Steve Vai is a virtuoso guitarist, visionary composer and producer who sculpts musical sound with infinite creativity and technical mastery. At the age of 12 he started taking guitar lessons from Joe Satriani and at 18 he began his professional musical career. More than three decades, 15 million album sales and three GRAMMY awards later, Vai is a living legend.
In his long and wildly successful career, Steve Vai has taken part in countless incredible projects. We gathered 5 of those in an effort to remind ourselves of his greatness and how wide the opportunities in the world of music are. Don’t get too stuck on why some projects were included instead of others – it would be impossible to gather in one place all of this giant’s work.
You might have heard of this, but the story of how Steve Vai set his foot in the music industry is quite impressive. In 1978 Vai sent a notated transcription of Frank Zappa’s “The Black Page” and a recording of his college band, Morning Thunder, to Zappa himself. Impressed, Zappa actually hired Vai to transcribe more of his music. Eventually, Vai joined Zappa’s band and toured and recorded with him for several years. He was also a featured artist on the 1993 release Zappa’s Universe.
David Lee Roth’s superband
In 1985, after he had separated from Van Halen, David Lee Roth assembled a virtuoso supergroup consisting of Steve Vai on guitar, Billy Sheehan (previously of Talas) on bass, and Gregg Bissonette (previously of Maynard Ferguson’s big band) on drums. Their debut album Eat ‘Em and Smile was both a critical and commercial success and is still frequently evaluated as one of the greatest rock albums of the 1980s.
Whitesnake’s Slip of the Tongue album
In 1889, after leaving Roth`s band, Vai began recording the guitar parts for Whitesnake’s Slip of the Tongue album as a replacement for Adrian Vandenberg, who was injured at that time. Upon its release in November 1989, Slip of the Tongue was a huge success and Vai joined the band on their thirteen-month world tour.
Nowadays we know the G3 tour as the longest-running guitar-centric tour of its kind, but in 1996 it was an idea in the head of Joe Satriani. He knew the first lineup had to be mighty impressive so he assembled his dream team – a triple-headline with his close friend and former guitar pupil Steve Vai, along with Texas guitar star Eric Johnson. Vai joined his former teacher for the second installment of the ongoing G3 concert tours and also a video of the 1996 tour G3: Live in Concert was released in 1997 as well as a DVD in 2005.
The creation of the Ibanez JEM and The Universe guitars
In 1985 Vai designed his signature instrument – the Ibanez JEM guitar, which has first-of-its-kind features including the floating tremolo and the monkey grip. The JEM is now one of the longest-running and most successful signature series guitars in history with its sister guitar, the Ibanez RG, being the second highest-selling guitar (behind the Fender Stratocaster) on the market. Also for Ibanez, Vai designed “The Universe,” the first commercial 7-string electric guitar. This instrument inspired a revolutionary metal subculture that started in the mid ’90s.
Which Steve Vai project is your favourite?
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