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Steve Vai's Guitar Playing Can Make YOU A Better Guitar Player…Here's How - Part 1
By Tom Hess - 01/13/2015 - 07:03 PM EST

Steve Vai is undoubtedly one of the world's best guitarists. So how can you use this fact to make YOU a better guitar player? Hint: the answer is NOT "learning Steve Vai solos" or "looking up Steve Vai tabs". This is because these things will never allow you to the learn from the REASONS that Vai is great. If you can understand these reasons, you can use them to become a better guitar player yourself.

Here are 3 reasons that Vai is great and what you can do to use these reasons to improve your own playing:

Steve Vai's Guitar Playing Greatness Reason #1: Ability To Exercise Emotional Control In His Guitar Playing

When you watch Steve Vai play guitar live, you can really see how passionate he is about his own music. He expresses this in every note he plays. However, he is not faking this just to make the audience think he is better than he is…he channels real emotions through his guitar so that the entire audience actually feels his performances.

How to use this to improve your own guitar playing:

To experience this level of emotional control in your guitar playing you must be able to:

1. Understand exactly how every note you play will feel BEFORE you play it. Without doing this, you will only be able to imitate emotion while performing, rather than actually creating it and feeling it yourself. Learn how to play guitar with lots of emotion.

2. Think of all of your different guitar techniques as simple tools that will enhance your ability to express yourself on the guitar. Watch this video guitar lesson to learn how you can inject your guitar solos with emotion.

3. Focus on both how you are phrasing your notes as well as what notes you are playing. Doing this will help you to create your own guitar style and make your playing sound even more expressive and unique.

Learn how to turn your average guitar solos into awesome guitar solos in this guitar lesson.

Steve Vai's Guitar Playing Greatness Reason #2: Ease Of Creating Lots Of Fresh Musical Ideas

Most Steve Vai performances consist of several long, improvised guitar solos. Vai even creates his own backing tracks on the spot by looping his riffs and then SOLOING over them on stage. How is he able to continually come up with fresh ideas during these long solos? 2 reasons:

1. His guitar playing fluency level is extremely high

2. His ability to develop a short guitar lick into a full composition

How to use this to improve your own guitar playing:

It doesn't have to take you many years to develop your improvisational skills. If you want to become a great improviser fast do these 2 things:

1. Work with a great guitar teacher so you start learning how to integrate your entire guitar playing skill set and begin to use it fluently while improvising.

2. Practice creating many phrasing variations out of a very short guitar phrase. To learn how to do this properly, watch this improvisation lesson video.

Steve Vai's Guitar Playing Greatness Reason #3: Absolutely Fluent Guitar Playing

It is easy to focus on each of the individual elements of Steve Vai's guitar playing (because he has mastered so many) instead of looking at his guitar playing as a whole. However, if you do this you won't understand how he makes all of these musical techniques work together to create his trademark style. Vai's ability to combine all of the different aspects of his playing FLUENTLY, is the reason he has achieved mastery of the guitar. The next time you are listening to Vai play, focus on how he:

  • Uses a huge number of different scales and modes (blues, Lydian, harmonic minor, and many more) in his guitar playing in very creative ways
  • Uses all of his different guitar techniques (like sweep picking technique and scale sequences) to fluently create his own unique sound and style

The skillsets that all guitar players use are actually very common. This means that you (or anyone) can learn all of the same techniques that Steve Vai knows, easily. It is the process of fluently integrating these skills and techniques that makes a guitar player's individual style so unique. This is the main reason that guitarists like John Petrucci and Yngwie Malmsteen are so great, yet so different from each other in their styles.

How to use this to improve your own guitar playing:

Start improving your overall guitar fluency by:

1. Not ONLY isolating your guitar skills when you practice. This is the primary reason why most guitarists suffer when it comes to playing guitar fluently. There are 4 main reasons that you can tell you have lost track of developing guitar playing fluency:

  • Jumping between guitar exercises without ever focusing on what you need to do to master them. This might seem like the opposite of what I just described, yet you will experience similar problems in your guitar playing. More detail on this topic is available in my article about becoming a better guitar player
  • Practicing a single technique for long periods of time before ever trying to use it with your other musical skills
  • Trying to learn guitar through many different online resources. This won't help you achieve guitar fluency because these resources do not combine to teach you all of the things you need to know to become great

2. Make time in your guitar practice schedule to work ONLY on improving your guitar playing fluency and integration. You can take action towards this goal by:

Combining many different guitar techniques to further develop your guitar playing fluency. Here is an example of how to do this with your arpeggio sweep picking technique.

Studying music theory. This helps you to not just understand music theory but actively use it to make your guitar playing better

After you start using the ideas in this article, you will be on a straight path towards becoming a fluent and great guitar player. To make more progress even faster, study with a guitar teacher who will work with you to help you start reaching your musical goals.

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