Watch the Essentials: Neoclassical Rock Soloing online guitar lesson by Angus Clark from Essentials: Neoclassical Rock Soloing

Hi, I'm Angus Clark, and Welcome to this Neoclassical Rock Soloing edition of Essentials. For this course, I wrote 10 solo etudes that cover a lot of the basics for how to the get the sound of neoclassical rock into your solo playing. The goal in this course is not to impress you with a bunch of completely over the top solos - most of the etudes are at an intermediate level, and should be within your grasp if you slow things down and practice. It will be important for you to review the rhythm parts to see how the progressions affect what kind of material can be used in the solos. Have fun with it, and let us know if you need help, TrueFire is here for you!

The term "neoclassical rock" came to prominence with the rise of Yngwie J. Malmsteen and the release of his first solo album, Rising Force. Classical inspired rock dates back to the LA-based session band B. Bumble and the Stingers with their 1961 release "Bumble Boogie", a swing arrangement of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumble Bee" (based on a 1946 arrangement by pianist Jack Fina that was used in a Disney short). Their guitarist was named Tommy Tedesco, but most of the classical scale work was played on a piano. Meanwhile in England, Hank Marvin and the Shadows were developing a unique style of instrumental rock featuring the guitar that was melodic without being overly bluesy, which set them apart from the British blues movement that dominated the scene. Jeff Beck, Tony Iommi, and numerous other rock guitar pioneers credit the Shadows as a major influence.

In the late 60's, a UK-based session guitarist named Ritchie Blackmore was inspired by the sound of a US band called The Vanilla Fudge to form a band that combined both guitar and organ along with aggressive rock drumming. That band is called Deep Purple. Blackmore combined classical training and some of Hank Marvin's finesse with the sound of Heavy Metal. There were lots of other examples of prog and art rock bands that dipped into the classical pool for influence, like Emerson, Lake, and Palmer and Yes, but they didn't define the sound the way Deep Purple did. Blackmore and the gang were much more guitar focused and much heavier. So, Blackmore gets way more credit for birthing the neoclassical genre than anybody before or since.

The evolution of virtuoso guitar playing throughout the 70's came from all over the US and Europe. German players like Michael Schenker (Scorpions, UFO) and Uli Jon Roth (Scorpions), while not considered neoclassical rock players, brought a level of chops and flair to their music that definitely owed just as much to the legacy of European classical composers as it did to American and British blues players. By the late 70's, Edward Van Halen and Randy Rhoads effectively put the US on the neoclassical map with hi-tech classically inspired solos that opened the gates for the coming invasion from Sweden. And come it did. And his name is Yngwie. And it changed everything.

There is little that can be said here about how staggering Yngwie's appearance on the scene was that hasn't been said before, but here it goes. If you watch footage of Yngwie with Alcatrazz when he first came to the US at around the age of 20, you see a fully formed musician that is seamlessly blending virtuoso classical chops with rock improvisation and showmanship. If you try to count back the years to sort out what his musical upbringing was like, you have to assume he qualified as a child prodigy who mastered hand synchronization, scale work, and a solid classical repertoire by the time he was 13. Then he had a solid 5 years of getting his rock thing happening, so that by the time Mike Varney found him and flew him to the US to play on the Steeler record you had a bona fide miracle on your hands.

Yngwie has a lot of Blackmore in him of course. He's also got a lot of Uli Jon Roth, Edward Van Halen, Paganini, and Bach in the mix. Listening to live tapes, it's obvious that he hears everything he wants to play, and he plays everything he hears. The vibrato and tone are signature and absolutely his. After Yngwie created the new model for what neoclassical rock guitar is, there have been many that have imitated and many that have innovated and made their mark. Jason Becker and Jeff Loomis are a couple of the guys that have taken this style of play to some amazing places.
I've been playing guitar for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra for over 15 years, and their take is significantly more ELP inspired, but the guitar work that Al Pitrelli has put in on those records is as unique and innovative as anything else I've listed here. It's an honor and a privilege to be trusted with executing some of those parts while on tour. I've also been playing guitar with former Rainbow and Yngwie singer Joe Lynn Turner and I've performed a bunch of Blackmore and Yngwie songs with him. I've dug pretty deep into this material for a number of reasons, and I'm excited to share it with you here!