Hello UGers, hope everything is going great in your noble journey of rocking out! In this article we'll see why Steve Vai has one of the best shows and performances in this era and why it matters for you to know if you're going to perform yourself. But first we'll start with couple of notes to help you get an idea of what to expect from this article.
I am not a professional performer or musician and I don't make a living out of music so naturally this article will be simple when it comes to technicalities
Although this article is about Steve, everything that is to be mentioned is not exclusive to Steve, other's players do use the same technics, it is just easier to focus on one performer
Now we're ready to go. So what makes Steve Vai so good at performing? Most of us will answer it is his flawless technic; well that helps a lot but he's not the only one with flawless technic now is he? How about his speed? Again he's fast but a lot are as fast if not even faster then him! I bet there are kids in your neighborhood that already play crazy fast and yet they can't even come close to his ability in pulling of excellent performances one after the other. So what is the key of success? The truth is, couple of elements draw the line between a good and a great performance, which are:
Putting a show:
This one should be the most obvious yet a lot tend to overlook it; See, in every performance Steve implement some theatrical elements, living some kind of a role depending on the style played. You can see in some of his old well-known work, such as "Bad Horsie", the guy is coated in silver painting! These with some lighting effects make an effective combination, which will add a lot to the WOW-Factor.
It is not just about costumes, take for instance his guitars, he has some really kick a-s guitars in his arsenal, like the triple-neck heart shaped guitar and the Jem guitars, those help him achieve a more cool image and add new dimensions in his playing style.
We talked about the looks and style, but what about some nice tricks: I bet you've seen many concerts were some fret the neck for him, or where he frets for someone fretting for the other one etc. These are simple tricks that make the crowd go on fire from excitement, so If any of you are performing any time soon try to interact with the other players in your band, it spices up the show!
Arranging what you ask? Pretty much everything. Take for instance the volumes of the instruments involved in his shows, they are pretty consistent in every single show; His guitar is the highest sounding instrument and maybe by a stretch compared to the other players, while the others have similar loudness values between each other, creating adequate music to accompany him in his show. Does it mean you have to be the loudest thing in the show? Not exactly, see most of you perform in bands with vocalists, and to make the music louder then the vocals is just stupid and unprofessional. Why? Simply because it depends on who's the audience is mainly interacting with, so if there's vocals in your acts, the audience will most likely focus on the vocals and the lyrics, giving the priority to vocals first. However the audience attending Vai' s concert have Vai as their main point of attention, he is the show for them and hence he will have the loudest instrument in the performance, but even then, when he collaborates with other artists he will make sure to lower down the volume of his instrument to make the other artist shine for a while. So in few words, it is not about being the loudest, it is about giving the best sound as a whole for the audience.
Other form of arranging is the arrangement of his music: It's all about telling a story with his music, you can feel the mood swings when changing keys and scales, or when using different tones achieved by his wide array of effects and versatile guitars, and even making his guitar weep with his excellent Wah work! Well you may say oh come on already; about everyone these days do the exact same thing! True, but Steve unlike many others knows what to use and when to use it; it is not simply about changing keys for the purpose of changing keys, or using gazillion effect to sound cool and what not! So for your own sake if you feel it is too much for you to handle keep it simple, sometimes more is less and less is more, and with time and experience you will get better and better with incorporating these elements in your music!
Now we come to the end of the article, I know it was a long read but I really hope that you did benefit from it. Your comments on the article are welcome and if you have anything to add please do. Rock on!