Guitar Aficionado

Joe Satriani: “Is This the End of the Road” for Guitar Evolution?

The virtuoso ponders what's next for our favorite stringed instrument.
Image placeholder title

PHOTO: Neil H Kitson | Getty Images

Has the guitar evolved as far as it’s going to?

That’s a question Joe Satriani has been pondering lately. In a new interview with Doug Elfman of Review Journal, Satriani suggests the guitar is caught between two eras: the one brought forth by pioneers like Leo Fender and Les Paul and a new age for the instrument that has not yet caught fire but must for the instrument to evolve.

“It has to,” Satriani tells Elfman. “We’re still really working on [instruments] that were put together in the late ’40s and early ’50s by Leo Fender, and Les Paul, and the guys at Gibson. They really invented the stuff we’re just tweaking.”

A new era of technology innovation, he says, could ultimately change the very instrument guitarists have known and loved for decades. 

“What we’re working on right now is going to be left in the dust,” Satriani says, “pretty much the way of the guitars of 1900 were left in the dust once the Strat, the Tele and the Les Paul came along.”

As an example of some progress that has been made, Satriani points to innovations in self-tuning technology that have modernized the instrument. He also notes that he is “deeply involved in guitar design” and concerned with not only how guitars look and sound but also the use of sustainable woods and the use of environmentally friendly materials and processes.

“We’re down here on the ground trying to get things to sound better, stay in tune, use woods that are not becoming endangered, and trying to make things less toxic,” he says.

Unfortunately, he says, musicians like himself are too busy playing and tweaking their sound to innovate the instrument. “That’s the problem with innovation,” he says. “The practitioners of instruments are very often so consumed with getting good on it.”

Innovation, he says, will most likely come from the outside.

And if not, he says, “This could be the end of the road.” If so, he suggests we might be in a “golden period,” where the guitar thrives without evolution, much as the piano has dominated the keyboard world since it entered its current form in the period from the late 18th to 19th centuries.

You can

In related news, Satriani recently announced that the lineup for the 2016 G3 tour will include himself, Steve Vai and Guthrie Govan, supported by Govan’s band, the Aristocrats. A handful of dates in Italy have been announced, with more to come around the globe.