Berklee Online Exclusive: Gain a deep understanding and command of the playing styles, repertoire, techniques, and musical concepts of guitar legend and Berklee alum Steve Vai. This online course, the first ever of its kind, presents an "under the hood" look at the work of one of the world's most influential guitarists. Through playing exercises, listening examples, hours of never-before-seen video, song transcriptions and performance assignments, students will not only learn the secrets behind Vai's best known compositions and virtuosic techniques, but will also learn how to improve their own solos, chord and rhythm playing, and overall voice on the guitar.
Each week, the course spotlights a different Steve Vai composition and explores all the relevant topics and techniques related to that song, including soloing, rhythm playing, scales, bending, tapping, sweep picking, sliding, time feel, tone, articulation, and use of the whammy bar. You will learn to craft and perform lead lines like those in the Grammy-nominated songs "Tender Surrender," "For the Love of God," and "The Attitude Song." You will learn to execute the seemingly impossible two-hand tapping, pull-offs, and other ear-bending licks from songs like "Building the Church," "Juice," and "Jibboom." You will also listen to a number of Vai's first-hand anecdotes and inspirational lessons, including many behind the scenes stories about playing alongside the composer and guitarist Frank Zappa.
The course will also explore the circular vibrato, the incredibly precise artificial harmonics, and the virtuosic sweeps that Vai is known for. In addition to dissecting Vai's tunes, the course places a heavy emphasis on "how" and "why" each tune was written, allowing you to grow not only as a performer but also as a composer, all the while finding your own unique voice on the guitar. Steve Vai Guitar Techniques is taught by members of Berklee College of Music's renowned guitar department. All students will receive detailed, personalized feedback on their work from an esteemed member of Berklee's guitar faculty, who will be leading this course on a week-to-week basis.
By the end of this course, you will be able to:
- Play several of Steve Vai's compositions and guitar solos according to his own fingerings and techniques
- Improve your power chord and clean rhythm playing techniques and vocabulary
- Improvise your own guitar solos over different loops constructed from various Vai "naked tracks"
- Execute several different whammy bar tricks and techniques
- Further develop your string bending and vibrato skills and techniques
- Learn Vai's approach to sweep picking
- Apply various one- and two-handed tapping techniques on your guitar
- Further develop and improve your odd meter time feel
- Perform different pull-off riffs on your guitar
- Incorporate slides to embellish your guitar solos and melody statements
- Improve your reading skills
- Learn how to ultimately find your own voice on the guitar
Lesson 1: "For the Love of God"
- The Melody Section
- Mental Warm-Up: Music Meditation
- Intention/Build Confidence
- Singing Melodies Over Chords
- ToneVibrato: Circular, Multi-Note, and More Phrasing
- Slides/The Bridge Section
- Discovering, Setting, and Achieving Your Goals
- The E Aeolian and F Lydian Scales
- The Importance of Reading Music
Lesson 2: "Jibboom"
- A Break-Down of "Jibboom"
- The E Minor and E Major Pentatonic Scales
- The Head to "Jibboom"
- Identifying, Playing, and Listening to Intervals on the Guitar
- The Power of Visualization
Lesson 3: "Sisters"
- Playing with a Clean Tone
- Major and Minor Triads/Inversions
- Sus2 and Sus4 Triads
- Chord Embellishment
Lesson 4: "Tender Surrender"
- Playing with Emotion
- The Melody: Playing with Octaves
- Diatonic Chord Progressions
- Pull-Off Technique: Flutters and Trills
Lesson 5: "Die to Live"
- Power Chord Variations and Articulations
- Diatonic Slides and Approaches
- The Melody Statement
- The Chord Progression
Lesson 6: "The Attitude Song"
- Artificial (Pinch) and Natural Harmonics
- Speed Picking Techniques
- The Melody Statement
- Odd Meter Time Signatures
Lesson 7: "Juice"
- Locking to a Boogie Groove
- Doing Something That You Haven't Done
- Hammer Tapping Techniques
- Major and Minor 6th Ideas
- Making an Exercise Out of a Technique
Lesson 8: "Frank"
- Thoughts on Frank Zappa
- The Intro Verse Fills
- The Verse/Melody Statement
- Using Harmonics and the Whammy Bar
- The Solo
- Creating Cluster Chords
Lesson 9: "The Animal"
- Following and Accomplishing Your True Desires
- The Melody
- Playing with a Whammy Pedal and Wah-Wah
- The Solo Section
- Building a Dynamic Solo
- Learning to Relax
Lesson 10: "Building the Church"
- The Story Behind "Building the Church"
- Two-Handed Tapping
- Solo Breakdown
- The Melody and Chorus
- The E Phrygian Mode
- Groove Playing
Lesson 11: Guitar Tips, Tricks, and Secrets
- The Horse Sound from "Bad Horsie"
- Steve's Favorite Whammy Bar Licks
- Steve's Favorite Sweep Picking Licks
- More Tapping
Lesson 12: Finding Your Voice
- Ear Training
- Time Management
- Taking Care of "Business"
- The Importance of Performing with Other People
- Improving without an Instrument
Author & Instructor
Scotty Johnson has been an associate professor in the Guitar department at Berklee College of Music since 1999 and is a regular performer in the Boston theater scene. Scotty has toured the world many times and recorded CDs with Paul Gilbert (Bee Hive Live, Alligator Farm), The Ford Blues Band (Fords and Friends with Robben Ford), The Blindside Blues Band, Dick Dale (Calling Up Spirits), Ansley Dunbar, and many others.
