Yngwie Malmsteen Reveals Why He ’Didn’t Feel Good’ About Rock & Roll, Names One ’Trap’ Guitarists Easily Fall Into

Famous Swedish guitar virtuoso Yngwie Malmsteen reflected on how Eric Clapton’s work has inspired him while also explaining what he found to be a little limiting with classic rock ‘n’ roll.

It’s no secret that Malmsteen is one of the most influential guitar shredders on the scene. On top of that, he always pointed out how he was mostly inspired by classical musicians rather than the usual guitar heroes. Nonetheless, in a recent interview with Guitar World, Malmsteen did mention Clapton as one of his earliest influences, explaining:

“I guess my first electric guitar hero was Eric Clapton, though I didn’t actually know it at the time. My mother had the ‘John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers’ album, and I had no idea who was playing guitar. I just heard it and thought, ‘I really like this!'”

Yngwie Malmsteen - Live with Japanese Philharmonic Orchestra

“So without knowing why or who, I just became really fascinated by that sound,” he added. However, it wasn’t long until young Yngwie figured out that all they’re using is the pentatonic scale. And sure, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. After all, we have entire genres based on it.

Nonetheless, he wanted more. After all, Yngwie is well-known for his “more is more” approach to music. So, as it turned out, having five notes in an octave was just not enough for his palette.

“And very quickly, I realized that most rock ‘n’ roll consisted of five notes, and I didn’t really feel good about that,” he continued. “I wanted to do something different.”

After Clapton, some other names came into the equation, with Yngwie recalling:

“Then I discovered Genesis around the age of eight. It felt like a whole new universe of music – but I wasn’t influenced by the guitar players. I would say [founding keyboardist] Tony Banks was a bigger influence on me than anybody else in that band. No bullsh*t!”

And it’s this that supposedly got him more interested in classical music. He continued:

“He was writing all these chord inversions and passages that led me to Johann Sebastian Bach, Vivaldi, Beethoven and eventually Paganini. Classical music made me feel like the notes in rock ‘n’ roll were a little limited. So I started to insert my own classical influences into the sound of a rock ‘n’ roll ensemble.”

Eventually, Malmsteen would pioneer what we know today as the neo-classical movement in rock music. Although not the first one to combine hard rock with classical music, the Swedish virtuoso definitely pushed the boundaries the most, ultimately inspiring generations of guitar players of all genres.

Yngwie Malmsteen - Trilogy Suite Op: 5 Demo

Steve Vai was among the other people he mentioned during the same interview. It’s not really a surprise since the two collaborated more than once, one way or the other.

“Steve is a dear friend and completely unique in his own right,” Yngwie said. “That’s one of the most rare things about guitar players, actually – having a completely individual sound. Most guitarists sound kinda similar.”

And reflecting on that, Malmsteen also added how guitar players usually listen to guitar-oriented music, which can kind of be counterproductive in the longer run. He added:

“Again, I don’t want to come across as I’m saying anything bad, but it seems to me that most guitar players listen to other guitar players, who in turn were also listening to guitar players when they were learning. That can become a little bit of a trap that people fall into.”

Yngwie Malmsteen - Bach's Paraphrase HD

But there’s a good reason for that. As Malmsteen explained:

“I think I know why, too. The guitar is so fuckin’ cool, man! It’s just the coolest thing. You can’t be cooler than when you’re playing a guitar, can you? Nobody wants to listen to a fuckin’ tuba.”

Well, he does make a point. But this is just the incredibly cool nature of the instrument. After all, the electric guitar has some awesome expressive qualities that other instruments just don’t.

Yngwie Malmsteen - Arpeggios from Hell

“There’s no doubt about that allure and it will never go away,” he added. What’s more, he also explained how one of the greatest violinists in history was also fascinated by the guitar:

“Did you know Niccolò Paganini used to pick up his guitar for romantic conquests? He literally used his guitar to pick up chicks… That’s no bullsh*t, man!”

Photos: Alterna2 (Yngwie Malmsteen 5)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.