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Performance Notes: THE DWPS Pack

I Can't Play Fast!

It's an age-old lament. But what does it even mean? In the

technique-obsessed '80s, where every empty garage housed a drum
kit and every basement a Marshall stack, "You're fast!" was the
ultimate compliment. And in its vagueness it perfectly embodied our
unscientific thinking on the topic. It had nothing to do with picking
technique, per se. Eddie's tremolo? Fast. Eddie's tapping? Fast.
Billy Joel's double-fisted middle C hammering in "The Angry Young
Man"? Fast.

The source of the speed, and thus the impressiveness, was as

irrelevant to us as the inside of an Atari cartridge. I remember one of
my uncle's friends playing me a track of some kind of virtuosic
bluegrass duo, and when the picking ratcheted up in the solo section,
he excitedly proclaimed, "And that's acoustic -- so that's really fast!" It
was as if picking technique on acoustic guitars was somehow
measured in dog years. The funnier part was that I remember being
in total agreement: of course acoustic guitar was hard. It was
definitely harder than electric guitar. Everybody knew that. And that's
why only hard-core music school purists like Al Di Meola, or mystical
jazz savants like John McLaughlin, even attempted it.

Of course this made no sense. What we were both confusing is the

fact that legato techniques, and thus slippery fretting-hand lines in the
Van Halen and Vai mold, are less likely without the insane
compression of a tube amp cranked up to 11. But the connection to
picking technique was completely illogical. The geometry of picks and
strings was essentially identical between the two instruments. And so
were the mechanics.

But this kind of logical lapse was commonplace back in the day.
Nobody thought about the why. And the background radiation of this
type of confused thinking still lingers, and informs much of our current
attitudes toward technical development.

What is Fast?

In order to solve the puzzle of picking technique, we need to define

what it is in the first place. Ironically, it turns out that raw speed isn't
the biggest obstacle. If the internet has accomplished nothing else for
guitarists, it has outined more completely than ever before the
contours of the global guitar community. There are tons of great
players out there.

Sure, a Van Halen-esque figure who simultaneously defines the

musical, sonic, pedagogical, and fashion zeitgeists is still a
generational occurrence. But in terms of simply executing the
techniques, it's obvious to even casual observers that there are many
players who can now do this. This was clear back in the day, when
the sounds of Eruption tapping emerged from bedroom windows
across the world seemingly overnight. But thirty years later, the vast
and growing litany of viral video "Flight of the Bumblebee" attempts
demonstrates that raw hand speed itself was probably never in short

Instead, the real problem is accuracy. To produce intelligible sound,

the pick must strike the string at the instant the fretting finger locks the
string to the fret. This synchronization must continue even as the
melodic flow moves from one string to another. If this synchronization
falls below a certain fairly high tolerance threshhold, notes cease to be
musically recognizable. At that point, even virtuosic levels of hand
speed simply devolve into two simultaneous but unrelated
movements, and not really guitar playing at all.

The Six Components of Picking Technique

And when we look at what is required mechanically to maintain this
tight synchronization, we quickly uncover an entire system of
mechanical challenges, each of which solves a different facet of the

1. The Motion Mechanic

To play notes with a pick, we need a way of moving it back and forth in
the classic alternating down-up sequence. Historically, this
movement, or motion mechanic, has been the most visible and thus
overtly discussed element of picking technique. Their sheer variety
has been a source of fascination and bewilderment. While rotational
forearm techniques are probably the most common, elbow and even
finger-based motion mechanics are also possible. Yngwie
Malmsteen, to take a highly relevant example for Cracking the Code,
uses all three. In this lesson we'll examine Yngwie's rotational motion
mechanic, as it is a highly capable all-rounder, and also a great
introduction to rotational techniques used in other styles like gypsy

2. String Tracking

If all you could do were move the pick back and forth, you'd never be
able to play on more than one string. Moving from string to string is
entirely separate mechanical problem, and this becomes increasingly
clear as the distances get larger. For example, if you imagine a line
that moves from the first string to the fourth string, skipping over the
others, this is a distance that the picking motion mechanic is simply
not big enough to traverse.

Instead, string tracking typically requires relocating the motion itself

from one string to another. Sometimes this involves tracking the entire
forearm across the bridge like a phonograph arm. You can see this
type of string tracking clearly in the sweeping technique of Michael
Angelo Batio, where the upper arm and forearm work together in a
sawing motion to push the hand in a straight line across the strings.
Alternatively, Paul Gilbert's string tracking technique relies more on a
clock face-style sweeping of the wrist to refocus the picking action. In
his case, the pick traces a curved path across the strings thanks to the
relatively small radius of the wrist's sweep.

