Steve Vai is a guitar virtuoso with a complex and distinctive playing style. He is best known as a solo performer but has worked with countless other musicians including Whitesnake, Public Image Ltd, Alice Cooper, David Lee Roth and Frank Zappa.
Steve Vai was born in New York in 1960 as Steven Siro Vai and is an Italian American. He first started playing the guitar when he was 13 years old, later taking guitar lessons from Joe Satriani in 1974.
He played in local bands and attended Berklee College of music in Boston where he learned the musical theory that complemented his technical ability. .His early influences included Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and fusion jazz guitarist Allan Holdsworth.
His first work as a professional musician was with Frank Zappa who was impressed with Steve Vai’s ability after receiving a transcription of his song ”Black Page” and a tape of Vai’s guitar playing that Steve Vai sent to him in the post.
Steve Vai joined Zappa’s band in 1980 and went on tour with them. Zappa called Steve Vai his” little Italian guitar virtuoso” getting him to play impossible sounding guitar parts or “stunt guitar” as he called it as part of the show.
After leaving Zappa in 1982, Steve Vai moved to California, recorded his first album “Flexible” which was well received by critics. Throughout the 1980s, he performed with many notable bands and musicians.
Since the 1990s, Steve Vai has toured and released albums with his own band, often working in collaboration with his one time guitar teacher Joe Satriani. He has completed many projects as a composer, including performances with leading national orchestras throughout the world.
Steve Vai is noted for playing double and triple neck guitars as well as a seven-string Ibanez Universe that he helped design in 1989. A distinctive feature of his sound is his use of the floating vibrato (tremolo).
In 1999 Steve Vai started his own record label Favoured Nations to show case artists that “have reached the highest level of performance on their instruments” and he is a supporter of many charitable music organisations, giving master classes in some of the world’s most prestigious music schools.
Steve Vai has released 19 solo albums – the latest being “Where the Wild Things Are” released in 2010. He has also won three Grammy awards and has appeared on numerous other albums with other artists.
Today Steve Vai is married to Pia Maicco– the bass player of the Vixens. They have two children and he keeps bees as a hobby.