Transcription: 'Sails of Charon' - Uli Jon Roth / Scorpions

This should be a fun one for y’all.

Uli has a fascinating approach to the fast runs in this piece. It’s all 2-way slanting alternate picking, except he doesn’t pick every note - its a mixed picking + legato system. The formula is almost always: Down - Hammer/Pull-Off/Slide - Up // repeat.

Interesting that Yngwie was obviously influenced by Uli’s approach musically, but technically he derived a very different system to working within the same Phrygian/Harmonic Minor tonalities. Maybe that classic Yngwie legato escape hatch originates here?


Fantastic, this has been in my to-do list for a while - thanks for your work :slight_smile:


It really is such a great track. Its deceptively difficult to play for me -there is such a fluidity in Uli’s playing that even if you get the notes, you might not get the vibe to make it really shine like he does.

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Uli explains the picking well here.


Sod the playing… I want the hat!!!

From the comments on that video, it turns out that Ben Eller also has an excellent video with his interpretation/explanation of what Uli is doing:

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Hi guys !

Great topic, this solo is amazing and Uli’s picking as well.
I just spent the last couple hours transcribing this solo and then I saw you did it all… Amazing work LuckyMojo. It sounds like you transcribed it the way we can hear it on the album. Because when we watch Uli’s lesson posted by Dissonant_Timbres, it seems like Uli changed a bit the arpeggio part, some notes here and there after 2:20. And the way he picks those little arpeggios looks different when he plays fast and when he plays 'em slow.

Thanks again for your great transcription work.


Thanks! I agree that Uli plays differently on the “Guitar Lesson” video than he did in the 70’s when this was recorded. Besides the tuning being different (original is in Eb), his fingerings and positions are different from the 70’s video.

Just goes to show that even the composer does things differently over time. Uli is definitely not “wrong” to do it one way or the other. My goal in the transcription is to create a snapshot of his playing at a certain place in time.


I am feeling better now I’ve read your answer. It was my first transcription work and on one side I was 99% sure some parts in the “Guitar lesson” were different than the 70s version and on the other side I was thinking “just do what Uli does in the video”. And of course Uli is not wrong either way, all guitarists are meant to evolve at some point

Uli’s picking is outstanding because even if this solo is quite complicated for me, and alternating between upstrokes, downstrokes and legato is not natural (for me again); playing slow with the beat made me understand the “intention”, it’s getting perfectly logical with the accents on the downstrokes and all the groove with the right hand becomes natural.
Idk if that makes sense but that’s how I feel it :sweat_smile:

And it’s interesting to focus on how he played the solo in the 70s because I think he was technically way ahead of his time.

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Great work @LuckyMojo! One of my favorite solos of all time!

I am wondering about the Eb tuning though. Most of taken by Force sounds like E standard to me (Riot of Your Time definitely sounds Eb though). Some of the record has a weird quarter step flat kind of sound which is common for a lot of analog master recordings from the 60s and 70s due to tape speeds being slightly off.

Edit: fun fact, the 2nd half of the first fast run in the solo is lifted pretty much note for note in the Hiroshima Mon Amour solo Yngwie did, just in B minor.

I started transcribing in E standard, but then I noticed that Uli’s fingering in the video was off by a half step in the close-ups. I understand this performance was ‘mimed’ to the recording, but Uli plays the whole thing note for note - so I’m trusting the way he plays it here is the way he did it on the record. Naturally, for the harmonized parts I had to make my best guess how he plays them!

I don’t think there are any open strings in the song to give us a reference pitch, so you could of course play it in standard tuning if you shift the fingering down a fret.

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Thanks again to @LuckyMojo and his transcription that motivated me a lot to dig into this solo, I finally managed to play it. I made a video out of it so feel free to tell me what you think. I made a couple mistakes and the Yngwie strat neck is a bit more difficult to play than others imo but I did play the last fast lick full alternate picking for the challenge and I’m quite proud of it.

Thanks for the motivation, I didn’t imagine being able to play this at full speed and it was really rewarding in terms of technique and confidence.


Nice work! Sounds great. Sweet amp too :wink:

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Is that a modified Malmsteen strat?

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@LuckyMojo Thank you very much.
This amp is unbelievable, the price tag is the only downside :sweat_smile:

Absolutely, it’s a 2011 Malmsteen Strat with a perloid pickguard, 2 Seymour Duncan Hot Rails and fake mid pickup. I had some fun with those pickups but soon I will just put back the stock DiMarzios.

Thanks for Sharing this!!! This is so Awesome :clap:t2:

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