Whichever system you use, the point here is that string tracking is
always happening. I often refer to "string tracking" colloquially as the
phonograph style movement of the upper arm and forearm, because
it's the most visually distinct from the picking motion itself. In the
phonograph solution, it's obvious that tracking and picking are two
completely separate activities. However in the Gilbert scenario, this is
no less true -- it's simply a different type of movement that's
performing the tracking.

3. Anchoring

Anchoring is the tendency to brace the picking arm or hand against

the guitar as a point of tactile reference. The most common form of
this, at least in electric guitar playing, is to rest the right hand palm on
the bridge saddles. In addition to providing a reference point for
focusing the motion mechanic on the correct string, it also allows for
modulating the amount of hand-to-string contact via palm muting -- a
nearly essential noise reduction and tonal control technique for high-
gain amplifiers.

By contrast, many acoustic players use a forearm anchoring strategy,

where the forearm contacts the body of the guitar closer to the elbow.
This is frequently complemented by a finger brace on the pickguard to
form a kind of bridge over the strings. This makes muting more
difficult, but this is less of a concern for acoustic players, where
unamplified string noise is less audible.

The choice of anchoring strategy has important implications for string

tracking. For example, a hard bridge anchor, that contacts firmly at
one point and never moves, will interfere with the phonograph arm
style of string tracking. Instead, players that do this tend to rely more
on clock face string tracking. By contrast, an anchor that moves will
more effectively permit transporting the entire picking movement from
one string to another unchanged, with the phonograph technique.

In most cases, a blend of both tends to occur. Even players who

anchor firmly to the bridge will tend to move this anchor somewhat,
using the phonograph arm technique, as they play across the strings.
If the phonograph movement is less than the actual distance from the
top string to the bottom string, then clock face movement makes up
the difference.

4. Edge Picking

Edge picking is a technique that we discuss frequently in the show,

and it's a critical component of both mechanics and tone. By striking
the string with the edge of the pick, rather than the flat face, the pick's
wedge shape allows it to slide more easily over the string.
Secondarily, introducing more edge picking attack creates a softer
tone, as some amount of scraping noise replaces the fundamental
tone of the string. As such, edge picking is the principal tonal control
method in picking technique.

Although edge picking is often considered a speed technique used

mainly in rock and metal, it's critical to understand that edge picking is
almost always used, across all musical styles, even by players who
don't realize they're doing it. It simply very difficult to pick a note on a
string with zero degrees of edge picking. In fact, it is sometimes pretty
difficult to determine by feel alone, without actually looking, how much
edge picking you're really using.

It's also important to understand the interplay between string tracking

and edge picking. Clock face-style string tracking will alter the edge
picking angle as the wrist sweeps its arc across the strings.
Experienced players modulate this effect, typically by using the fingers
to compensate for the string tracking and maintain a constant edge
picking angle. By contrast, in phononograph style tracking, the hand's
relationship to the string is identical across all the strings, and thus no
compensation needs to occur. Neither of these approaches is better
or worse, and indeed, many great players use some form of relatively
static anchoring which then requires (consciously or otherwise) edge
picking compensation with the fingers. This system of relationships is
complicated, and the fact that experienced players modulate it almost
entirely by feel and sound is fascinating.

5. String Switching

By far the most sophisticated and mysterious of all the components of

picking technique is string switching mechanic. The challenge of
transferring a moving pick from one string to another with perfect
accuracy is so sophisticated, that this component alone has more
influence than any of the others in determing the types of lines a
player will and will not be able to play cleanly. In fact, the solutions for
this are so idiosyncratic, that we can design an entire family tree of
guitar players based on the string switching strategies they employ.

Of course the first string-switching technique we've seen in Season 2

is downward pickslanting, which permits clean string switching using
upstrokes and even numbers of notes per strings. It's fascinating that
such a seemingly arbitrary and restrictive set of rules is as prevalent
as it is. Downward pickslanting -- or dwps, to coin the acronym used
in this pack's title -- is probably the most widespread and powerful of
all the string-switching mechanics, having been used by players as
diverse as Django Reinhardt and Tal Farlow, to rock gods like Eddie
Van Halen and Steve Vai, and of course shred pioneers like Yngwie.

