Steve Vai Explains Frank Zappa’s ‘Unconventional Ways’ To Mod A Guitar


Former Alcatrazz guitarist Steve Vai shared exclusive details about his massive guitar collection during his recent interview with Guitar World. One of these guitars reminded him of his early days in the music industry and the late guitarist Frank Zappa‘s extraordinary ways while modifying a guitar.

While he was a student at Berklee College of Music, Vai drew Zappa’s attention after sending a transcription of his ‘The Black Page’ and record from his college band Morning Thunder to the musician. Zappa admired his work, so he began working with him as his transcriptionist, which can be regarded as the beginning of his professional musical career. Then, Vai became his touring guitarist and a full-time member of Zappa’s band.

Thus, the late ’80s was the milestone for Vai, who had a chance to learn a lot from Zappa. Later, he admitted that everyone in his band had to be best to continue to play with him. Then, Vai continued his career as a solo musician and served as a guitarist for different bands and musicians such as Whitesnake, Alcatrazz, and David Lee Roth. However, Zappa remained one of his biggest influences as he grew to be a musician with him.

Steve Vai revealed how Zappa inspired him to mod his guitar in a recent conversation. The guitarist stated that Zappa used to mod his guitar by using preamps, various signal EQ boost, and changing pickups which are very unconventional in terms of guitar modification. Vai added that he used the same techniques with his 1977 Fender Strat, which played while he was in high school, Zappa’s band, and Alcatrazz. He added that he recorded the songs from his debut studio album ‘Flex-Able,’ including ‘The Attitude Song’ with his guitar.

Vai shared his ideas, saying:

“This is a 1977 Fender Strat. It was my first quality guitar that my mother helped me buy at Matthew’s Music in Roosevelt Field when I was 16 years old. I put more notes on this guitar than any other that I own. I used this as my one and only main guitar all through high school, Berklee College, Frank Zappa days, and into Alcatrazz.

‘Flex-Able’ was recorded with this guitar, including ‘The Attitude Song.’ Frank Zappa used to mod his guitars in unconventional ways, and this inspired me to do the same by changing pickups, adding preamps, and various signal EQ boosts. It’s the one guitar I own that gives me the most juice when I see it.”

You can listen to ‘The Attitude Song’ below.