A gateway into some of the most recognizable Vai-isms.
·Develop a deeper sense of subdivisions.
·Learn how to combine odd groupings.
·Perfect the “Yngwie” pattern.
I had the pleasure of taking part in a project a couple of years back breaking down Steve Vai’s playing on David Lee Roth’s Eat Em and Smile album. Safe to say my fingers were fried after three months of practicing, but there were so many creative ideas to learn from. Late ’80s and early ’90s Vai is really something to behold, as he was featured in huge bands and changed the face of instrumental guitar. I want to look at some technical aspects of what he would do in terms of linear lines and expressions. My hope is that by learning them, you can take them and make them your own. Let’s dive in!
Ex. 1 is a classic Vai-ism in D minor. It’s a descending line loosely based around a series of triads with a few extra bits put in. The first beat centers on a D minor triad (D–F–A), the second beat hovers around a B diminished triad (B–D–F), and the third beat uses an A minor triad (A–C–E) to give a V-I pull back to the root note on beat 4. I love the idea of the two-note pull-off followed by a slide to transition between the cells.
Ex. 2 is similar to Ex. 1 in terms of layout, however there are a few twists. Most notably with the two-note-per-string hammer-ons shifting down two positions. This legato “smear” of notes is a trademark Vai-ism that pops up in tons of his solos and improvisations. We finish the line with a huge position shift down to a G Minor pentatonic pull-off phrase. A notable ornament of Vai’s spectacular playing.
Vai and Joe Satriani share a lot of common ground in terms of legato playing. They are known for taking three-note-per-string phrases and cramming notes into the beat for a cool washy sound. However, Vai sometimes would really focus on the odd subdivisions that these patterns would create. A sure sign of the influence Allan Holdsworth had with his angular-sounding lines. In Ex. 3 you can see how I would approach this by combining sextuplets with septuplets.
Ex. 4 is another legato run in E minor. However, this time we’re adding a tapped note at the 12th fret on each string at the top of each legato “roll.” Don’t be alarmed by the subdivisions in the transcription, these are more of a “pointer” towards the groupings. My performance note would be to practice this slowly as eighth-notes or slow 16th-notes before speeding up. Then when things are ticking along well, just go for it!
This phrase (Ex. 5) opens with a rather unique sequence for Vai: a five-note pattern played over a 16th-note rhythm. You can hear this pattern on some of his Alcatrazz material, and within the tapping runs in solos such as “Big Trouble.” The quintuplet uses notes from A minor pentatonic (A–C–D–E–G) spread out over two positions. Each pattern starts with a tapped note before pulling off to a chord tone. Then, I skip a string and play a descending three-note group. I continue this up to the top string before descending a line based around an Fmaj9 arpeggio (F–A–C–E–G).
Vai has some ferocious picking runs and when I hear Guthrie Govan go into full-on shred mode I can most notably hear the Vai influence on him. Ex. 6 features an ascending run of sextuplets in A minor. This phrase features mostly ascending notes on each string until the last two beats where we run into an Al Di Meola/Paul Gilbert-style pattern.
Ex. 7 is a flurry of notes, however there is some sense to how they are played. Keep in mind that this is phrased with three-note-per-string patterns. If we dissect the fingerings a bit, I use the classic “Yngwie” pattern of six to kick things off and then I use three groups of seven before wrapping with three groups of five. Don’t think of these in relationship to the beat, but more for just “building” the run. Practice with even 16ths or eighth-notes at first. When it comes to playing it at full speed, pick like the wind!
These unusual, almost symmetrical, patterns turn up in all kinds of places in Vai’s playing. Ex. 8 is a fun Vai phrase that outlines a series of minor 11 arpeggios. Each pattern is identical, so it’s best to play this with sweep picking and aim for an even feel. Try saying the word “hippopotamus” when playing through quintuplets to line up the syllables with the subdivisions. When Vai plays these, he lets them blur slightly, turning them into sheets of sound. Or sometimes he uses them to simply highlight the top note by sweeping so fast that it’s almost inaudible—in a cool way!
So there we have it, eight technical linear lines inspired by the amazing Steve Vai. Learning lines from your favorite artists is good, but it really starts to count when you take away the concepts and re-shape them your own way. Vai is a well of inspiration for tons of guitarists. Long may he continue!
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters are designed to offer a fat midrange and a smooth top end.
Billy Corgan was looking for something for heavier Smashing Pumpkins songs, so Joe Naylor designed the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One pickup. Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters have a fat midrange and a smooth top end. This pickup combines the drive and sustain of a humbucker with the percussive attack and string clarity of a P90. Get beefy P90 tone plus amp-pummeling output with the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One.
