Sunday, April 17, 2016

ADHD: Fascination, Boredom, and Respect for Yngwie Malmsteen

Back in 1988 I was living in Tampa, and just really starting to listen to music other than what I had grown up listening to. We didn't have cable so no MTV (they used to play music on MTV). But there was a local station, V-32 that was playing music videos. One of the videos that they played on regular rotation was Yngwie Malmsteen Heaven Tonight. I had never heard anything like it. I was dumbfounded. How could anyone play that fast? This was the first time I had thought of the guitar as more than just an accompaniment to the singer. This was my introduction to NeoClassical Shred guitar. At the time I had taken piano lessons and played the trombone in school for a few years. But suddenly there was the guitar...

My parents weren't crazy about it. They had both tried at one point in time to learn to play the guitar but had both given it up. They weren't about to plop down money on another guitar for me, they also hated rock music so that had to wait. I started noticing other guitarist and other bands. I got a job bagging groceries the next year and a couple of the guys at the store played guitar. I saved up some money and started looking around. Finally, several months later I bought my first guitar.

One of the guys I worked with was really good. He could play Eruption and knew a lot of Randy Rhoads stuff too. He told me to go get a book of guitar stuff I liked and he would show me some stuff. I thought about what I wanted, went to the record store and bought the tab book for Yngwie Malmsteen's Odyssey. He almost laughed when I showed up at his house with it. "Dude, Yngwie is amazing. I have trouble with this stuff. It's a great goal but get something a little easier to start off." Ok fair enough, you gotta walk before you can run.

Fast forward a couple of years and now grunge is the big thing. But Yngwie was playing a club not far from us and a group of us headed down. There was a pretty sizable crowd and we had started drinking and made our way near the front of the stage. By the time Yngwie started playing we were ready. He was, in a word, ASTOUNDING! How could anyone play that fast and that clean all the time. Even in the slow songs. Every note was perfect. Perfect pitch, perfect timing. Perfection at a million miles an hour.

I know I'm going to catch flak for this next part but please keep reading. After about 20 or 30 minuets I realized... I was kind of bored. Every song was Phrygian. Every solo was... well perfect. And it dawned on me. That's your thing. You play fast, perfect, phrygian runs and wide vibrato. And that's all you do. Suddenly that girl over there (who was looking equally bored) was more interesting. Remember I'm ADHD.

PING.... what the hell was that? Something just hit me right smack on the forehead. Something small. But I felt it and everyone around me is looking around. I look down and there is Yngwie Malmsteen's guitar pick at my feet. I picked it up and looked at him. He was shredding down the neck in another perfect run hit a wide vibrato note and pointed straight at me! Yep he noticed me checking out that girl! Not only was he playing at a million miles an hour he had beamed me with his pick and hadn't missed a lick! I still laugh thinking about it.
A photo posted by @adhd_guitarist on

I've talked about it before. In the course of an evening I might listen or play Yngwie, SRV, Van Halen, Shinedown, Slipknot, Alice In Chains, Andy Timmons, Pink Floyd and anything else. I'm too ADHD to JUST do Phrygian runs up and down the neck. And listening to it for hours on end? Nope. For Yngwie, that's his juice. He loves it. For that I respect him. He's made a career doing something that he loves and doing it better than anyone else. Most of us can't say the same.

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