Fan reaction to the video notes that the choice of a guitar is a far-cry from Malmsteen’s preferred Stratocasters. “Fender executives are probably crying right now,” reads the top comment on the video. There is, of course, one limiting factor in Malsteem becoming a full-time Gibson convert – his guitars, including his signature Fender models, often have scalloped fretboards, and scalloping a ‘59 Les Paul is, financially, not a great idea. Les Pauls from 1959 have a current market value of well above £100,000.
Scalloping is the process of carving away the fretboard wood between each fret. Bending becomes much easier as you can get much more purchase on the side of each string, as there is no wood underneath where you press. The disadvantage of it is that a much lighter touch is required – pressing hard will effectively bend the string into the divot, meaning firmly-grasped chords will drift out of tune.
The lack of scalloping on the ‘59 Les Paul doesn’t seem to stop Malmsteen playing at his signature lightning-fast pace. Take a look at the video below.
Malmsteen’s last album, Blue Lightning, was his take on a traditional blues cover album, with the notable addition of his signature lead style. “I’ve been asked to do a blues album for the last 30 years,” he said in an interview about the record. “This time I finally said, ‘Sure, why not? Let’s try it!’ I just didn’t want to be stuck in the standard, pentatonic, play a 12-bar thing. I didn’t want to do that.”