“It’s just one note, but it took my entire life to get to the point to where I could do that one note”: Steve Vai regarded this solo as his “ultimate achievement of phrasing on the guitar”

Steve Vai performs onstage at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, California on October 7, 2016
(Image credit: Ashley Beliveau/Getty Images)

Electric guitar maestro Steve Vai is well-known not only for his virtuosity, but for his incredibly intense compositional approach, especially when it comes to his climactic guitar solos

Famously, he laid down perhaps his most famous composition, For the Love of God, while on the fourth day of a 10-day fast

In a 2016 GP interview, though, Vai emphasized a different solo – which he approached with a similar intensity (without the starvation, mind you) – as his “ultimate achievement of phrasing on the [guitar].”

Playing And We Are One – from his then-new album, Modern Primitive – for GP editor Jude Gold, Vai suddenly stopped the track, telling Gold, “For this note coming up, I’m operating my Morley Little Alligator volume pedal with one foot and a wah pedal with the other, while using the whammy bar. This is how forensic I get. It’s just one note, but it took my entire life to get to the point to where I could do that one note.

“I’ve never gotten as deep with my phrasing as I did on this solo,” Vai continued. “It may go right over the head of most people, and others might just hear it as Vai meandering, but, for me, this solo is my ultimate achievement of phrasing on the instrument.”

Fast forwarding to the present, Vai has already had an incredibly busy 2024 – reuniting with the original G3 lineup (himself, Joe Satriani, and Eric Johnson) for a tour, and teaming up with Satriani again for the first double-bill Satriani/Vai tour.

On top of that, it was recently announced that Vai would be joining forces with Adrian Belew, Tony Levin and Tool's Danny Carey for Beat – a forthcoming tour that will see the four musicians play the music of three early '80s-era King Crimson albums.

Robert Fripp himself gave the group a hearty endorsement, saying on social media that “Steve Vai is the only guitarist who could play my parts.”

Jackson Maxwell
Associate Editor, GuitarWorld.com and GuitarPlayer.com

Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com and GuitarPlayer.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.

With contributions from