In fact, what's even more fascinating about dwps is that it exists at all.
The guitar was almost certainly not designed with pickslanting in mind,
and the fact that it works so well has to be one of the luckiest
coincidences in the history of musical instrument design. That we can
go even further, as we've seen in the Antigravity seminar, and use
both upward and downard pickslanting together in sophisticated
rotational sequences, is even more remarkable. And the fact that elite
players have been doing this for decades, or perhaps even centuries,
with only varying degrees of conscious awareness of the
sophistication of the movements they were using, is truly mind

6. Synchronization

The sixth component of picking technique isn't even a physical

technique at all, but a conceptual one: hand synchonization.
Compared to percussion instruments like piano (yes, percussion!),
stringed instruments are unique in that they require two hands to
produce one note. As a result, it's the tight synchonization of the
those two activities -- fretting and picking -- that produces the clear
articulation of discrete, intelligible pitches.

And as probably every new musician has experienced, understanding

what those pitches are, even when they're played perfectly cleanly,
can be a challenge. The 1.3 seconds of sampling available on the
Casio SK-1 keyboard was almost a science fiction level of slow motion
power for deciphering the impossibly space-age lines on Eddie's and
Yngwie's recordings. And it really highlights just how much of guitar
playing is impenetrable to outsiders without years of hands-on
fretboard experience.

So one of the first challenges we face as players is understanding how

on earth the two hands are kept locked together at speeds when we
as players almost can't even hear the individual notes any more. For
a long time, I thought the solution was somehow learning to discern
those notes. But how do you learn to hear at supersonic speed? The
answer, as we now know from the show, was surprising: you don't.
By chopping phrases into smaller chunks that are easy to memorize,
you can simply ignore most of the high-speed blur, and instead focus
on the intial note of each chunk as a type of landmark. The key is
identifying exactly which fretting finger and type of pickstroke are used
for the landmark note, and making sure you hit them both at exactly
the right time. If the chunk is small enough -- seven notes or less,
typically -- the rest of the notes in it will tend to stay synchronized even
without paying overt attention to them.

And that's the key. Alternate picking may seem like an uniterrupted
stream of upstrokes and downstrokes, and in absolute terms that's
true. But in conceptual terms, the key to maintaining synchronization
is providing structure to that stream, so that there are specific,
repeating opportunities to maintain synchonization as the stream flies
by. And the best way to do this, as we've outlined, is chunking.

The Yngwie Motion Mechanic

So that's the theory. How do you get started? Well, to begin with,
you're going to need a way of holding the pick and performing the
back and forth motion of alternate picking. And if you haven't already
settled on a motion mechanic for doing this, or you'd like to
experiment with a new one, the method we discuss in the pack is
Yngwie's legendary rotational forearm motion mechanic.

Yngwie's rotational mechanic is natural, it's easy to do, and it's fast
and effective. And most importantly, because it flows from the hand
position required for downward pickslanting, it's an ideal companion to
his entire system of one-way pickslanting, even numbered note
groupings, and sweeping.

Getting Down With The Slant

From its anchor position, resting on the bridge, simply rotate the hand
downward so that the pick assumes the classic downward slant. This
hand position should feel completely natural, similar to what happens
when you hook your thumb into your belt loop. There should be no
tension anywhere in the hand or arm because no real effort is required
to make this happen. You're simply resting the hand against the body
of the guitar and allowing gravity to do its work.

This is the classic downward pickslanting hand position that is key not
just to Yngwie's style, but also the styles of Randy Rhoads, Eric
Johnson, and so many other rock legends. It's also part of the same
family tree of anchoring and motion mechanic strategies used in gypsy
jazz, one of the few formally standardized and fascinating systems for
motion mechanics and string switching mechanics that exist anywhere
in guitar music.

You'll know you're doing it correctly when pickstrokes are no longer

parallel to the strings, but angled with respect to them. Downstrokes
now bury themselves between the strings -- or hit the guitar's body.
Upstrokes pull away from the guitar's body, and break free of the
strings. This classic "escaped" upstroke is the key to switching strings
in the downward pickslanting system, and the reason that nearly all of
Yngwie's purely alternate picked phases are designed to switch
strings exclusively after upstrokes.

