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Player Style File: Steve Vai pt.1

Hi again, and welcome to another ‘winter’s hand-warming’ column at IG. Firstly, thank you for all the cool comments I received last month on my Malmsteen lesson, I’m glad you enjoyed it. This month, as promised, here is another ‘style-file’ lesson – this time in the form of Steve Vai. As everyone ought to know Senor Vai is too big a musician to cover in a single month’s column, or twenty for that matter! But I have ruthless and eventually cut everything down into two manageable parts… this month in particular, I have specially focused on his quirky phrasing techniques as well as his sweeping and tapping. Next month, I’m delving into his legato\alternate picking techniques and generally his all-round ‘speedy bits’… so this part is the ‘easy’ one!

As we all remember well, Steve came to prominence as a plucky 18 year old in Frank Zappa’s band, before moving into other bands such as the post- Malmsteen Alcatraz, the freshly solo David Lee Roth, and of course, Whitesnake, for their ‘Slip Of The Tongue’ album and subsequent world tour (taking over from the injured-and-now-rather-grumpy Adrian Vandenburg). Vai has established himself as (together with former mentor Joe Satriani) perhaps one of the most famous (if not THE) and successful guitar heroes since Van Halen. Unlike Eddie or Malmsteen, perhaps, Steve has always changed his style and approach over the years from the quirky ground- breaking ‘Passion & Warfare’ album to his slightly more sedated and ‘groovier’ latest, ‘The Ultra Zone’. Together with his line of JEM and Universe series guitars, the man remains at the forefront of attention…a genius and musical enigma in one.

As said before, I’ve dealt with only certain aspects this month because of time constraints. Lastly, all clips are now hosted on my main site, at Homestead (see links below). December and January’s sound clips are still hosted on their original pages but will be deleted soon. If you want them or tab to my music just mail me…

Best wishes,
Daz M
daz14@metallica.com
www.mp3.com/dazmalekpour/
www.dazmalekpour.homestead.com

Example one

Most under examined perhaps is his use of articulation. Below are a few examples of Vai-isms that add authencity when playing his music… or your own even. The key is to try to aim for ‘expressionism’ and make it ‘sing’ etc… go on, have a go.

i) Quirky ‘wiggle’ vibrato. Use your fingers, not whammy bar!
ii) Use your Whammy here though, it gives it a ‘flowing’ feel.
iii) Slides. Very important.
iv) Screaming Harmonics \ Palm muting, ‘Attitude Song’ style.



i)          ii)   wb(1/2)       iii)                     iv)PH....PM.......
|-----------|---7/9(10)9-7/9~~--|------------------------|-----------------
|-----------|---7/9(10)9-7/9~~--|---\8~~p7p5-------------|-----------------
|-9~~(10)~~-|-------------------|------------7/9\7~~p5~~-|-----------------x2
|-----------|-------------------|------------------------|-----------------
|-----------|-------------------|------------------------|-----------------
|-----------|-------------------|------------------------|-5-4-3--0--5-4-3-

Example Two
Here are a few examples of Steve’s tapping technique. He developed this over several years to a point of great accuracy and fluidity… yet he never ‘over-does’ it (except on occasions).

i) The first tap lick I ever learnt… ever! From ‘The Audience Is Listening’, just before the first verse. Plug in a lot of attitude for this one.
ii) ‘The Attitude Song’, first lick, first ‘verse’.
iii) Tapping reminiscent of the G3 ‘Answers’ ending… I will tab the whole thing out soon (maybe for next month) but time is my enemy.
iv) Tapping madness, from ‘Fool For Your Loving’. Originally from the Whitesnake era. NOTE! This is an internet-tab… I don’t have the song with me any more to transcribes my own \ an exact version. I WILL have it soon, and tab the solo out properly if errors are here. The Tab is courtesy of an unknown contributor. Secondly, I’ve cleaned it up a lot, as it was pretty different visually from the rest of the tab on my lesson.

i)
|--t14p7h10t14p10p7------------------------------------
|------------------t14p10p8p7h8h10p8p7-----------------
|-------------------------------------t14p9t14p97/9~~--
|------------------------------------------------------
|------------------------------------------------------
|------------------------------------------------------
|------------------------------------------------------


ii)    BU  LD
|---------------------------------
|-----------------13b15--t(15)~~--
|-2b4-t14~(14)-p9-----------------
|---------------------------------
|---------------------------------
|---------------------------------


iii)
|------------------------------------------------------------
|------------------------------------------------------------
|-t16p14t16p13-t16p13t16p11-t16p11t16p9-t16p9t16p7-t16p7t16p6
|------------------------------------------------------------
|------------------------------------------------------------
|------------------------------------------------------------