Patented Railhammer Pickups take passive guitar pickups to a new level with rails under the wound strings lead to tighter lows, and poles under the plain strings offer fatter heights. With increased clarity, the passive pickup’s tone is never sterile.
Railhammer Billy Corgan Signature Z-One Pickup Demo
For more information, please visit railhammer.com.
Designed for utmost comfort and performance, the Vertigo Ultra Bass is Mono’s answer to those who seek the ultimate gigging experience.
Complete with a range of game-changing design features, such as the patent-pending attachable FREERIDE Wheel System, premium water-resistant and reflective materials, shockproof shell structure and improved ergonomic features, the Vertigo Ultra Bass takes gear protection to the next level.
The Vertigo Ultra Bass features:
- Patent-pending FREERIDE Wheel System that allows for wheels to be attached on the case in no time, giving you the option to travel with it seamlessly
- Upgraded materials, including a water-resistant 1680D Ballistic Nylon outer shell, plush inner lining and new reflective trim for maximum backstage and night visibility
- Enhanced protection with a shockproof shell structure and heavy-duty water-resistant YKK zippers for protection from the elements
- Improved ergonomics and functionality including added back support and load-lifting detachable shoulder straps with side release buckles
- Flexible storage options with added space for touring essentials
The Generation Collection of acoustic guitars features the exclusive Gibson Player Port designed to offer a unique and immersive sonic experience.
The G-Bird, the newest addition to the Generation Collection--represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird colliding with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port to add a new dimension to the G-Bird sound. The Gibson Player Port allows players to hear more of themselves as the audience hears it. With a tone that is crisp and resonant, all of the Gibson Generation Collection acoustics are designed to be comfortable to hold and play for long periods of time. All Generation Collection guitars feature the Gibson Player Port, slim, lightweight bodies, a flatter fingerboard radius, Walnut back and sides, Sitka spruce tops, and a stunning Natural finish. Additionally, the new G-Bird, and the G-200 and G-Writer are equipped with LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup systems which amplify deep bass and crystal-clear highs.
The G-Bird represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port adding a new dimension to the G-Bird’s sound. The G-Bird features a stunning solid Sitka spruce top and solid walnut back and sides for the ultimate in crisp, resonant tone. This square-shoulder dreadnought delivers all the rich low end and well-balanced mids and highs the original Hummingbird is famous for. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with chrome Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning. The utile neck, with its easy-playing Advanced Response neck profile, is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Modeled after Gibson’s pioneering small-body parlor acoustic guitars from the 1930’s, the G-00 is a top choice for blues and fingerstyle guitar performances. Despite its more compact size, the G-00 achieves a full, balanced sound. The G-00 fills any room with rich tones-which players can hear like never before, with the exclusive Gibson Player Port. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-00 is handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustic guitars. The G-00 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-00 parlor-sized body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-00 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
The G-45, a round-shouldered jumbo, adds the Gibson Player Port to its famous “Workhorse” J-45 style body, which is Gibson’s best-selling acoustic guitar of all time. On the G-45, players can now hear more clearly than ever how this beloved guitar responds to every style and technique of playing. Powerful one moment and soft the next, the G-45 delivers all sounds with incredible dynamic range in an elegant, medium body size. The G-45 is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-45 features a slightly thinner round shoulder body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-45 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Gibson’s impressive range of square-shouldered guitars have become an expressive standard for rock, pop, folk, and country artists. The G-Writer is known for its wide range of sounds, from gutsy and loud, to soft and sweet; they are superb for all styles and shine, whether strumming chords or fingering intricate solos. The G-Writer comes ready for the stage or studio with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system and the ear-opening Gibson Player Port. The G-Writer is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-Writer features a slightly thinner cutaway body, is more comfortable to play and provides effortless access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Writer is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
Gibson built its first “Super Jumbo” SJ-200 as a custom order for country and western singer and film star Ray Whitley, who desired a big, loud, and deep flat-top over which to croon. The SJ-200 quickly became a staple of cowboy singers and horseback troubadours, and then country music, 60’s folk stars, and onto every acoustic guitar genre that has followed. Ray would be proud to hear the booming sound from the Gibson Player Port on the new G-200, which comes ready for the stage or studio with a LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-200 is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. The G-200 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-200 cutaway jumbo body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and provides excellent access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-200 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
G-Bird | Generation Collection
For more information, please visit gibson.com.