Michael Angelo Batio Talks Sweep Arpeggio Origins

In this quick clip of the inimitable Michael Angelo Batio, we get a fascinating glimpse of the thought process behind Batio's famously silky sweep arpeggio technique.

In a previous post, we saw how Gypsy jazz master Joscho Stephan evolved a sweep arpeggio technique that is nearly note-for-note identical to Yngwie Malmsteen's famous approach, despite having never transcribed Yngwie's method directly. In Batio's case, the genesis is similarly coincidental.

Batio moved to Los Angeles in the early 1980s as the city had become the epicenter of the virtuoso rock guitar explosion. Malmsteen arrived soon after, bringing with him his now-iconic sweep arpeggios and neoclassical compositional style. As it happens, Batio himself had already been using a similar mechanical system.

In fact, in one of the many fun moments in the interview, we step through Yngwie's fretboard layout for five-string string minor arpeggios, which is notably more awkward then streamlined barre chord fretting that Batio uses. That Batio didn't know this is not just evidence in support of his claim that he was playing arpeggio sweeps before he first heard Yngwie. It's also evidence of the extraordinary problem-solving creativity of the world's best players, who devise novel playing techniques, often without even realizing they're doing so.

Our full-length interview with Batio is coming soon to Masters in Mechanics and includes a complete slow-motion breakdown of the shred master's legendarily precise picking mechanics.

Troy Grady is the creator of Cracking the Code, a documentary series with a unique analytical approach to understanding guitar technique. Melding archival footage, in-depth interviews, painstakingly crafted animation and custom soundtrack, it’s a pop-science investigation of an age-old mystery: Why are some players seemingly super-powered?

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