Steven Siro Vai is a three time Grammy Award winning virtuoso rock guitarist. Known as Steve Vai, he was born June 6th, and has sold more than 15 million albums worldwide throughout his career. Vai began playing guitar at the age of 13, taking lessons from another well known guitarist, Joe Satriani, at the age of 14. Vai played in numerous local bands in and around Long Island, where he grew up, one of which was called "The Steve Vais." He cites a number of legendary influences for his playing style, including Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Allan Holdsworth and Brian May.
After his stint studying under Satriani, Vai moved to Boston and attended the Berklee College of Music. Upon graduating, he recorded a promotional piece for the school in which he spoke about auditioning for Frank Zappa at the age of twenty. He later mailed Zappa a transcription of his "The Black Page," a drum instrumental, along with a tape of his playing. Zappa was so impressed that he hired Vai as a transcriptionist, and that's how his professional career in music began.
Vai would go on to do some studio work for Zappa, including laying down overdubs on many of the guitar parts on Zappa's "You Are What You Is" album, after which Zappa invited him to become a full-time member of the band. Vai went on tour with Zappa for the first time in the fall of 1980, and a recording of a show in Buffalo from the tour would be released in 2007. While on tour with Zappa, Vai would often invite audience members to bring musical scores and see if he could sight-read them on the spot. Zappa often called the guitarist his "little Italian vituoso" and listed him in the liner notes as having performed "stunt guitar" and "impossible guitar parts" on several albums.
After leaving Zappa in 1982, Vai moved to California and began his solo career. He released his first solo album "Flex-Able" in 1983 and also spent some time in several local bands that never quite made it. In 1985, Vai replaced Yngwie Malmsteen as the lead guitarist in Graham Bonnet's band Alcatrazz, recording the album "Disturbing the Peace." The same year, he also joined up with former Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth and was the lead guitarist on Roth's albums "Eat 'Em and Smile" and "Skyscraper." In 1986, Vai played on John Lydon's Public Image Ltd's album "Album."
In 1989, Vai replaced former Dio guitarist Vivian Campbell in Whitesnake. When the band's other guitarist Adrian Vandenberg injured his wrist shortly before recording began for the album "Slip of the Tongue," Vai was called on to record all of the guitar parts on the record. Vai also collaborated with his former teacher, Joe Satriani, that year, recording the guitar work for "Feed My Frankenstein" on Alice Cooper's "Hey Stoopid" album.
Vai continues to tour regularly, both with his own group and with Satriani on the G3 series of tours. In 1990, Vai released his most critically acclaimed solo work, "Passion and Warfare." The album featured the song "For the Love of God", which was voted #29 in a readers' poll of the Top 100 guitar solos of all time in Guitar World magazine. In 1994, Vai worked with Ozzy Osbourne. Only one track from those sessions, "My Little Man," was released (on Ozzy's "Ozzmosis" album.) Despite having written the track, Vai did not appear on the album as Osbourne had Zakk Wylde record the guitar parts.
In March, 2011, the online education division of Berklee College of Music, with Steve Vai, set the Guiness World Record for the world's largest online guitar lesson. The project was streamed from Livestream Studios in New York City, and brought together thousands of guitarists around the world in a celebration of online music education. Vai also co-authored a twelve-week online course offered at Berklee called Steve Vai Guitar Techniques.
During his career, Vai has released a total of eight studio albums, several live and compilation albums, and has appeared on albums by dozens of other artists. He is considered by many fellow musicians and critics to be a virtuoso. His playing style is generally considered quirky and angular, largely because of his technical ability with the instrument and deep knowledge of music theory. His playing has also been described as "lyrical", sounding as if it was sung by a human voice.
Vai resides in Encino. California with his wife Pia Maiocco and their two children, Julian and Fire. In his spare time he is an avid beekeeper, and an honorary member of the British Beekeepers' Association. His bees regularly produce a crop of honey that Vai sells, funneling the profits to his Make a Noise Foundation, which provides funding for music education programs for lower-income children.
Steve Vai Gear
Guitars & Pickups
Jackson Guitars (Vai only used these for a couple years back when he was endorsed)
Ibanez Jem Guitars:
Ibanez JEM7V Steve Vai Signature Electric Guitar White
Ibanez Universe 7-string model designed by Vai
Acoustic guitar - Ibanez Euphoria
Tom Anderson custom guitar - Jem 77 with stock Dimarzio DP151 PAF Pro Pickups
Notes: Steve Vai helped with the design of his signature Ibanez JEM series, featuring a hand grip (monkey grip)
cut into the top of the body of the guitar, single coil-humbucker
DiMarzio pickup configuration by several brands like Evolution, Breed and EVO 2.
Ibanez Edge locking tremolo system, plus a "Vine of Life" inlay down the neck. Also equiped with an
Ibanez Backstop, a discontinued tremolo stabilizer.
Marshall 100 watt head modified by Jose Arrendondo
Carvin Legacy Amps
Fractal Audio AXE-FX Ultra (started using in 2010)
Ibanez Jemini Dual Pedal
Boss DS-1 (Keeley modded)
Ibanez Tube Screamer TS-9 (Keeley modded)
Morley Bad Horsie
Morley Little Alligator Volume Pedal
MXR Phase 90
TC Electronics G system
Peterson Strobostomp Tuner
Roland sde 3000
Yamaha 1500 delay
Ibanez Reverb 1000
Eventide H3000 Harmonizer
TC Electronics Stereo Chorus
Drawmer Noise Gate
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