Steve Vai Recalls The Life-Changing Lesson He Learned From Joe Satriani

Guitarist Steve Vai recently joined Live From Nerdville With Joe Bonamassa for an interview during which he remembered the time Joe Satriani taught him a lesson that changed his life.

Back in 1973, when he was 13 years old, Steve Vai began taking guitar lessons from Joe Satriani, a fellow New York native. He then played in local bands throughout his high school years and continued his music career. Following the release of his ‘Fire Garden’ in 1996, Vai joined his former teacher Satriani for the G3 concert tours.

After taking lessons from Joe Satriani, Vai focused on practicing with discipline. His practice routine consisted of hours and hours of practice a day, which developed his work ethic throughout his career. Speaking to Joe Bonamassa, Vai revealed what else he learned from Joe Satriani and how it changed his life.

In the interview with Joe Bonamassa, Steve Vai stated that Joe Satriani shared everything related to music and guitar with him. He then recalled that during one lesson, which might be his second lesson, Satriani told him to memorize all the notes on the neck and know them the following week. Vai said he thought he didn’t have a good memory for this homework, so he didn’t believe he would be able to do it and struggled with the assignment.

So, the next week, he walked into the next lesson and couldn’t play the note Satriani asked from him. As a result, the guitarist asked Vai to leave and not come back until he knew the notes. In the end, Vai said this experience was pivotal for his career because it made him realize that he would never learn his lesson thoroughly. Moreover, the guitarist described Satriani as a great teacher who shared everything with him. He then stated that they would play for hours at the end of their lessons, and it was a fantastic experience.

During the conversation, Steve Vai said the following:

“Because Joe Satriani – I mean for music and guitar – he shared everything. He shared everything. And he was kind of strict, you know? I remember one time, one lesson – it was my second lesson or something – and he said: ‘Memorize all the notes on the neck. Come back next week and know all the notes.’ And memorize them cold, you know?

And I thought: ‘I don’t have a good memory.’ It was one of these – like a homework assignment -and I didn’t think that I was capable of doing it. So, I spent little time trying to memorize the notes. And I walked into my lesson, and Joe says: ‘Play an F sharp on the B string.’ And I go: ‘Uhhhhh,’ and he goes: ‘Stop. Leave.’ [laughs] ‘And don’t come back ’till you know the notes.’

He then continued:

That experience was pivotal for me. Because I decided at that moment that I was never ever going to not know my lesson 100%, maybe even 200%, where I do twice as much. And yeah, he was a great teacher. He shared everything.

At one point towards the end, where you know, the lessons turned into like six-hour jams in his backyard, where we would just sit back to back and just play, and play, and play. And it was just fantastic.

You can check out the rest of the interview below.