Even Steve Vai can’t make you play like Steve Vai

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Steve Vai
Steve Vai
Steve Vai

In case you didn’t have a chance to see Steve Vai’s big online lesson or if you weren’t like me and didn’t record it, but don’t want to rely on your memory – out of the kindness of my heart I’ve decided to give you a summary of what was discussed.

You can also watch the video at the bottom of this article.

Clocking in at about 7k (give or take) viewers the lesson offered itself as less of a do this, do that guide and more of a chance to peek inside of Mr. Vai’s brain to see how he processes and approaches things as well as a chance to hear him say “internet porn” and to see him do what he’s best known for (not internet porn).

The more important things he covered in lieu of making it an hour of him talking about scale shapes, patterns, and exercises, he stressed the importance of the mindset you approach the instrument with and the importance of really listening to what you’re playing.

On top of that he commented one of the more valuable concepts is to set goals on the instrument.  Big, long term goals, and small, short term goals.  He’d commented that his personal goal is simply to just play something new each day that he hasn’t heard before.  That’s a very simple, small goal, but there is much value in it.

He didn’t get much into chord theory, but he did comment on chord technique. Most importantly make sure you can hear each note.  Check your fingering and pay attention to why it might be that some notes aren’t coming out so well.  The same principle applies to chord changes.  If you come across a problem the best solution is to slow down, relax, and pay attention to what you’re really getting hung up on.  In addition the Dr. recommends making an exercise out of those things you get hung up on.

Next up he covered playing rhythm. One of the most important aspects of playing is rhythm and as he stressed not just playing with a click track, but really locking with the rhythm.  His solution to this was to sit, listen, and meditate on a drum track and let it get into his head more before he’d even start playing with the track.  This information translates well to not just playing chords and rhythm guitar, but to lead playing as well.  Having a good sense of rhythm is priceless.  Where do you start?  Slowly and relaxed.  We’ve all heard it a million times, and I don’t know of anyone that has wanted to hear it, but the unfortunate truth is slow and steady wins the race.  No such thing as instant results.

He did cover scales briefly, but the more important lessons were not necessarily to just learn scales, but much like chords, really listen personality that these concepts employ.  Invaluable advice, my friends.  Each scale and chord offers its own feeling and they’re there to be exploited.  Having a good ear to hear and employ those feelings is how you change the world.

He finished the video off by answering a few questions and commenting that the most important aspect is how you start playing the guitar.  All progressive steps forward on the instrument start with the desire to accomplish things on the guitar, be it a high speed shredder or a three chord rock guitarist.  The important thing is finding where your strengths are and running with them.  That coincides well with a question asked inquiring about lessons learned from Frank Zappa.  As Zappa had said write the music you want regardless of what’s going on in the world and what anyone else is doing.

Watch live streaming video from berkleemusic at livestream.com

Kyle Smitchens

Kyle Smitchens is the Guitar-Muse Managing Editor, super hero extraordinaire, and all around great guy. He has been playing guitar since his late teens and writing personal biographies almost as long. An appreciator of all music, his biggest influences include Tchaikovsky, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Steve Vai, Therion, and Jon Levasseur of Cryptopsy.

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