The scientific explanation as to why heavier picks are better for shredding, according to Yngwie Malmsteen

The theory checks out…

Yngwie Malmsteen performing live

Credit: Carlos Santiago/ Eyepix Group/Future Publishing via Getty Images

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The debate surrounding guitar pick thickness has been ongoing for years. Should you use a heavier pick for a more immediate feel? Or a lighter one for a thinner, well, lighter tone.

While many guitarists struggle to articulate why they choose one side beyond, “It just feels better,” one of the guitar world’s top shredders, Yngwie Malmsteen – a strong proponent of heavier picks – has a more scientific explanation behind his preference.

“You have two brain hemispheres – one controls this hand, one controls this hand,” he says in a new interview with YouTube music nerd Rick Beato.

“[And if] you wanna play something like [gestures rapid tremolo picking], your brain controls this hand [and] this hand to meet in coordination. [And] if there’s flexibility in this pick, there’s gonna be a latency. Of milliseconds, but still.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Malmsteen touches upon Van Halen, and how the band helped him break out of his “snobbish” attitude towards rock and roll.

“I actually became a bit of a snob, and [had] gotten to that point where it was really like, ‘rock and roll? Nope. I listen to Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, Niccolò Paganini…’ For one exception,” he says.

“My drummer brought a record to the studio, ‘Oh, this new band, you’ve got to hear this!’ I was like, ‘Not interested.’ I look at it: ‘This guy’s playing a new Strat; it’s got a black pickguard…’”

He continues: “We listened to the album, Van Halen I, it was like somebody dropped the fucking bomb. It was so good. That really knocked me out.”

Malmsteen goes on to recall the aspect of the album that impressed him most, and unlike many fans, it wasn’t Eddie Van Halen’s Eruption solo.

“The funny thing is, it wasn’t the Eruption solo, it wasn’t the amazing guitar playing that really knocked me out,” he says. “It was their attitude. It was like, ‘We’re going in the studio; we’re recording live.’ That, to me, it was such an inspiration. I like that a lot. So, basically, I decided I’ll also record everything live from now on.”


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