When people mention the electric guitar, the first thing that comes to mind is usually rock music and any of its numerous sub-genres. That is no surprise considering that most popular guitar players and artists became famous due to their work in this and other genres of music similar to rock.
However, there are some guitar players out there who decided to step out of the box and take a completely different path. If you have ever heard of Yngwie Malmsteen, you will know exactly what we are talking about.
This legendary guitar player fused classical music with heavy sound, and has become known for his incredible skill on guitar. If you want to hear just how fast and clinical arpeggios can be, play any Malmsteen song and you will find out in a moment.
Or, you can check out his famous “Arpeggios From Hell” to start with.
Yngwie’s playing style is not the only thing that is unusual about him.
It’s fair to say that his choice of gear and equipment isn’t all that mainstream either. Today we are going to take a closer look at Yngwie Malmsteen’s guitar setup and see what this guitar wizard uses to achieve his refined sound.
When you look at most guitar players who have reached a skill level that puts them in the very elite category, you will often see them using rather unusual gear. At the least, they will have their own specific way utilizing the gear they have chosen for their main setup.
This is the case with Yngwie Malmsteen. His choice of guitars and amps is not something that is generally seen among other musicians who play similar type of music. Either way, his own setup is an important part of his image, that is for sure.
In terms of electric guitars, there is only one model that Malmsteen is really passionate about.
If you weren’t familiar with Malmsteen’s work, and you decided to play one of his albums on your stereo, the last guitar you would imagine him using is the Fender Stratocaster. However, Strats are his weak spot.
Not only that, but there is a very specific range of Stratocasters that he plays. Guitars made in the period from 1968 to 1972 are acceptable, while anything else is not. His blonde Strat has become his signature item which is probably as popular as Malmsteen himself.
The reason for using only the Strats made within this four year period is the fact that Fender delivered them with a larger headstock. Malmsteen is convinced that this larger headstock positively affects the sustain of the guitar. With that said, all of his Stratocasters are heavily modified.
These modifications include minor things such as replacing the springs on the tremolo bridge with Wilkinson ones, to completely converting the neck and scalloping the fretboard. Different pickups are a standard for all of his Strats.
Even with all of the modifications, Fender has decided to make a Malmsteen signature model, which is only the second signature series they made after Clapton’s.
Yngwie Malmsteen Stratocaster comes with most of the mods found on any of Yngwie’s own Strats, with the inclusion of Seymour Duncan YJM Fury pickups.
When you look at Malmsteen’s amp stacks, you will be shocked at what hides behind the stage. Walls of cabinets is nothing new, but rarely anyone has a similar setup to that of Yngwie Malmsteen.
This legend uses 36 heads and a total of 22 cabinets during his live shows. All of the amp heads are Marshall YJM series, and all of the cabinets are YJM100s loaded with Celestion speakers.
And it sounds a little something like this…
The above video doesn’t show “the wall”, but rather the sounds that Malmsteen makes.
As for the wall, this impressive wall of Marshalls is truly a sight to be seen. Oh, we found it. Check this out…
Interestingly enough, Yngwie doesn’t use any of the effects or other features this amps offers. He only works with their raw sound. On a slightly different topic, his wall of amps is different for another reason.
If you come closer to any of his amps, you fill find at least four or five picks stuck between the enclosure panels. Each amp is riddled with picks, but it doesn’t stop there. Pretty much any piece of gear he uses will be covered in spare picks.
When it comes to effects pedals and other effects devices, things are pretty straight forward. The cornerstone of his pedalboard are the Boss NS-2 and CE-5 combined with RJM Mastermind MIDI foot controller, Roland Analog Echo and Dunlop Cry Baby Wah.
You will often see a Fuzz Face somewhere near his effects pedal setup, but that is there only as an aesthetic detail. That MIDI controller is what he uses to control a variety of effects and signal in general. What really makes this controller special are the two Ferrari stickers.
Yngwie Malmsteen once said that those stickers are just as important as any other thing on that controller. Without them, it simply wouldn’t work. Here are some video demos of those above effects pedals…
The Boss CE-5
The Roland Analog Echo DC-20
The Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor
RJM Music MasterMind MIDI Foot Pedal
The Cry Baby Wah
The way Yngwie Malmsteen plays guitar and the music he creates are both very unique. His modern interpretation of classical music puts him in a very different category of guitar players.
Not only was he among the first to actually play this type of music, but the consensus is that Malmsteen created a whole new genre of metal.
Today, a large number of known bands attribute their success to the influence Yngwie had on them as they were starting out.
His guitars and amp setup are among the more interesting ones even today. That wall of Marshall amps is definitely not something you will often see on stage.
At the end of the day, Malmsteen is considered to be one of the few true masters of guitar.
As such, it’s not really that odd to see him use what can only be considered a very unusual choice of gear. However, when you are at his level, you will do anything to get that edge in your tone.
Malmsteen’s way of achieving that is having 36 Marshall amp heads being ran through 22 cabinets. One thing is certain though, it’s not that easy to replicate his tone.