To me it seems that their basic tone falls in the same broad category of 'singing, sustained, liquid leads'.

Heavy metal is commonly named as the genre (at least on wikipedia), yet heavy metal amps usually have a noisy, dirty tone tone (at least from the preamp gain) very much unlike the singing leads for the G3.

Obviously a delay/(and some reverb?) is part of their sustained lead tone, but what else is there?

It's definitely not a clean sound, it's high gain but not dirty or noisy or harsh in any way.

How do they get their sound?

Steve Vai - Tender Surrender

Yngwie Malmsteen - Black Star

Joe Satrianni - Cryin

What are the basic components there?

  • I think the most accurate term is 'G3'. It's like a genre of it's own Jun 16, 2015 at 10:51
  • 1
    Everybody would call it differently, I'd call it guitar rock. Rock being the basic style, and guitar rock makes it clear that the guitar is the predominant instrument (even more than in standard rock). Their sound (each of them actually has a pretty different sound) is basically an overdrive/distortion sound. It sounds good because they know how to play. If you handed their guitars (connected to their rig) to a beginner it would indeed sound harsh and noisy. Please don't buy their gear thinking that you'll end up sounding like them if you do.
    – Matt L.
    Jun 16, 2015 at 10:55
  • I don't buy the whole tone is in the fingers rhetoric. If the guitar is in tune, the strings are fretted and muted properly, the basic single note tone will be the same on the same gear. It won't suddenly sound like cheap modeller just because a beginner is playing. Please don't mud the waters.
    – JBeurer
    Jun 16, 2015 at 11:59
  • I'm going to migrate this to Music Fans - this is not on topic here. As an aside, the rig all these guys use is public knowledge (eg search Joe Satriani rig) but it is almost irrelevant. Matt is correct - Satriani would sound amazing on my kit, and still have Satriani tone. I would not sound like him on his...
    – Rory Alsop
    Jun 16, 2015 at 12:43
  • 1
    i just call it instrumental rock in windows media player.
    Jun 20, 2015 at 6:11

3 Answers 3


Closest common label for those three dudes would be shred, which was the hot thing in the mid/late '80s. The style arguably invented by Malmsteen is neo-classical metal, which the other two are not playing. But all three are playing some sort of rock/metal based music where the emphasis is on very fast and very many solos, which the phrase shred is encompassing.

  • Admittedly all of them, at some points of their careers, have indulged in copious amounts of shredding. On the other hand, the term 'shred' is often used as a derogatory term and carries a strong negative connotation along with it making it ill suited to describe their music. (at least the tracks mentioned). It also doesn't describe the actual guitar tone in any way.
    – JBeurer
    Jun 24, 2015 at 2:56
  • @JBeurer: I think there is a guitar tone connected with "shred". But in all fairness, Vai, Satriani and especially Malmsteen have different tones. I doubt there is a better common term for it. Jun 24, 2015 at 7:47
  • @JBeurer I haven't come across any derogatory or negative connotations in regards to shredding. Could provide some examples of this? Nov 13, 2016 at 21:26
  • liquidnoterecords.co.uk/modern/shredeh.html There are some examples. Naturally not everyone interprets "shred" the same way, but quite a few do feel that it has negative connotations
    – JBeurer
    Nov 15, 2016 at 18:08
  • ex1: Brett Garsed: "The term "shred" was coined a long time after I began to play so I don't feel I have much affinity to it. It's always meant as a compliment although I tend to look on it in a derogatory sense. To me, it implies a player with substantial technique and physical ability, but little in the way of taste, phrasing and melodic sense. Then again maybe I'm just a boring old fart!"
    – JBeurer
    Nov 15, 2016 at 18:09

After a lot of digging and listening to hundreds of youtube videos, this is what I came up with:

  1. As far as the genre is concerned, there really doesn't appear to be an encompassing label for what they play other than keywords - lead, solo, instrumental.
  2. The magical tone here is that of power tube distortion. The harshness, fizz and noise I was referring to comes from preamp distortion.
  3. The beginners with the expensive gear and 100W heads sounding nothing like the gods is in big part due to preamp gain at 10/10 and master volume at 1/10. The settings to get the tone from a modern amp, are in the preamp gain at 2/10 and master volume at 10/10 ballpark area.

The key components of the liquid lead tone would be:

  • Power tube distortion
  • Feedback and speaker distortion (e.g. volume)
  • Delay (or better yet dual-delays at 375ms and 500ms or similar) for sustain
  • Subtle Reverb to make up for a stage/hall, etc

A noise reduction system, pedal or rack unit is also often necessary.

Power tube distortion basically smoothen and even out the harshness, fuzziness of preamp distortion. The cabinet and the speaker also plays a big role in that.

A low volume setup for getting as close as possible to this sound would involve either one of:

  • A high quality attenuator + EQ to tweak the frequencies
  • A loadbox + cabinet simulator with IRs + powered studio monitors
  • A loadbox + a amplifier to reamp + guitar cab + some EQ
  • A roomy Isolation box + preferably multi mics to remove harshness of SM57 + PA system

From what I can tell the type of tubes doesn't matter as much as simply getting power tube distortion in the first place. I prefer EL34s - tubes in Joe Satriani signature marshall head and tubes used in Bogner XTC - the Steve Vai amp on Tender Surrender track.

I hope this helps out someone. There's a lot of mis-information on this subject. I'll confirm this as an answer once I have confirmed that this works well in practice.


I would agree that Malmsteen's genre is Neo-Classical, whilst Vai and Satriani play Instrumental Rock.

Vai, Satriani and Malmsteem are all shredders even though they play different genres.

Shredding is a style of lead guitar playing involving playing lots of notes very fast. It is most commonly found in heavy metal music but it is not limited to metal.

The guitar tone most associated with shredding is an overdriven distorted tone, but shredding can also be performed with a clean tone or on an acoustic guitar, classical and flamenco guitarists could be said to shred, as these styles incorporate playing a lot of notes very fast.

Shredding is a style of playing, not a genre in itself. Some examples of non metal shredding include "Misirlou" by Dick Dale (Surf), "Be Careful With a Fool" by Johnny Winter (Blues).

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