Making it Rotate

A powerful side effect of Yngwie's default hand position is what it does

to the picking movement itself. Because of the way the hand rolls
away from the body on upstrokes, the path it now traces in doing so is
curved. This movement, known as forearm supination, is actually a
type of rotation: the appropriately named radius is actually rotating
around the other forearm bone, the ulna, which remains static.

For the most part, the muscles involved in doing this are forearm
muscles. They're small, they're fast, and they don't tire easily. This is
where the speed in this technique comes from. But you'll notice that
you can still hit the strings pretty hard this way if you want to. And
that's because part of the power in this technique comes from above:
the biceps.

Famously a component of Arnold Schwarzenegger's award-winning

bat-winged profile, the larger and more powerful biceps are located in
the upper arm, but actually attach directly to the radius. This means
they can also function as forearm supinators when the elbow is bent.
And if you happen to feel any tension on the back of your arm when
you do this, you're not crazy. The triceps are also called into play, in a
supporting role, to keep the biceps from flexing the elbow while they
supinate. It's an incredible system, and the way it works in
conjunction with the design of the guitar is, again, an amazing
coincidence of instrument design, anatomy, and physics.

When these supination movements are small, it may not be

completely obvious to you that the system is rotational. And that's
fine. In fact, the best way to execute the movement is not to think
about rotation at all. The rotation is simply the natural consequence of
the hand position needed for downward pickslanting. And once you
assume that hand position, everything else should fall into place.

Establishing A Standard

Now, if the motion mechanic you already have is working for you, I'm
not suggesting you run out and change it. The real value in
understanding Yngwie's system is that it's highly specific, and highly
learnable if you want to try it. For too long, guitarists have been told
they need to play the way "that's right for them". This seemingly
innocuous piece of advice has sent generations of players on a
needless quest for technical unicorns.

I can tell you personally that as a beginning player, I never felt

completely comfortable with any particular motion mechanic. And the
incessant and oversimplified "wrist versus elbow" wars of the '80s did
little to clarify matters. There was no way to know which system was
worth the practice time, especially since it would take months or
maybe even years of effort to know if you made the right choice. And
that's assuming you were even doing it right to begin with.

As a result, I wavered semi-consciously between wrist (whatever that

even meant to me) and elbow techniques from one practice session to
another. And this went on for years, up until the Pop Tarts
breakthrough, and probably even a bit beyond. It wasn't until many
years into my playing career that I settled, through a protracted
process of trial and error, on the rotational system I now use. Had I
instead been presented early on with a simple and formulaic system
for motion mechanics that was sure to work, I would have gladly have
given it a shot.

There is nothing about the Yngwie system that would prevent most
people from learning it, regardless of their prior playing habits. More
generally, it's staggering to think that we've come this far in guitar
pedagogical history with no standardized system of motion
mechanics. Or at least a standardized menu of choices, with explicit
instructions for making each of them work.

We only have to look at the gypsy jazz style and culture for an
example of the benefits of establishing such a menu. The gypsy jazz
motion mechanics are also based on supination, but with a bridged
anchor typical of acoustic guitarists. This mechanical standard has
resulted in generations of players with nearly identical, and almost
uniformly impressive abilities. When you remove the uncertainty from
the equation, and allow dedicated players to focus their energies on
proven systems with expected results, amazing things can happen.
This is entire point of Cracking the Code.

Single-String Chunking
Now that you've built your hot rod engine, it's time to get it running.
And much like a dragstrip is the best place to test straight-line speed,
the simplest way to iron out the interplay of motion mechanic and
synchronization mechanics is on a single string.

Yngwie's vocabulary of single-string creations is one of his most

fascinating contributions to virtuoso guitar. It would have been one
thing to hatch such a clever idea, and to implement it as a special
effect once or twice. But the sheer multiplicity of his single string
ideas, and the seamless way he integrated them into his greater
vocabulary of multi-string and swept innovations is really pretty

The most fundamental of all of Yngwie's single-string patterns, and the

very atom, if you will, of many of the larger structures he then went on
to create, is the venerable six-note pattern:

six note pattern.mov

We've already seen this pattern in Season 1, and also in Season 2

Episode 1, where its chunking suitability was the subject of the "brain
machine" scene. This simple repeating chunk bears all the design
attributes of masterful engineering: an even number of notes, starting
on a downstroke, and ending on an upstroke. Even its six-note length
seems optimized for efficient chunking. Any shorter and the chunking
interval quickly becomes more challengingly rapid. Any longer and the
pattern risks being too long to effectively chunk before the hands drift

