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Famous Like Me > Composer > V > Steve Vai

Profile of Steve Vai on Famous Like Me

Name: Steve Vai  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 6th June 1960
Place of Birth: Long Island, New York, USA
Profession: Composer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia
Steve Vai at G3 in Milan, Italy, June 2004

Steven Siro Vai (born June 6, 1960 in Carle Place, New York, USA), is a North American guitarist and composer, notable for having received a Grammy Award and being cited as an influence by many guitarist from the 1990s and onwards.


When growing up, the young Vai became interested in rock giants such as Jimi Hendrix, Alice Cooper and Led Zeppelin which led him to take up learning the guitar. Prior to attending Berklee College of Music, Steve took guitar lessons from now fellow guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani, and played in numerous local bands. It was also at this time that he became fascinated by the music of Frank Zappa. Steve mailed transcriptions of Zappa's songs to him, and after meeting Vai for the first time he was so impressed with the abilities of the young musician, Zappa hired him to do work transcribing his seemingly endless array of experimental symphonic rock.

The post-Zappa period

Vai (right) on the cover of the April 1990 issue of the Guitar World magazine with Joe Satriani.

After leaving Zappa in 1982 he moved to California where he recorded his first album Flex-Able and performed in a couple of bands. Where Vai's contributions to others' material has been constrained by the largely rock or heavy-rock style of those bands, his own material is considerably more esoteric. In 1985 he replaced Yngwie Malmsteen as lead guitarist in Graham Bonnett's Alcatrazz with whom he recorded the album Disturbing the Peace. Later in 1985 he joined former Van Halen front man David Lee Roth's group to record the albums Eat 'em and Smile and Skyscraper. In 1986 Vai also surprised everyone by playing with ex-Sex Pistols John Lydon's Public Image Ltd on their album "Album" (now called "Compact Disc"). Then in 1989 Vai stepped into guitarist Adrian Vandenberg's shoes to record with British rock-group Whitesnake after Vandenberg injured his wrist shortly before recording was due to begin for the album Slip of the Tongue. Vai's playing style has been characterized as quirky and angular, owing to his superb technical facility with the instrument, proportionally symmetrical fingers, and deep knowledge of music theory. Vai has also been credited with the recent revival of the 7-string guitar. The earliest 7-string electric guitars were played by jazz guitarist George Van Epps in the 1930s and 1940s, but the concept was reintroduced to rock audiences by Vai.

Steve Vai continues to tour regularly, both with his own group and with his one time teacher and fellow Grammy award winning guitar instrumentalist friend Joe Satriani on the G3 series of tours. Former David Lee Roth Bassist Billy Sheehan also joined him for a world tour. Vai received a Grammy Award in 1991. Vai's band members throughout the 1990s included drummer Mike Mangini and bassist Philip Bynoe.

In 1994 Steve Vai was hired to write and play on the upcoming Ozzy Osbourne album Ozzmosis. The plan was to have Vai appear on half the album and Zakk Wylde appear on the other half. Steve can only be heard on My Little Man and the leftover track Back On Earth that appeared on the greatest hits collection the Ozzman Cometh.

Steve Vai released a DVD of his performance at The Astoria is London in Decemeber 2001, featuring the lineup of bassist Billy Sheehan, formerly of David Lee Roth and Mr. Big, guitar and piano virtuoso Tony MacAlpine, Dave Weiner and drummer Virgil Donati.

In July of 2002, Steve Vai performed with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra at the Suntory Hall in Tokyo, Japan, in the world premiere of composer Ichiro Nodaira's "Fire Strings - a concerto for electric guitar and 100-piece orchestra".

In 2003, Donati was replaced by drummer Jeremy Colson. Vai's latest album, Real Illusions: Reflections, was released in 2005, and Steve Vai and the Breed, as the band is now called, has embarked on a world tour in support of that album.

In 2004, Steve Vai contributed to the Halo 2 soundtrack. Specifically, Vai contributed a guitar line for the Halo 2 Theme (Mjolnir Mix) and Never Surrender.


