Speed and musical communication


So I’ve been thinking about Yngwie and his improvisational skills. Is he just so fast because of his perfect pitch and ear for music because he understands it at a more instinctual level? It’s like me hearing someone speak Spanish, to me it sounds so fast but amongst other Spanish speaking natives it just sounds normal speed.

Granted some of the ability required is technical, but how much really? Did Yngwie really work on speed ever? Or was his speed just a byproduct of time and developing his musical communication skills? I mean given enough time and with the invention of these music slow down apps it’s not all that difficult to play along at a more relaxed feel. Its just amazing to me what he does come solo time, some songs its not so crazy but some he just turns on these improvisational mastery afterburner supremely focused ear to hand connection like he just knows how to instantly speak it.

Can anyone explain how to develop your ear so i can play like this, do i need to look into jazz? I don’t much care about the speed i just want to play the right notes, hear it, feel it, speak it.

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That’s what we call musical talent… Regardless of you talent level you can improve your ability to do that sort of thing but where one man’s upper limit of what’s possible for him to achieve lies is going to be above that of some musicians and below that of some other musicians.

There is a continuum of talent among human beings and at one end you have the musical geniuses who are undeniably eloquent in their ability to learn to “speak this language” and at the other end of the continuum lie those who will struggle to improvise at all. Most of us fall somewhere in between those two extremes of the continuum.

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Jazz would be the best way to learn western music I think. But it’s a long process without any short cuts.

There have to be formally trained folks on this forum that know the score better than anybody. Hopefully, they can chime in.

The practical mechanics of music is hard to pin down. Picking up the guitar doesn’t help as the strength of finding the same note on multiple strings can also add complexity to the learning process.

I find just memorizing the notes on the guitar to be a daunting task.

Lately, I’ve been transcribing from the sources some of Paganini’s caprices without tab. Before this I did teach myself to read music at a reasonable rate using an app that gamified it, many available.

I’m hoping one it’ll teach me to recognize chord shapes, learn the notes on the fretboard and some nice music at the same time. The going is very slow; most of the time it feels like torture as it’s early days. But I think there is no short cut.

I’m not so interested in playing it fast or anything at this stage, but just learn from the masters. I don’t know if I’ll stick to it cause its excruciating sometimes.

I think my perseverance and patients are being tested to the very limit like nothing before. I try to do at least two bars a day. Hopefully, I stick with it.

Would love to hear other peoples journey about this stuff; learning this stuff late in life is very hard to say the least, at least in my case it’s not easy.


Yngwie does have some prodigious improvisational skills, no doubt!

That’s a very original analogy - one I hadn’t heard before. I like it! Spanish certainly is a language which is spoken very rapidly by native speakers. English is spoken quite slow in comparison.

As far as I know Yngwie did not study jazz or ever spend any considerable amount of time playing jazz guitar. Yet he developed the amazing ability you’re writing about so the answer is, no. You don’t need to look into jazz.

However, jazz is great music, and very complex so if you do wish to look into it, I can’t imagine that it would do anything but help!


If you haven’t yet tried a forum search for speed I definitely recommend that; I think you’ll find lots of interesting and relevant discussions!

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I’m don’t claim to be Yngwie, but I can improvise at a fairly high speed. You correctly point out the two main issues: Being able to play the notes, and knowing which notes to play: Technique and music.

As far as knowing which notes to play, for me it’s mainly a question of fretboard maps. I have about a dozen different mental maps to cover the fretboard for any given tonality, and I switch between them as necessary to support my improvisation. They come in two flavors: pentatonic and diatonic (others would also include harmonic minor, etc.)

The standard pentatonic boxes and the CAGED system fit into the pentatonic flavor, along with the 3NPS pentatonics and a few other maps. Except for CAGED, they all have exactly the same notes, but they are grouped differently. For example, I have a map that gives me all of the pentatonic notes on any given pair of adjacent strings (like the standard boxes turned sideways, it lays out the scale all the way up and down the fretboard on just the E and A strings, for example), and another one that works its way diagonally up the fretboard from position IV to position XII in the key of A minor.

For diatonic I have the 3NPS patterns, the position-based boxed patterns, Claus Levin’s 4NPS scales (so useful for shredding), another 2-string pattern, etc.

The pentatonic patterns fit over the diatonic patterns in a few different ways, so you can align your E minor pentatonic with E Dorian, E Phrygian, E Aeolian. (In other words, each diatonic pattern supports multiple pentatonic patterns without going out of key.) So you have to maintain your pentatonic maps and your diatonic maps separately, and practice switching between them in different modes. Practice switching between E pentatonic and E Aeolian, then practice switching between E pentatonic and E Dorian, etc.

I can only navigate one map at a time, but I can easily switch from one map to another, because I practiced switching maps while improvising. I choose which map to use based on the sound I want to make, and the reason that’s reliable is that I have practiced improvising separately from technical practice. In fact, before CTC that’s pretty much all the practice I did. Technical exercises didn’t work for me, so I just improvised all the time. (Thirty years of bad technique gives you a lot of time to develop fretboard maps.) When I learn other people’s songs and licks, I always fit the music into one or more of my maps. Otherwise I won’t remember it. By consciously fitting the music into my maps, I am reinforcing the connection between my ears and my fingers. Over time, that builds into fluency and vocabulary.

A funny thing happened once I got my right hand together. My improvised phrases got much more interesting. By becoming more fluent with alternate picking, I am able to improvise phrases that I would previously have struggled to play at all, much less improvise. My musicality has increased greatly, because my technique can now much better support what I hear in my head. Learning how to chunk effectively has played a large role in this as well.

Yngwie seems to have similar maps. They are described very thoroughly by Troy, and they have names like ‘The Sword’, etc. If you want to sound like him, internalize these licks and then start improvising with the same set of notes.

This is my approach, which is different than the memorize-a-million-licks approach, which has also worked well for lots of people.

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