In addition to winning the grand prize in the International D'Addario "Rockontest," Scotty is a former Blues Bureau International recording artist and was also the musical director of the long-running production show Madhattan in Las Vegas. Recent theater credits include Spamalot, The Lion King, High Fidelity, Sweet Charity, Smokey Joes Cafe, Footloose, The Full Monty, Annie, Memphis, and Fame.
Scotty's instructional video Accelerate Your Rock Guitar Playing is available from Berklee Press/Hal Leonard/Rittor Music.
"Steve Vai's guitar wizardry is so profound that in earlier times he would have been burned as a witch." - Guitar World
As a Grammy award-winning guitar virtuoso with career sales of over 15 million records, Steve Vai's sheer breathtaking facility on the guitar is acclaimed in the rock world and beyond. While Vai clearly had what was needed to make indelible impressions during his stays with Frank Zappa and David Lee Roth, it's as a solo artist that he's made his most precious contributions. The Long Island, NY native has spent the last three decades writing, recording, scoring for films, orchestra, and performing the most exciting music ever created with a guitar. His virtuosity and custom six and seven string instruments continue to inspire young musicians who celebrate Vai as the "Alien Guitar Master." Although Vai is hailed as a musical alchemist of the highest order and tours regularly in over 50 countries, he is also highly sought after to lend his talents to commercial enterprises and has appeared on American Idol, The Tonight Show, games for Xbox. Playstation, and Guitar Hero. In addition to his recording career, Steve is involved with many worthwhile organizations. He is a former Trustee for the National Academy of the Recording Arts and Sciences, is on the advisory board of Hollywood Arts, and works closely with his own Make a Noise Foundation, raising money for music education. Steve attended Berklee College of Music in Boston and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the college. In 2011 Berklee will launch an eponymous course devoted to the study of Vai's technique and style.
Completion of the Berklee Online courses Guitar Chords 101 and Guitar Scales 101 or equivalent knowledge and experience is required. In order to succeed in this course, you should have a basic understanding of standard notation and TAB. You should have a basic understanding of major and minor triads, major and minor barre chords, major and minor pentatonic scales, and the major scale and its modes. You should also be able to properly tune your instrument, and record and upload your assignments using a computer.
- A basic audio recording tool that will allow you to record yourself playing along with a background track and save the recording in MP3 format. You will have a tool to use for this purpose inside the learning environment. Alternatively, you can use software like Audacity, GarageBand or any Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).
- Mac Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, or Safari
- PC Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, Internet Explorer, or Edge
- Flash Player (if using the Record Live tool)
- Electric guitar
- A basic amp chord with a 1/4- to 1/8-inch adapter for recording directly into the computer (if you do not own an audio interface), a built-in microphone, or an external microphone plugged directly into your computer (via built-in ports or an external audio interface)
- Audio interface such as the IK Multimedia Stealthplug, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, Mbox, etc. See the Student Deals page for discounts (recommended)
- An amp or amp simulator with distortion (or a distortion pedal)
- Wah-wah, whammy pedal, and whammy bar are highly recommended to get the most out of this course
- OS X 10.7 or higher
- 2 GB RAM
- 500 MB hard drive space
- Sound card
- Windows Vista SP2 or higher
- Intel Pentium 4 or higher
- 1 GB RAM
- 500 MB hard drive space
- Sound card
The "naked tracks" for the following songs:
- "For the Love of God"
- "Tender Surrender"
- "Die To Live"
- "The Animal"
- "Building the Church"
- "Bad Horsie"
- "Whispering a Prayer"
You can get the "naked tracks" here.