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Steve Vai is, like his mentor, Joe Satriani, an instrumental rock and Progressive Rock guitarist from New York. His first major claim to fame was playing for and transcribing songs for Frank Zappa, but he has an extensive solo discography that takes many cues from both Zappa and Satriani.
In the 70s, Vai took some guitar lessons from Joe Satriani, played in some local bands and followed up on his lessons by attending the Berklee College of Music. In 1979, he sent Frank Zappa a transcription of Zappa's drum instrumental, "The Black Page," and a tape of some of his guitar playing. Zappa was so impressed by this, that he hired Vai on to transcribe many of his guitar solos. Not long after this, he was promoted to full band member status. Zappa actually felt that Vai was so good that he called him "his little Italian virtuoso" and would credit him as performing "stunt guitar" or "impossible guitar parts." Part of this was because Vai would encourage audience members to bring in musical scores to see if he could sight read them. Of course, all good things must come to an end and he left Frank Zappa in 1982 to focus on a solo career.
More currently, Vai contributed to the Halo 2 soundtrack with a rock version of the game's main theme. This version of the theme was included as downloadable content on the X Box 360 version of Guitar Hero III. Even more recently, a few of his songs have been featured on the Rock Band Network. He is also known for the extra introductary solo on the Bill and Ted version of Kiss's "God Gave Rock and Roll to You II."
This guitarist may exhibit the following tropes:
- All There in the Manual: Vai explains the story line behind Fire Garden on his website with several short stories.
- Dramatic Wind: A major aspect of his live shows, thanks to a large fan he has at his pedalboard.
- Epic Rocking: Fire Garden's "Fire Garden Suite" is almost 10 minutes in all.
- I Call It Vera: Three of Vai's guitars are named: Evo, Flo, and Mojo.
- Large Ham: He's a showman, that's for sure.
- Signature Song: For the Love of God
- What Do You Mean It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: Some of his material can get pretty weird, but when you realize that Frank Zappa made sure that all of his band members were sober, you have to wonder what could have inspired it.