Berkleemusic Lesson Steve Vai On “Frank”

February 25, 2011

HEY FOLKS! I AM GOING TO TALK about a song on the Ultra Zone record called “Frank.” Basically, the song was dedicated to Frank Zappa, in whose band I had the unbelievable privilege of working in the early ’80s. It was an amazing experience as you can imagine; I started working for Frank when I was 18, transcribing music while I was living in Boston and going to Berklee. He was a very honest guy and he was right on. He was probably the most intelligent man I’ve ever met. Music just flowed from him.

Despite the title, the song itself really has virtually nothing to do with Frank’s music. When I came up with the main riff, which was a simple one, there was something about it that was very special to me. That’s all I had but I kept playing it over and over because I loved the way it made me feel when I played it. Whenever I had the opportunity to spend time with Frank, recording or listening to music at his house, I would always feel uplifted after. Sort of like walking on air. The feeling I get when I play this song is similar to how I felt as I drove away from Frank’s house on those special nights. It was an elated sense of well being.

It starts out with this clean little intro part. When you’re doing it, you want all those notes to come out and ring as long as possible without sounding too aggressive. In recording this guitar part I just built it piece by piece, making sure that every riff had that same feeling of joy that I felt when I would leave Frank’s house.

Steve Vai is the co-author of Steve Vai Guitar Techniques, a new online course at Learn more at

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