-----------------------------------
-----------------------------------
-t16p6t16p4-t16p4t16p2-t16p2t16p1~-
-----------------------------------
-----------------------------------
-----------------------------------




iv)
|---t12p10p8p7-t12p10p8p7------------------------------------------------------------------
|-------------------------10-t12p10p8p7\5---------8-t12p8----------------------------------
|-----------------------------------------t12p7p5---------7-t12p7p5p4h5h7-t12p7p5p4--------
|-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------t12p7--
|------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
|------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


|-----------------------------------------------------19\15--15/17--17\12~~--
|----------------------------------------------------------------------------
|----------------------------------------------------------------------------
|-t12p7p57-t12p7p5-----------------------------------------------------------
|------------------t12p7-t12p7p5-t12p7p5-------5/7~~-------------------------
|----------------------------------------t12p7-------------------------------


|-12/15--15-----------8h12-t13p12p10p8\7----------t13p10p8-----------------------
|-----------15/17~~----------------------t13p10p8----------t13p10p8/10--10/22~~--
|--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
|--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
|--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
|--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[*NOTE AGAIN!* I’ll tab it properly soon, my way, so don’t worry if it doesn’t sound too right yet.]

Example Three Unlike neo-classicism, where arpeggios and sweeping were – more often than not – used with alarming speed to portray only the shredder’s ability and command of chops, Vai’s sweeping always shows melody and sense of direction, either for musical build up (in a straight full-on sweep bit) or splattered here and there to add a more rhythmical edge to his melodies and solos. Here are a few cool examples all fans will recognize as trademark characteristics.

i) Major \ Major pentatonic – used all the time, most notably, in the outro solo to ‘The Attitude Song’, and ‘Ladies Nite In Buffalo’, not to mention countless other bits here and there. Double tracked for authencity, this is from the former example, with the second guitar up 3rd (scale is G major). If you have a good effects processor with intelligent pitch-shift, try setting it to a 3rd up from the original note for such results. Then try a 4th, 5th, 2nd, 6th etc… just for fun! You might even find some cool harmonies and stuff. *NOTE!* the harmony part stays in the SAME key – ie G Major. This is interesting as it gives it a very different feel when certain intervals collide, for instance the A-G-F#-E-D-C run (part one) is not a 3rd up from its opposing run TONALLY. However, it is diatonically, if that helps to make your head hurt more so.
ii) A downward spiral, something similar of which is heard on ‘Touching Tongues’ after the vocal solo by Devin… ironically he also uses such Vai-trademarks in his own playing – he’s no guitar slouch either, y’know.
iii) Chromatic. Anyone familiar with John Petrucci will know that this idea features heavily in his playing ideas too… I’ve heard John play similar to this on occasion.
iv) High-speed time, this time ‘For The Love Of God’, the bit after the main part wildly solo wig-out.
v) Melody, once again, with this cute descending pattern in the key of D major.

i) G Major
|14-17---------14-17---------14-17---------14-17---------14-17---------17-15-14-----------
|-----15-----15-----15-----15-----15-----15-----15-----15-----15-----15--------17-15-13~~-
|-------14-16---------14-16---------14-16---------14-16---------14-16---------------------
|-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
|-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
|-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
|
|19-22---------19-22---------19-22---------19-22---------19-22---------22-20-19-----------
|-----20-----20-----20-----20-----20-----20-----20-----20-----20-----20--------22-20-19~~-
|-------19-21---------19-21---------19-21---------19-21---------19-21---------------------
|-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
|-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
|-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



ii)
|--/17-14-------------/14-11-------------/11-8-------------------
|--------15-----15\---------12-----12\---------9-----9\----------
|----------16-----------------13-----------------10------etc...--
|------------14-----------------11-----------------8-------------
|----------------------------------------------------------------
|----------------------------------------------------------------



iii)
|--1-------------4-5-------------8-9------------12---------
|----2---------3-----6---------7----10--------11-----------
|------3-----2---------7-----6--------11----10-----etc...--
|--------4-1-------------8-5------------12-9---------------
|----------------------------------------------------------
|----------------------------------------------------------



iv)
|-------7h10/22p19-----------------7h10/22p19-------------------
|-8---8-----------20-----20\-----8-----------20-----20\---------
|---9---------------21---------9---------------21--------etc...-
|---------------------19-------------------------19-------------
|---------------------------------------------------------------
|---------------------------------------------------------------



v) wb
|--(~0)17p14--------------------------------------------
|------------15-----------------------------------------
|---------------14-\-12-\-11----------------------------
|----------------------------12-------------------------
|-------------------------------12-\-10-----------------
|---------------------------------------12-\-10-/-12~~--


More next month, and if this wasn’t enough, re-do my Last month’s whopper Malmsteen one… I’m sure it wont do you any (not much anyway) harm.

www.d14andbleedingme.homestead.com/insaneguitar.html
www.mp3.com/dazmalekpour
daz14@metallica.com

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