Joe Satriani Guitar Methods. Part 1

author: alanholdswarth date: 10/03/2006 category: guitar techniques

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I am a guitar teacher living in the UK, I have studied many diciplins and am compitent at many styles. This article is a tribute to someone who has influenced me greatly and in my oppinion is a living legend -- Joe Satriani.


Joe Satriani along with his most famous pupil Steve Vai have reveloutionised modern rock guitar in much the same way that Hendrix did in the '60s. As a guitar player who has been a keen follower of the instrument for 15 years now it increacingly angers me that these musicians are not given the credit that they diserve. Satriani for example regularly looses to guitarists such as Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain and Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash. Although the afformentioned names are both acomplished musicians to varying degrees in their own right they are quite simply not in the same musical league as Satch and it is a tragedy that in our modern times such incredible devotion to the mastery of the instrument can go largely unoticed by the general public. It is understandable that artists such as Yingwie Malmsteen or Michael Angelo. Batio are not more widely recognaised as they are both centered around a very narrow area of guitar technique that only another guitarist could truly appreciate but Satriani is as melodic as he is technical. You only have to listen to tracks such as flying in a blue dream to appreciate that this is a man who is able to compose somthing that is truely musically compelling. The technical secetions in his compositions are expertly crafted using extensive musical theory. The sheer range of styls that he is obviously not just influenced by but is completely at ease with makes listening to his album a pleasure even for someone who knows nothing of guitar playing. The talent that he displays can be accurately compared to that of great classical composers such as Mozart and Beethoven in the sence that he is able to create expression using purely musical instruments and no vocals which is an ability that escapes the vast majority of musicians who are famous in the music scene today.

Practical Analysis (Part 1)

Joe Satriani is proficient in every exotic rock technique that I personally can name. Just because you can't do this and you probably don't know anyone else who can dosen't mean you never will be able to. All it takes is the dedication. In order to analyse his technique it is best to start from the basics. I'm going to assume a basic understanding of guitar terminoligy. 1. Legato Legato is the latin term for smoothly. In guitar terms it basically means playing with hammerons and pull offs. Joe's legato technique is very fluid. He has achived this level of fluidity through metronome practice of scale shapes. He has also payed close attention to his left hand tecnique. If you observe his left hand especially his 4th finger they will always stay very close to the finger board of the guitar and will prempt the next section thus his fingers are always close to where they need to be therefore he can play faster. If you are to achive this in your playing you will need to slow down drastically. Little finger movement is the bane of many average guitarists technique and is how you can spot a professional. Make sure you put in the hours so you can control all your fingers even if they aren't fretting notes. If you wish to achive this try learning patterns within scales such as those used in the introduction to Steve Vai and David Lee Roth "Shyboy." If you can play the introduction on that song up to speed then you are proficient with the technique. Once you have mastered that try the run down after the pick tapping on "Surfin' With The Alien." Tips: for "Shyboy" intro and "SWTA" section metioned above plus futher general exercises.
  • Practice on - Clean - Listen to mistakes.
  • Practice to a metronome start with a tempo you can easily manage increace that by 2-5 bpm per day to start with. As it gets faster decreace the increace.
  • Listen carefully to the fluidity of your legato technique.
  • Warm up excersise. Make sure you practice every finger combination. A great exercise to test even advandced players get a pen and paper write down every combination of the numbers 123 and 4 1234 1324 1432... Not just starting with 1 either and then practice in leagato in every position from say fret 2 to 12 on every string as many of these shapes as you can (using a metronome). The cromatic patterns they create on the fretboard are a lot trickier than they look! Practice through this section daily and find more pieces that rely heavily on legato try playing Yingwie Malmsteen "Blitzkrieg" with legato. 2. Advanced Whammy Techniques Joe satriani uses his floyd rose for extreme pitch changes harmonic whales flicks and vibrato. He uses these to great effect in a large number of his compositions. Extreme pitch variations can be found in many of the songs on the surfin with the alien album flicks can be found on the song surfin with the alien and floyd rose vibrato on many of his compositions. In order to master any floyd rose technique you must first have the equiptment. A high quality double locking tremlo system that is well set up is essential. Hold your arm corectly. Wrap fingers 3 and 4 gently around the arm. Flicks can be achived with just the little finger by sharply and rapidly depressing the whammy bar just prior to the note that you want to play and then releasing on the note. Vibrato with a floyd rose is best achived with small circular movements not simply an up and down movement. Tips:
  • Play a note then try and hit that note from another much higher or lower using your whamy bar. Or better still get a recording of notes playing and hit them with your whammy bar.
  • Practice widening and tightening the vibrato around a note using your whammy bar.
  • Practice hitting natural harmonics and then bending them to different pitches in time to a metronome.
  • The whammy bar can be used to effectively manipulate feedback. 3. Advanced Tapping Techniques Joe's tapping techniques are far above average. Althogh some acousitc artists have taken these techniques to the extreme Joe has much to teach us about advanced tapping. The first case study is in "Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing." Try learning the section in the 'verse' (1:35). The proper technique to do this is to use your right hand to deaden the strings at about the 4th fret making sure not to hit any natural harmonics and then use your legato to play the arpeggio. Start it very slowly it is very difficult indeed (50 bpm). An example of another advanced tapping technique utilised by joe satriani can be found in the song "Midnight." In this song he uses multiple fingers on the right and left hand to play arpeggios and extended chords. This technique is a hell of a party trick and I would strongly advise learning this song as it is a great introduction to multi-fingered tapping. Tips:
  • Start slowly and practice small movements with both hands you want your taps to be smooth.
  • For you beginners out there don't press to hard on the fretboard it's the impact speed that matters not the stength you depress the fret.
  • Try tapping and fretting as close to the fret wire of the fret above as possible your sound will be more pronounced that way.


    This is the end of part 1 of Joe Satriani. Please comment this article with sugestions for part two or tell me that part one was so bad that I shouldn't write a part two etc. Content will definately include a theoretical analysis of his work and some more techniques.
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