In addition, the pattern's strong sixteenth-note triplet feel makes it

even easier to anticipate when the chunking landmark note will arrive.
Yngwie often plays free-time, but that's simply an example of how
effectively the pattern can be reproduced once it's effectively chunked.
But as a beginner, associating the pattern with a strong rhythmic pulse
like a metronome, a drum beat, or simply a tapping foot, will provide a
very visceral indication of when the next landmark note will arrive. By
simply focusing on the fretting finger that needs to hit that landmark,
and the downstroke required to play it, you've provided a new
opportunity every six notes to make sure the pattern is perfectly

Note that chunking landmarks are conceptual, not physical. While it

may be helpful in the early stages to hit landmark notes with more
force, this can quickly become a habit that's hard to break, and not
always what you're looking for artistically. Ultimately, the goal is
mechanical transparency. The choice to impart a particular dynamic
sensibility to your lead lines should be determined by the musical
context, and not the behind-the-scenes chunking system you're using.

Yngwie plays a number of musically interesting variations on the six-

string pattern. By shifting one position to the left, we find a fretboard
location that Yngwie often uses to begin phrygian phrases, as we'll
soon see:

six note pattern phrygian.mov

And by extending the stock six-note pattern with longer fretboard

stretches, Yngwie creates a classic arpeggiated figure which you can
hear both on the REH instructional tape, and throughout his recorded

six note pattern variation.mov

Because of the longer stretch, this pattern is athletically challenging to

do, particularly if you're not used to using the fourth finger in highly
structured phrases like this. Staying close to the fretboard will help
that finger strike the high note of the arpeggio without missing,
particularly at elevated tempos.

We can also take this idea of a kind of moving melody note, and
incorporate it with the phrygian position pattern. And because the
stretch is smaller, it's a little easier to do, though no less flavorful:
six note pattern phrygian variation.mov

This is a fantastic example of Yngwie's phrygian stylings, and you can

hear a similar example around the 3:13 mark in the song Little
Savage, a tour de force of said phrygian stylings. It's based on a
melodic sequence of half step, whole step half step, that's distinctly
phrygian in nature, and also one of the fundamental structures of the
diminished scale. It's not common in mainstream rock soloing, and is
a great way to add "outside" flavor that still fits over common dominant
seventh chord progressions, especially in sparse arrangements with
greater freedom for lead line excursions.

Multi-position Chunking

Once you've developed a sense of synchronization in one position,

you can begin to take the show on the road. Simply shifting positions
on a single string is a fantastic way to develop a sense of flow to your
lead lines without dramatically increasing their difficulty:

six note pattern positions.mov

This type of position-shifting creativity is so central to Yngwie's

melodic sensibility, that what could have seemed like a gimmick
becomes an indispensable part of his fretboard map. Moreover, these
types of lines are integrated so seamlessly in to his multi-position
playing that as a kid it wouldn't even be correct to say that I had
absolutely no idea where the positional playing ended and the shifting
began. Instead, I had no idea how any of it was being done in the first
place. It was just a seamless flow of ideas with no perceptible sonic
connections between them.

We can very easily extend this concept to the phrygian flavor of the
lick as well:
six note pattern phrygian positions.mov

Although the picking challenges involved in playing these licks are

technically no different than for their single-position counterparts, in
practice, the fingering changes are new, and can temporarily disrupt
the process of learning the entire lick. So don't be surprised if it takes
a little extra time to "re-learn" picking hand synchronization for each of
these very similar fretboard shapes. Contrary to popular belief, we
don't memorize the hands separately. Instead, we learn by
memorizing the feel of everything that's happening in a given instant.
And since both hands contribute to that feel, any change in one of the
hands can trigger a little extra learning in the overall process -- though
of course not as much as was required when learning the picking
structures in the first place.

The Power of the Pickslant: Switching Strings

It's really amazing how much power, and by extension, how much
music can be made on a single string of the guitar. And thanks to
downward pickslanting, that same power can now be transported
almost effortlessly across all the strings:

six note pattern descending.mov

If you've been practicing these shapes with the downward pickslant

installed, and especially if you've been leveraging Yngwie's
pickslanting-based rotational mechanic to do so, then you've already
developed a superpower waiting to be unleashed: string switching.

