of Yngwie's favorites and a really useful lick.

One string Neo-classical sequence Variation

Here's a variation on that same lick. Your fingers will be doing the same job, only the fretting hand moves in a different way.

Focus on usability over impressiveness

Another very important thing to focus on is whether or not the lick is really useful: Can you easily integrate it with other licks and sequences or is it very hard to use in a context. Again, everything Yngwie does is very easy to mix up with every other thing he plays. Many advanced tapping techniques sometimes requires too much concentration and precision to be useful when you improvise.

The same thing goes for crazy string skipping licks and insane stretches of the fretting hand. I’m not saying you shouldn’t practice those also. But what we are focusing on here is how to achieve that fluent easy looking Malmsteen playing style.

The most powerful mindset

A very good example of usability over impressiveness is economy picking. While alternate picking has some very cool sounding benefits, economy picking is much easier and requires a lot less focus and concentration. And it also has some very cool sounding benefits although different from those of alternate picking. Most people want to learn alternate picking over economy picking and for most people it’s not about sound, it’s about how hard it is to do.

Alternate picking is are more desirable technique for most people because it’s harder to perform
. Learn it by all means! But know that you have to get rid of the mindset of “harder is better than easy” if you want to shred like the great swede.

Scroll down to see tablature

Build a foundation of effortlessness

It’s important to build a basic vocabulary of sequences and runs that are effortless for you to play. A place that you can return to when ever you have been wandering out into the unknown. Choose wisely when you build this vocabulary because this is what you are going to use the most in the future. And remember, if it isn’t easy, you wont use it on stage anyway. Your foundation of runs and licks, though impressive, should be something you can play while talking to a friend. Then you can always move into the more uncomfortable realm of four finger tapping and insane stretching when ever you feel like leaving that secure foundation.

99 % of Yngwies playing comes from his basic vocabulary and 99 % of what he plays is easy and almost completely effortless for him to play. Choosing the path of least resistance is one of the keys to his secret super power. Use it!

One string Up and Down variation

In this example I combine the two one string licks. Notice what happens when you shift from one sequence to the other on the same three notes: A new sequence is created. If you can't hear that don't worry, I'll play around with that in a later video.