Zakk Wylde Thought Pentatonic Was ‘Easy Way Out,’ These Two Guitar Players Changed His Mind

For a few decades now, Zakk Wylde has been pretty famous for his extensive use of the pentatonic scale and pinch harmonics. However, even with fewer notes, things can be far more complex than one might think. And as Zakk revealed in an interview from a few years ago, a couple of guitar legends completely changed the way he looked at the pentatonic scale.

Around the time when Yngwie Malmsteen was inspiring a whole new generation of guitar players, Zakk decided that he wanted to sound different. So the pentatonic minor was the obvious choice. But he learned a lot about it by listening to John McLaughlin and Frank Marino. As he explained:

“I learned a lot about the pentatonic scale listening to John McLaughlin on ‘The Inner Mounting Flame’ by Mahavishnu Orchestra. People always associate the pentatonic scale with Angus Young or Jimmy Page or Hendrix, Clapton, Beck and all those early ’60s-late ’70s rock players.”

And it even felt like an “easy way out” for him. But things couldn’t be further from the truth:

“At one point, I even thought that the pentatonic scale was a bit like the easy way out, but when I heard McLaughlin and Frank Marino on [1978’s] ‘Mahogany Rush Live,’ those guys just opened up new doors in terms of what you can do with those five notes. That’s what makes guitar playing great… it’s limitless.”



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