By engineering his patterns to terminate on upstrokes, Yngwie

unleashes the full power of his pickslanting system as soon as he
begins to move across the strings. The ease with which this pattern
flows across the strings, in both directions, is really astonishing. If
you've never felt the fluidity of perfectly clean string changes at a
reasonable rate of speed, you're in a for a Pop Tarts moment. It's
crazy that the ability to do this on a guitar is considered some kind of
superpower, when on other instruments it's the bare minimum you'd
expect from any player.

Translating this pattern to the phrygian fingering generates a classic

Yngwie trademark lick:

six note pattern phrygian descending.mov

The phrygian version of the pattern actually moves through strings

and positions simultaneously, as each pattern is precisely one octave
lower than the previous. This makes it an ideal system for connecting
remote parts of the fretboard, particularly if you've developed a
vocabulary of other phrases that you can access in the positions
where the lick both starts and ends.

Harmonically, the tritone that is outlined by the first note on each new
string strongly telegraphs its phygian dominant character as it
descends. It's such a flavorful lick, and considering the overwhelming
preponderance of generic blues solos typically played in rock music,
it's really striking how many possibilities for creative expression are
suddenly are opened up by Yngwie's pickslanting approach.

Like everything in Yngwie's one-way pickslanting world, both patterns

work ascending as well:

six note pattern ascending.mov

six note pattern phrygian ascending.mov

Astute observers will note that both of these patterns are now entirely
dependent on "inside picking" string changes. You'll also note that this
is essentially irrelevant to the challenge of playing them. The only
requirement for clean string switching in a downward pickslanting
system like Yngwie's is that each string terminate on an upstroke. The
pick escapes the strings the same way it does in the descending
version of the pattern, and the mechanical efficiency is identical in
both cases.

If anything, the challenge of playing these patterns in reverse are likely

to stem from the unfamiliarity of string tracking in the opposite
direction, or from the unfamiliarity of the fretting hand stepping across
the strings in the opposite direction. Any such difficulty derives mainly
from practice habit, and not usually from any intrinsic difficulty of one
direction versus the other.

Multi-string Connections

When you're ready to experience the thrill of playing the whole guitar,
you can thank Yngwie for busting you out of your box-position jail cell:

six-note pattern - connected.mov

six-note pattern phrygian - connected.mov

Amazing right? With no extra effort other than the foundational skills
employed in mastering each of its components, the full brawn of
Yngwie's string-switching power instantly connects distant parts of the
fretboard into a sprawling monster lick that exploits almost the entire
range of the instrument.

Mastering the connections so that they flow perfectly seamlessly still

requires finesse. And doing this at speed requires a motion mechanic
that's loose and efficient enough to play 60+ consecutive notes, while
tracking across all six strings, without seizing up and losing its
rotational flexibility.

The good news is that there are no substantial differences between

doing this at 60% speed and 90% speed. Once you surpass the
stringhopping threshhold, where pickslanting must be used in order to
move efficiently across the strings, you've entered the domain of your
high-speed form, but with the benefits of practicing at relatively
moderate tempos where you can certify that you're doing it right. You
need not make any overt effort to get "faster" until the patterns and
string changes themselves become completely second nature and
perfectly loose at these moderate tempos.

To put this another way, the big difference between practice in the
pickslanting era, and practice in decades past, is that you are now
rehearsing absolute correctness with every single repetition. The
effect of this is dramatic. A hundred absolutely perfect repetitions at a
moderate speed is worth months or years of fumbling around in the
dark for mechanics that never seem to materialize. The paranoia that
we need to constantly be practicing at our absolute fastest possible
speeds derives principally from the lack of results that incorrect
practice produces.

This is especially true for experienced players who have already

developed good hand speed. There is no need to re-develop that
hand speed. You're just learning to memorize what it feels like to do
something with perfect accuracy. And you can't memorize that feeling
if it's flying by too quickly to recognize. Once it's burned in, you'll have
no problem utilizing it with whatever level of warp drive you've built
over the years.

Advanced Examples

Where do you go from here? Well, more pickslanting of

course! Yngwie's vocabulary includes so many examples of
interesting and musically useful things to practice, that it
seems almost wasteful to return to exercises like this:

chrom 4nps exercise.mov

Sure, if you're a jazz player, there's probably some utility in this type of
figure. But then again, you'd probably not play something like this
classic chestnut of a practice exercise across all six strings. And if
you've already built that level of harmonic awareness, you can
probably compose something with similiar mechanics that's infinitely
more interesting anyway.

