Yngwie Malmsteen Reveals Main Secret Behind His Picking Technique

(image: Scott Legato)

During a recent fan Question&Answers session on his official YouTube live stream, Yngwie Malmsteen has chatted with his fans about his current life and talked about the secret behind his picking technique.

Yngwie Malmsteen is a Swedish musician who rose to fame during the 1980s for his neoclassical playing style in heavy metal. During his ongoing nearly 40-year career since 1978, Malmsteen released 22 studio albums, 4 live albums, 7 compilation albums, and many more things.

Debuted in 1984 with his Rising Force, Malmsteen‘s latest album was titled Parabellum and was released on July 23, 2021, via Music Theories Recordings/Mascot Label Group. He also guested some successful artists such as Alcatrazz, Steeler, Various, Derek Sherinian, MVP, and more.

However, after he mentioned Eddie Van Halen following a fan’s question, Yngwie Malmsteen was later asked about his picking technique and his current state of health. Firstly, he answered if he feels healthy these days. Saying that he feels well, Yngwie adviced people about drinking.

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“I’m very healthy, thank you very much,” he says. “And I hope everybody else is doing well as well.

“I think you should always be very grateful for what you have, and I think gratitude is a key to happiness, and if you’re happy, you’re usually healthy.

“It all goes together. You have to look after yourself, don’t drink and do stupid things. That’s a good start.

“But whatever makes you happy, happiness is the most important thing.”

Yngwie Malmsteen Comments On His Picking Technique

Later then, a fan asked him if his picking technique is natural or did he think about it a lot when learning and practicing for speed. Yngwie revealed the main secret behind his picking technique and said he never thought to do that. Saying that it was natural, Yngwie explained how it came to be.

“I never thought about it ever,” Yngwie admits. “And I remember vividly – what I heard in my head when I heard Paganini do an arpeggio and stuff like this.

“I heard something in my head that wasn’t from someone else, I just heard it and I wanted to play it. Whatever it took for me to get that sound, I adjusted my hands to that.

“I didn’t think about, ‘Oh, should I hold like this?’ Even alternate picking and everything like that was a natural thing.

“There was no internet, there was no books, no scales, there’s nothing that you could do, like nowadays, to get information.”

When the guitarist continued to his words, he recalled a moment that happened for the first-ever during his career. According to him, he looked down at his hands for the first time ever to show how he’s been picking when someone asked him how he’s picking.

“And it’s so funny because I remember like it was yesterday, I was in Japan in 1983, and they asked me, ‘Oh, how do you hold your pick?'” Yngwie continues. “For the first time, I’m looking down at my hand and I go, ‘Oh, like this.’

“I never thought about it. It’s just whatever is necessary to get the sound I heard in my head, that’s what I did. Same thing with everything else.

“So it’s good to have pointers, it’s good to have a given direction, it’s good. For instance, if you learn to play classical violin or classical instruments, it’s hundreds of years of technique that’s brought down.

“You don’t do it any other way, that’s one way. With the electric guitar playing, it is so new.

“You could say Hank Marvin, Clapton, Hendrix, and then Page and all these people in the ’60s, they never played the same, there was no set rule, and there were really no techniques per se.

“It’s evolving now basically. I just found my way of doing it. That doesn’t mean you’re gonna do that.”

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View Comments (2)

  • directional picking is the mother of invention . with yngwie i think there are things he does not. Disclose, in Relentless he even stated" i have an uncle who plays gypsy jazz guitar, but i don't want to talk about that"
    He did mention his older sister mentioned you could play the whole half diminished over the major scale and get 11 notes, at a very young age.
    I see shawn lane and Eric Johnson this way as well the start with an up or a down and hammer and snap pick , but alternate picking has a learning curve and i think it's worth investigating with MAB speed kills Paul Gilbert Vin Moore Ceasario Filho
    Then investigating directional picking of Eric Johnson or zakk Wylde.
    Trying Hannon number 1 for piano really helped me .
    It forces you to play in all positions so you end up changing to what works in certain positions .
    That is what Moore and MAB are getting across . do what works for the impetus of guitar .
    Another point is john McLaughlin played al ot of even numbers 4 note per string
    Yngwie does 4 notes then 2 notes picked to a pull off on the same string to get 3 notes descending
    That would be a digital pattern of 4 3 4 3 4
    The pick slant is downward
    Troy Grady did a good job of cracking the code on that one !