Steve Vai is a living guitar legend. Voted #10 on Guitar World‘s 2012 “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” poll, the axe man was a leader among the talented crop of metal and heavy rock electric guitar masters that came to prominence during the 1980’s. At the age of thirteen, after having purchased his first guitar and begun taking his first lessons with fellow New York native Joe Satriani, Vai became obsessed with the discipline of practice. Vai’s practice routine, consisting of a rigid and structured regiment of ten-to-fifteen hour-a-day practice schedules, became the basis of his work ethic for the rest of his career.
Vai got started on his music industry as an 18-year-old transcriptionist for Frank Zappa, and went on to join Zappa’s band for several years before embarking on a decorated solo career. He has also toured with seminal 80’s rock acts like Whitesnake and David Lee Roth, and participated in live projects like Zappa Plays Zappa and “Experience Hendrix,” and has recorded with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Meatloaf, and many more. A thoroughly individual player, Vai’s playing is marked by his technical proficiency and diverse playing techniques, including two-handed tapping, sweep picking, whammy bar acrobatics, and beyond
Beyond his own personal playing, Vai is known for his technical innovations in the world of the electric guitar. The Ibanez JEM model that he co-designed (with its trademark body handle) is one of the most iconic instruments in contemporary music. He also designed the first comercially-produced 7-string guitar, the Ibanez Universe, which became virtually ever-present in heavy rock and metal sub-genres throughout the ensuing decade.
In honor of his 57th birthday today, take a few minutes to bask in the glory of these classic Steve Vai shred-fests below, like this video of Vai tapping and riffing away on a triple-necked guitar at The Fillmore in Denver on 10/20/03…
…or this clip of Vai’s shred duel with actor Ralph Macchio from the 1986 film “Crossroads…”
Or this clip of Vai and former Ozzy Osborne guitarist Zakk Wylde tag-teaming Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child…”
…Or this glamorous live performance of his Alien Love Secrets (’95) instrumental, “Tender Surrender.”
Happy birthday, Steve!