Among Yngwie's compositions, there are some really amazing

examples of four-note-per-string lead playing that would make for
great practice vehicles:

trilogy 3oct.mov

This is another ingenious three-octave phrygian pattern which began

life as a lick in Yngwie's repertoire -- check out the 3:30 mark, once
again, in Little Savage. A few albums later it resurfaced as the head to
Yngwie's classic Trilogy, from the album of the same name. It's based
on four and eight-note-per-string sequences which work out perfectly
with downward pickslanting, and the entire ridiculous six-string
expanse of it can be performed with pure alternate picking and no
legato whatsoever.

Even the humble six-note pattern can be elaborated into interesting

sequences, like this one from his solo spot in that classic 1984 live
performance with Alcatrazz:

ping pong sixes.mov

This is notable for its continual travel from the first string to the second
string and back. And because it does this over the relatively small
distance between only two strings, it sidesteps any potential
complications introduced by string tracking. This simple example is
great introduction to the unimpeded bi-directional flow that is now
possible within Yngwie's system.

Even once you've graduated to Yngwie's universe of multi-string

fluency, there's still plenty of reason to look at his repertoire of single-
string patterns:
fours - ascending.mov
fours - descending.mov

Chief among those are his single-string solutions to the fours problem,
both ascending and descending. Because these are four-note chunks
rather than six, the chunking frequency is higher, and this is a little
more challenging to do at speed. The other challenge here is, of
course, position shifting. Each chunk contains a position shift, and
paying extra attention to the landmark note is critical to making sure
this shifting doesn't devolve into a slippery-sliding mess with no

Because of the confluence of increased chunking speed and

challenging position shifting, Yngwie's fours licks are really
tremendous practice vehicles for developing hand synchronization and
motion mechanic fluidity. Here's another four-note chunk used in the
service of a classic lick:

evil eye breakdown.mov

This lick appears in a breakdown section to a another first-album gem,

Evil Eye. There's a classic moment on the album recording where you
can hear the volume knob switch on in the silence just before the lick
begins. And in that instant of echo, just after the click of the knob, and
before the assault began, was the sound of a thousand guitarists
saying "uh oh".

, Yngwie turbocharged the breakdown at about 210 beats per minute,

and looked utterly fluid doing it. Tackling this kind of tempo with
perfect accuracy, while managing the wide position shift leapfrogging
the pattern requires, is no small feat. It's fun to play and again, a
great practice example for motion mechanic fluidity.

One thing you'll notice about the ascending and descending version of
Yngwie's fours solutions is that, like so many of his creations, they're
portable. Because they each start on downstrokes, you can run the
ascending pattern straight into the descending one, and they connect
perfectly together. In fact, taking this logic to its extreme conclusion, if
you did this over precisely one ascending position and one
descending position, you'd arrive at this:

shift triplets.mov

This shift triplets pattern is almost like the neutron star of fours -- the
very essence of the fours mechanics condensed into the smallest
possible amount of space. In fact, its position shifting construction is
so ingenious, very few of us back in the day knew how he was doing
it. I for one assumed it was some kind of two-string pattern, because I
couldn't imagine how you'd get four fingers into such a small space,
especially on the upper frets where there's just not much room to

Yngwie uses an unorthodox fingering for this that derives from his
preference for 1-2-3 left hand fingerings: 3-2-1 on the top repetition,
1-2-4 on the lower repetition, then 4-2-1 on the top reptition, and then
4-2-1/1-2-4 on every subsequent repetition. For simplicity and
consistency, I most often use 4-3-1 on the top, and 1-2-4 on the
bottom. The challenge of position shifting accuracy, chunking
synchronization, and motion mechanic fluidity are the same either


Thirty years after Yngwie's neoclassical takeover of '80s guitar, it's

tempting to think of his pattern-based constructions almost like a
quaint set of Legos you had as a kid. But let's be honest. Even today,
in the era of fancy sweeping and tapping, and eight-string guitars, and
digitally modeled amplifiers, there are relatively few players that
construct lines of this scope, this audacity, and this much fire. And
even if you're not specifically an Yngwie acolyte, his innovations, if
only as better practice vehicles than the boring exercises of yore, are
worth a look. Descending from the highest frets on your instrument,
all the way down the open E string, with perfect accuracy, at whatever
your current maximum speed happens to be, is an unmitigated thrill.
It's playing the entire guitar, the way it was meant to be. The way you
and I always imagined it to be.