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The Basics of Malcolm Young's Unmistakable Rhythm Guitar Style

Malcolm Young, with his trademark Gretsch 6131 Jet Firebird, performs with AC/DC at Olympiahalle on March 27, 2009 in Munich, Germany
(Image credit: Stefan M. Prager/Redferns)

Newbie rockers often make two mistakes when trying to replicate the power of Malcolm Young’s thundering progressions: They assume the AC/DC rhythm king used tons of distortion, and that he regularly employed barre chords.

Actually, the secrets of his power involve huge .012-.058-gauged Gibson strings (including a wound G), a perfectly intonated semihollow ’63 Gretsch Jet Firebird, a rumbling row of Marshalls turned up just loud enough to put sharp edges on the chords (“If those amps are on 3, that’s a loud night for me,” says Young), and open chords struck with a murderous strumming attack. (“He certainly doesn’t tickle it,” says his brother Angus.) 

Try this sequence of power grips for a taste of Malcolm’s merciless guitar part on Highway to Hell’s “Walk All Over You.”

Malcolm Young lesson tab 1

(Image credit: Future)