Steve Vai's music has featured in a number of feature films, including Dudes, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey and Ghosts of Mars. He appeared onscreen in the 1986 Ralph Macchio movie Crossroads, playing the demonically-inspired Jack Butler. At the film's climax, Vai engages in a guitar duel with Macchio, whose guitar parts were dubbed by Vai and Ry Cooder. The fast-paced "neo-classical" track entitled "Eugene's Trick Bag" with which Macchio wins the competition was also composed by Vai. The piece was heavily based on Paganini's Caprice # 5, and has become a favorite apprentice-piece among many guitar students. Also, composed and performed the soundtrack to "P.C.U." (1994)20th Century Fox release


Vai is an accomplished studio producer (he owns two: "The Mother Ship" and "The Harmony Hut") and his own recordings combine his signature guitar prowess with novel compositions and considerable use of studio and recording effects, such as the Eventide H3000 ultra harmonizer and Digidesign's Pro Tools Hard Disc recording system and plug-in effects architecture.

Vai also helped design his signature Ibanez JEM series of guitars. They feature a hand grip (fondly referred to as a "monkey grip") cut into the top of the body of the guitar, a humbucker-single coil-humbucker Dimarzio pickup configuration, a double-locking Floyd Rose licensed tremolo system, as well as an elaborate and extensive "Vine of Life" inlay down the neck. Steve also was behind the seven string version of the JEM called the Universe. These instruments were later used by Korn and other heavy metal bands to create nu-metal sounds in the late 1990s.

Steve Vai has also worked with Carvin Guitars and Pro Audio to develop the Carvin Legacy line of guitar amplifiers. Vai wanted to create an amp that was superior in sound, versatility, and affordability to any guitar amp he had previously used.

Other engagements

Vai owns Favored Nations, a recording and publishing company that specializes in internationally procuring and maintaining recording artists. Vai is married to Pia Maiocco former bass player of Vixen, who can be seen in Hardbodies. Steve and Pia have two children, Julian Angel & Fire. In his spare time Vai enjoys keeping bees, which regularly produce a crop of honey that Vai sells for his Make a Noise Foundation.


Solo Albums

  • Flex-Able (1984)
  • Flex-Able Leftovers (1984)
  • Passion and Warfare (1990)
  • Sex and Religion (1993)
  • Alien Love Secrets (1995)
  • Fire Garden (1996)
  • The Ultra Zone (1999)
  • The Seventh Song (2000)
  • Alive In An Ultra World (2001)
  • The Elusive Light and Sound, volume 1 (2002)
  • The Infinite Steve Vai: An Anthology (2003)
  • Real Illusions: Reflections (2005)

Appearances on Zappa albums

  • Tinsel Town Rebellion (1981) rhythm guitar, vocals
  • Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar (1981) rhythm guitar
  • You Are What You Is (1981) Strat abuse
  • Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch (1982) impossible guitar parts
  • The Man from Utopia (1983) impossible guitar parts
  • Them or Us (1984) guitar
  • Thing-Fish (1984) guitar, vocals
  • Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention (1985) guitar
  • Jazz from Hell (1987) guitar
  • Guitar (1988) stunt guitar
  • You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore Sampler (1988) stunt guitar
  • You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 1 (1988) stunt guitar
  • You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 3 (1989) stunt guitar
  • You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 4 (1991) stunt guitar, vocals
  • You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 5 (1992) stunt guitar
  • You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 6 (1992) stunt guitar
  • Strictly Commercial (1995) guitar
  • Have I Offended Someone? (1997) guitar
  • Cheap Thrills (1998) guitar
  • Son of Cheep Thrills (1999) guitar, vocals
  • Beat the Boots I: As An Am (1991) stunt guitar


Steve Vai, over his long musical career has used and designed an array of guitars. He even had his DNA (blood) put into the swirl paintjob on one of his JEM guitars. Nowadays he mainly uses his white JEM7V, which is inscribed with the letters "evo," mainly in order to allow him to distinguish between the guitars he uses onstage which are practically identical, except his "flo" guitar is equipped with a sustainer pick-up in the bridge.

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Steve Vai