Wow, thanks for all the compliments- really makes the videos worthwhile
I will answer as best and honestly as I can- because of your detailed questions and the reverence (both of us have) for EJ.
“What I also find cool is that you do it with your own sound and not mimicking the violin tone all the way.”
Yes I really believe this is a misnomer It’s the playing that makes it sound like a violin, not the gear.
In fact, the gear is quite inconducive to getting a smooth sound (at least in that era)- plexi marshalls and fuzzes through dumbles are inherently very strident and not the easiest of tools to “ride.” The beauty is in taming the beast so to speak, because I fully concede it is actually much easier to achieve fluidity from using other gear.
In addition, the album recordings of AVM especially are not what you would call an inherently smooth tone- studios and low volume listening will play tricks on the ears like nobody’s business. Venus Isle is a different but similar case. Live era of ACL 1988 and recent tours with his darker lead sounds should not be the end all of generalizations about his tone.
On the topic of originality, I usually play more inspired stuff on my les paul which goes to show which aspect I prioritize over the other. I got into EJ because his music was the thing that stopped me from quitting and getting over a difficult period. On my sns accounts I post many of his covers and occasionally get the weird hate mail of “soulless EJ copycat” when I actually have three studio albums to my band and name but I digress. I play his songs out of reverence and the joy I get from his songs and above all, it really helps me creatively composition wise and sonic-texture wise.
It might sound weird, but he is really underrated.
“I have gathered all of the EJ tabs in existence (so to speak) some are more accurate than others, but none has the picking/legato spelled out correctly and the fingering with EJ is also tricky. I noticed the same with EJ as with Marty Friedman, if you don’t have the exact fingering pattern they use for a particular sequence, it’s very difficult to play it effortlessly and up to speed.”
I cannot emphasis how true this is. I tried playing lonely in the night without proper EJ mechanics and while it does work to an extent, it’s only to an extent. I finally buckled down and paid a measly chump change for Troy’s lessons which have more than paid back in dividends- and I still always have his lessons open on a separate desktop on my computer.
“Do you play with the EJ/Yngwie picking approach yourself when playing fast (sweeping ascending and pulloff descending)?”
I have huge respect for YJM as well but if I may, the reason why I picked up the guitar was to get away from the classical tonality since my short lived five years of violin training were wearing me down. As YJM is the embodient of this style just applied to electric guitar- I never attempted to cover his material, but I am very familiar with his catalogue and the role he played in this genre and I have so much respect for artists and pioneers like him. He is a legend.
Also I realize both have more in common than it seems in terms of the way they bring economy into their picking. The fluidity in string skipping really only comes from two things- a certain slant to the pick and playing quick notes in succession with one motion, and throw in pulloffs and legatos just to cheat or embellish the phrasing.
In my playing I use whatever elements I feel suit the song. Learning EJ helps tremendously because the whole scale opens up. It’s not just straight pentatonics that are repeated. However when I do EJ, I do stay close to the original and leave just the appropriate amount of room to do what I wish or even dare I say, play more notes than he did.
“I would love to hear if you have discovered chunks in terms of picking/phrasing that EJ uses over and over again, apart from those that Troy found. I found for example that he simplified upward pentatonic runs by using blocks of three strings, two notes per string and repeating it in octaves. He does that in the first fast solo of “Gem”. Would love to hear your findings after your EJ immersion.”
This is a rather roundabout way of answering your question, but while the fundamental A minor descending pentatonic DDuD pattern is mechanically correct, he doesn’t always stick to it, and there is often a deceivingly large amount of alternate picking, legato pulloffs and consecutive upstrokes for box shape ascending licks in his playing that the strict DDuD won’t get you there all the way.
However, if you see the movement for what it is, a tool and not the musical instrument in itself, it opens up new avenues. For example, I am a terrible alternate picker in ascending scales and I don’t like the easy way around with hammer ons and whatnot, so the descending DDuD lick in reverse, would actually become my sort of ascending lick that I could play at fast tempo- compared to had I been forced to alternate pick it.
Troy’s lessons on legato turnarounds and 7th pickups are great applications of this EJ-ism that break out of this 1st position box.
The most important thing it taught me in terms of this context was that basically everything is downpicked and the upstroke is just an excuse to go for another downstroke- meaning the upstroke is a wasted movement so why not just shove a note in their while you’re doing it anyway.
What that meant for me was that I could do DDD u D, even if I can’t say for sure EJ has done it (though I do “hear it”). Basically two more times and it is essentially a sweep. For example, I play the last quick ascending lick in this sweep fashion (which I just see as extended economy picking) even though I hear and know for sure EJ doesn’t do this. Right in the middle of sounding EJ and YJM sweepish, but makes it sound like “me” for lack of a better word.
Often times I hear uninitiated folks say technique/knowledge limits and pidgeonholes, and while I understand the spirit of the advice, for me I find that it gives me another musical tool. That by definition is not limiting.
I have various other versions of the EJ-isms I learned from Troy and while mechanically consistent with EJ and Troy’s methods, I have no idea whether EJ actually uses them.
For example in descending licks all the way down the fretboard I’m pretty sure I do it in a different way because I slide down to the next note which also allows me to squeeze another note in there- not just for the sake of it but because I like the sound and originality. Another is the ascending variations, another is the ascending and then quick descending and not ending on an octave directly but bending it a full step up to add tension and then continue playing. Also at very high speeds I also play “wrong notes” because of the interesting sonic effect and go from 4 note DDuD to 3 note triplets to build up momentum.
I am pretty sure that’s why this DR cover while having the ethos of the original, still sounds like me because I approach in this middle of the road way. I want to do his music justice, improvise a little and hopefully add to the song, while getting better in the process.