Attended Steve Vai’s Masterclass …

Steve Vai has come to Australia for a series of masterclasses and I attended the one in Sydney yesterday. If you’re not familiar with Steve Vai, he’s one of the original virtuosic rock guitarists that came out of the 80’s with Eddie Van Halen and Joe Satriani. He started out touring with Frank Zappa, and has worked with David Lee Roth among others…

Anyways, I’m not a virtuoso or a ‘shredder’ but I appreciate guys like Steve Vai for their creativity and flare. What I found interesting yesterday, though, was that it became apparent to me that he appeals to a niche of rock guitar musos. In the line up before the gig, I must’ve seen only 3 women out of a few hundred dudes, most of whom wore black to some degree.

Anyways, Vai didn’t talk much about technique, but more about esoteric ideas of developing visualisations and positive thinking, along with achieving goals and stuff. He also shared a lot of anecdotes and answered a lot of questions. He did have a couple of guitarists come up for lesson, and finished with a jam after performing a few of his songs to a backing track. At the end of the day it was about motivating and inspiring, and allowing fans to connect and have insights into one of the greatest technical guitarists of the modern era.

So, what stuck out for me as a ‘struggling muso’? I couldn’t shred and play like the jammers at the end, but there were tips that equally applied to me such as developing tone, vibrato and phrasing. For example, you could take a sentence and ‘play’ it on your instrument, trying to express the intonation and emotion of the words (which is a great tip for jazz and blues guitarists).

Of course, standard ideas on developing technique were discussed: slow down the piece of music/notes/riff until you can play it perfectly. Then speed it up gradually. Then you have to ‘own it’:  try to play it 10 times consecutively. If you stuff up, even on the 9th time, start from scratch. If you can do it 10 times flawlessly, then you know you ‘own it’, which gives you the confidence for a performance -you can perform it without thinking and let the emotions comes through rather than be stressing out about making mistakes…


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