Style Study - Steve Vai

  • 02/1/2016
  • JamPlay, LLC
American guitar hero Steve Vai first rose to fame in the early 80's when legend Frank Zappa noticed his formidable skills on the guitar as demonstrated on a cassette tape Steve sent to him. Ever since then, Steve has enjoyed a varied career appearing with the likes of Whitesnake and David Lee Roth to name just two. His style encompasses mind-boggling technique, astounding knowledge and use of rhythm as well as a great sense of harmony, including the use of modes as we see in this month's article. Vai's recent outings show his familiarity with many world music styles and often emulates other instruments such as the sitar by making liberal use of grace notes and whammy bar techniques, which shows his open mindedness to instruments outside the realm of guitar.

Lick Breakdown

Lick 1 - The first lick shows the use of Steve's favorite mode - The Lydian mode. Here is a classic example of how he might use hammer-ons and pull offs to create lightning speed licks. Smokin'!!

lick 1

Lick 2 - This lick sees the use of playing a scale in the left hand using hammer-ons whilst adding a tap above with the right hand. The hard part is not the speed, but maintaining a good muting technique enabling the notes to jump out. Please note RHT = Right Hand Tap and LHT = Left Hand Tap.

lick 2

Lick 3 - In this lick we see the use of a quintuplet rhythm utilizing left and right hand tapping along with string skipping. This is not for the faint of heart. Again, watch your muting.

lick 3