Steve Vai has always been a "sharer of knowledge" who appears to be energized and inspired by giving back to the guitar community. He has definitely been an incredible friend to Guitar Player and its reader community, providing lessons, seminars, and how-to's, as well as acting as a judge for the magazine's Guitar Superstar Competition.
But his latest project, the Vai Academy Song Evolution Camp — which takes place June 23-27, at the Gideon Putnam Resort in Saratoga Springs, New York — eclipses almost everything he has done to date in its scope, comprehensiveness, and core value to ambitious guitarists. This multi-day session explicitly details near every facet of creating music, recording music, distributing music, and marketing music. And that's in addition to some tremendous guitar seminars and jams presided over by Vai himself, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, Vernon Reid, and Guthrie Govan.
"I've been approached to do guitar camps for years," explains Vai, "but I wanted to do something different and useful, because throughout all the years I've talked to young musicians while giving lectures and master classes, for the most part, they want to know how to write a song, how to record it, and how to get it out in the world so that they can launch a career, tour, and live happily ever after. So there are two mindsets to my Song Evolution Camp: a place to experience guitar seminars and lessons with some great teachers, and an intensive class that takes you through the process of creating music and distributing it."
Limited to approximately 150 campers, the music business side of the camp isn't just a series of lectures or roundtables—the campers actually do the work themselves.
"It's really like a boot camp," says Vai. "On day one, we write a song together. Sure, I'll talk about how I write songs and how other people write songs, because there is no one way to do it. But then, I engage the campers to work together to come up with a song themselves, and, when we've got it, I'll capture the inspiration on an iPhone. Done. Well, not quite! I also need to let the campers know how important it is to register their music and protect their intellectual property, as well as share the fact that every songwriter should have their own publishing company. So I'll have a publisher in attendance, and we'll start a publishing company right on the spot, and register our song. We'll also have people talking about artist management.
"On the second day, an engineer comes in, and we'll record the song we wrote. Campers will see exactly how this is done, and there will be classes, as well. By the end of the day, everyone will have experienced how to place mics, how to use compression and other signal-processing effects, how to layer parts, how to create sonic arrangements, how to place elements in the stereo spectrum during the mix, and so on.
"The next session, we'll find out how to distribute our finished song digitally all around the world, and that's exactly what we'll do. Then, we'll sit down and discuss marketing and promotion so that people will know about our little song and hopefully download it. So, at the end, a camper who have real-world experience with the whole process of how a song is written, recorded, mixed, distributed, and marketed."
Of course, many campers will not be looking to become just music-business honchos. As mentioned previously, Vai is bringing some heavy hitters to show aspiring and experienced guitarists how they can improve their chops in a major way.
"Skunk Baxter is a real pioneer of guitarmanship," says Vai. "He loves the instrument and loves engaging and inspiring young people. Vernon Reid is very dedicated to the guitar, as well, and between him and Jeff, a player is going to learn very different things. Then, we have Guthrie Govan, who is obviously an all-star with incredible chops and a phenomenal ear. All of these guys will be teaching, performing, and jamming with the campers."
Vai's experience at looking back to the guitarists that attended Berklee with him also forged his specialized Song Evolution curriculum, as well as his wish for what the campers might get out of the sessions.
"You know, some of the people I went to school with became the guitarists they wanted to be, and others discovered alternate paths in music that resonated with them more than playing. They became artist managers or music publishers or producers or engineers. So I want this camp to demystify all the elements of being in the music business so that each camper might also discover what resonates with them. For example, songwriting or engineering may not come naturally. You just might not have that pull that makes those disciplines work for you. But with all the facets of the industry we'll be covering, you may find that one of the other ways of working in the music business is a better fit for you. Having said that, I believe everyone should play guitar their entire life, no matter what they do."
Steve Vai's Vai Academy Song Evolution Camp does have limited space, so if this comprehensive guitar and music-business experience is calling out to you, go here NOW to enroll.