Zakk Wylde Speaks Up on What He Had to Do When Joining Ozzy’s Band, Reveals How He Managed to Sound Unique

While talking to Ultimate Guitar recently, Ozzy Osbourne, Black Label Society, and current Pantera guitar player Zakk Wylde discussed his new guitar course. Since the Berzerker Guitar Camp also includes a part about finding your own voice on the instrument, Zakk was asked how he found his unique voice on the instrument. He replied:

“I think everyone has it, you know? I mean, it’s just a matter of how everyone has their own personality. For me, when I first started playing with Ozzy, it was just like, ‘Well, what am I gonna do to make me sound like me?’ Because, I mean, here I am on the biggest stage in the world playing with Ozzy. After Saint Rhodes set that standard, and then you have Jake being in there, and then Brad Gillis and Bernie Tormé. And now I’m coming in there and it’s just like, ‘Now it’s your opportunity to be Ozzy’s right-hand guy.'”

Zakk Wylde Amazing Guitar Solo

“What I really did was — I made a grocery list, eliminating everything related to Yngwie’s playing. This is ’87, ’88 when the record came out. They were opening up classical guitar studies at Berkeley, just because of Yngwie.

“If you don’t want to get compared to Yngwie, what you should do is get rid of sweep picking, harmonic minor, and all the classical ones that Yngwie’s doing, otherwise, you’re gonna hear people comparing you to him. If you’re gonna have stripes on your guitar or polka dots on your guitar, don’t get mad when people go, ‘Oh, wow, what are you? An Eddie Van Halen? Are you into Randy Rhoads?’ Don’t do that, either.

“I just made a grocery list and I was crossing things off. I won’t do harmonic minor. I won’t do sweep picking. I’m not going to do any tapping. You don’t want to be compared to Eddie or Randy. You don’t do any tapping. I’m gonna get rid of the whammy bar so there’s no way for all the harmonics that Edd would always do, and Randy was doing them in like ‘Crazy Train,’ don’t do any of that. You don’t want to get compared to them. I was just making a grocery list of things not to do. You don’t want to be compared to these guys. All that was left at the end of it was pentatonic scales and chicken pickin’.

Zakk Wylde Overlord & Parade of the Dead Lesson

“And for me, it was fine. Because, I mean, I love John McLaughlin and Mahavishnu Orchestra, as well as Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush. And I love Alvin Lee. When I was working on a solo, I was like, ‘You only have four crayons. Let me see what you can come up with.’ In the beginning, that’s what I did. If you don’t want to be compared to these other things that are popular at the time, just avoid it altogether.

“For me, it was a process of elimination, more than adding things, you know? But it’s always great to learn as much as you can, just because it’s fun anyways. And just play what you love.”

Discussing the issue further, Zakk also explained how all of this has to do with his new guitar camp. He continued:

“And the great thing about the Berzerker Guitar Camp — I’ll always post up on social media of just whatever solos that I’m playing, but I don’t have enough time to sit and break them down, you know? My guitar teacher, Leroy Wright, when I was taking lessons from him — he was an amazing teacher in regard that he would teach me my favorite songs, from my favorite bands, whether it was Sabbath, Zeppelin, or a Bad Company song, AC/DC or anything like that. It was ‘Highway to Hell,’ he would show me the chord progression. And then he would go, ‘Yes, Zakk, that second chord, that’s a D chord.’ And I was like, ‘Wow!’ Just the inversion of the chord.

OZZY OSBOURNE "No More Tears" Zakk Wylde playthrough | RIFFHARD

“And I’ve used that in other songs now, just because you use the knowledge that you’ve learned. He would break it down so I would understand that. It was just like, ‘What chord is that?’ It’s like, ‘That’s actually a D chord. It’s just an inverted D chord. The F sharp that’s usually up high on the E string, it’s on the low E string.’ I’m like, ‘Ohhh,’ so now it’s all starting to make sense. Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of car parts for an engine just scattered all over the ground.

“And I’m like, ‘Where do I even start with this?’ You know what I mean? And it’s like, they all go together, and they all serve a purpose. For me, that was always the breakdowns of why and how things work, whether I was learning ‘Stairway to Heaven’ solo or whatever.

“Then you have all the other notes that are in that scale, diatonic. You have three notes of string, and then your pentatonic is your two notes a string. For any guitar player, the more you hear it, the more you go, ‘Oh, that’s an open E chord, I can hear it,’ because of the sustain on the guitar.

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“Or, for example, open strings that you hear on the high E and on the high B. When you’re a beginner, you can’t hear that. That’s just a matter of time and, obviously, tuning your guitar. That’s just a matter of repetition and doing it over and over.

“And now, at one point, you don’t need a tuner, you know what the strings are supposed to sound like. I had a blast. The guys did a great job with putting the thing together and us breaking it down so people can understand what it is you’re doing.”

Photos: Chicks With Guns Magazine (Cwg.blacklabelsociety.wiltern.nov2010.reed 035 (5221568239)), Alberto Cabello (Ozzy Osbourne Azkena Rock festival 2011)

  • 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, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.