If you’re not aware of what I’m doing with this list then I urge you to read this. Greatest guitarist of all time? I think not! Basically, Jimi Hendrix is frequently rated as the best guitarist to ever play. Pretty much everyone puts Hendrix at the top of their list of great guitarists.
They’re wrong. In fact, they couldn’t be all that much further from the truth. Jimi was a great artist, a wonderful showman, and not nearly the guitarist people make him out to be – speaking from a point of technical ability. He influenced many people and helped to change the history of rock, but he was not a great guitarist.
So, I’m compiling a list of guitarists better than he – and I’m sharing that list with you. It has been a fun ride, so far. I explain why the artists on my list are great and give you a reason to think critically about the claims made by absurd pundits at Rolling Stone Magazine. *spits*
It’s important to remember that, at this level, many of these guitarists could be swapped with other guitarist positions and the list still make sense. Frankly, they’re all very, very good.
Today’s artist may not be liked by all that many people, but people liking him is not a prerequisite for inclusion on this list. This list is for people who are masters of their instrument. Personally, I love his material but I don’t think anyone could argue that he should be excluded from this list.
Without further ado…
#8 Yngwie Malmsteen
I know, you don’t like his music. That’s because you have no taste. After all, you probably think Jimi belongs in the number one slot of this list. Of the list of things you’re wrong about, this may actually be near the top.
In short, Yngwie is a guitar god. Then again, so isn’t everybody else on this list. I searched the Wikipedia entry about Malmsteen and they say nothing about “pact with a demonic being.”
No, kids, Malmsteen did not pioneer the genre you know as “neoclassical metal.” That was probably done by a fella named Ritchie Blackmore from Deep Purple. It has been done by such greats as Randy Rhoads from Ozzy Osbourne and people like Tony MacAlpine that you’ve probably never even heard of. (No, don’t pretend you know who Tony is! You fool nobody!)
But, in the 1980s, Malmsteen popped onto the scene and changed it forever. His influence on neoclassical metal is, frankly, undeniable. So, who is this guy and where did he come from?
Yngwie (real name Lars Johan Yngve Lannerbäck) Malmsteen was born in 1963 in a country full of crazy people known as Sweden. Most people refer to Sweden as Volvoland and know them only for their bikini team. How they have such a wonderful bikini team in a country that averages ten minutes of sunlight per year is beyond me. However, they are pasty white due to the lack of sunlight and inability to go outside during the coldest 10 months of the year.
It turns out that this lack of sunlight is both good for creating swimsuit models, cars, and guitarists. If you’re stuck inside for 10 months out of the year, you might just as well learn to master the guitar. And Yngwie did exactly that.
Rolling Stone Magazine (the gibbering pack of morons) did not include Malmsteen on their list of the 100 best guitarists. Why not? Because you can only take so many blows to the head before you become a blithering idiot. My assumption is that they sit around all day hitting themselves in the head with a baseball bat. It’s pretty much the only plausible excuse for their idiocy.
Time Magazine has him in their top ten list – but I can’t actually tell where he is on the list as they don’t appear to have put it in any order. Guitar World asked a bunch of guitarists and he made their list.
But, enough about that. On to more details!
Malmsteen generally plays rather customized kit and, being Malmsteen, chances are you can buy a goodly part of those customizations. There’s a Malmsteen edition Fender Strat and it’s a delight to play. There’s a number of variations on it, but they have one thing in common – they have a scalloped fretboard.
There are also Malmsteen signature pedals, amps, and probably underwear. It’s a known truth that buying Malmsteen branded kit will result in your turning into an immediate guitar legend. Note: I don’t think he actually plays with most of the stuff with his name on it. The cab may look the same, but there are different speakers inside it. The guitar may look the same, but he’s probably changed the pickups.
Still, they have his name on them and they pretty much turn you into a guitar legend! That’s just the facts.
In reality, it takes some time to adjust, but a scalloped neck is very nice and makes transitioning easier and enables you to play a bit more rapidly as you need even less pressure and you needn’t be quite so precise with your fingering. When I cover Malmsteen, it’s almost certainly being done on one of his signature guitars with the scalloped fretboard.
I don’t think there’s a scale that Malmsteen doesn’t like. He’s known for playing fast but people who aren’t guitarists don’t actually seem to understand what he’s playing and how he’s putting it together. His grasp of music theory is fantastic and his ability to move fluidly between keys is amazing.
Again, it’s not a requirement that you like his music. This list isn’t about our favorite guitarists – it’s about artists who have mastered their instrument. There are some other elements, otherwise Malmsteen might actually have been first on the list.
Here, allow me to show you. Remember, we’ve discussed arpeggios before. This is Malmsteen doing “Arpeggios From Hell.”
Impressive, right? Nah, that’s not that impressive – it’s great, but it’s not even at the top of the chart for things Malmsteen can do.
Have a peek at this!
Still not convinced?
Is he a megalomaniac? Yes, but he deserves to be. Is he cocky? Absolutely. Is he an asshole? Quite probably. Those don’t matter for this list. You don’t have to like him, but to deny he’s a guitar deity would be silly. Don’t be silly – and don’t be wrong!
I’ve taken to leaving one for the road with you all. So, take this one with you for the drive home.
Now shut up and play us a song!
Until next time…