In a new interview with LifeMinute, Steve Vai reflected on studying under Joe Satriani as a youth and how those lessons inspired him musically from an early stage. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “I can’t even fathom what my life would be like without him. When I was 12, a friend of mine, John Sergio, who was a friend when we were in diapers, was also a great mentor, because he introduced me to all this music that I was unaware of — progressive rock from the ’70s. He brought me to my first QUEEN concert. He brought me into his band; it was the first band I was in when I was 13. He’s been a dear friend. [He had an] incredible musical taste. And he was playing the guitar when I was 12, and I couldn’t believe it, ’cause he lived two houses away. And then he said, ‘If you think I’m great, you should see my guitar teacher, Joe Satriani.’ So he gave me Joe‘s number, and I started taking lessons. And my lessons with Joe were all that mattered to me.
“Joe was always cool,” Vai continued. “He was always solid, sharing and strict. And it was the best thing because he was great, and that’s what you want in a teacher; you’re inspired by seeing.
“To this day, the thing that I got most… There’s so many things. And we’re so fortunate that all through these years we’ve been joined at the hips,” Steve added. “When I would watch him play, when I was 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, everything he touched on the instrument sounded like music. When it came out of his fingers, it just sounded good; it sounded like there was a soul in it. It wasn’t just noodly nothingness, the kind of academic exercises and stuff like that. I mean, we did some of that; that’s part of the training… So I always appreciated that. And still, he’s so solid and he’s so musical. His inner musical ear is inspired, that he’s continued to be an inspiration my whole life.”
A year and a half ago, Vai told the “Striking A Chord” podcast that he took lessons from Satriani “religiously” on a weekly basis for about “three to four years.”
“When I was in Joe‘s room, learning, I never felt as though I was going to run out of mentorship,” Vai recalled. “There was always this greatness about Joe that always seemed to surprise and delight. He was always teaching one new lesson after another, [and] just revealed a wealth of information and almost what seemed to me at a time infinite depth of musicality.”
Vai went on to say that his lessons with Satriani helped him develop into the accomplished player he has since become.
“I didn’t know anything,” he said. “I mean, I was noodling around with a guitar in my bedroom before that, but I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just playing by ear and I didn’t know how to keep the strings tuned. In the beginning, it was basically like finger exercises and just things to kind of get my dexterity going, but it was very well-balanced. My lessons [with Joe] evolved very organically. He was an incredible teacher.”
Back in 2018, Satriani spoke to Albany, New York’s Q103 radio station about what it was like giving lessons to Vai. He said: “Steve Vai was 12 years old and could not play guitar at all when I met him. He showed up on my front door with a guitar with no strings in one hand and a pack of strings in the other, and said, ‘Hey, you’re teaching my friend. Can you teach me how to play too?’ So that was my introduction to Steve.”
Several other Satriani students went on to achieve fame of their own, including Kirk Hammett, Alex Skolnick, Andy Timmons, Larry LaLonde, Rick Hunolt, Charlie Hunter, Jeff Tyson and Kevin Cadogan.
Joe Satriani photo credit: Eduardo Peña Dolhun