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©2019 Jimbo Kennedy

Jimbo Kennedy is an Oregon-based guitarist and author.

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Reaching for Guitar Enlightenment with Steve Vai

September 2, 2018

Every guitarist reaches a level of skill somewhere between Beginner and Steve Vai. You may or may not enjoy his music. That's not the point. Steve Vai has a mastery of the instrument shared by very few performers alive today. Guitar is not a competition. But Steve Vai is very much winning. He has mastered technical skill, tone & electronic expression, performance, business, songwriting, ... the list goes on. He is beyond a guitarist - he is a living musical master. So let's talk about what we can learn from his mastery.


Steve Vai in the movie "Crossroads" as The Devil's Guitar Player, Jack Butler. "Eugene's Trick Bag", the song he loses to was written & recorded by him.


Steve found music at a very young age. He also pursued it professionally for most of his life. Don't ever feel threatened by this. He isn't a role model to imitate, he is a guru to study under. He would probably insist here that you are an individual with your own path and your own creativity. Play like you, but learn what you can from him. (This goes for every Guitar God or Guru discussed here.)


One of the traits I find so endearing about Steve is his openness. His heart is in his work and he wrote a series of deep articles on that matter of playing with heart: Martian Love Secrets. Please take some time to read all 7 of those beautiful teachings. I find it easy to get lost in Steve's technical virtuosity. How he approaches music. His expertise goes higher and deeper than shredding. Those writings express profound life wisdom AND it relates to playing guitar.



Enough mumbo jumbo, for now. What can Steve Vai teach us about how to play the guitar? Well, back in 1990, he revealed his personal regimen for guitar mastery: Steve Vai's 30-Hour Guitar Workout. Lucky woodshedders! It deals with every possible aspect of guitar mastery, including:


  • Exercises

  • Scales

  • Chords

  • Ear training

  • Sight-reading

  • Composing/songwriting

  • Music theories

  • Jamming


When I started playing electric guitar, this workout guided a lot of my practice. It meant a lot to have this tried-and-true method to follow. There are too many how-to books available these days. And this method works no matter what style you prefer, and no matter where you fall on the skill scale. You can buy Steve Vai's Guitar Workout here if you want a copy.


Whether you want to play like him or not, please enjoy this video of Steve Vai teaching instinctual guitar. Pure. Greatness.




Thanks for reading!



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