Joe Satriani Guitar Methods. Part 1

An analysis of arguably the most talented guitarist on the planet hopefully there will be more than one chapter depending on feedback.

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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.

Introduction

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.

    Summary

    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.
  • 106 comments sorted by best / new / date

    comments policy
      erotic_snails
      this is seriously a good lesson. it takes you through section by section and the bullet point tips are good. id be glad for the next part. what will the next part consist in? i rated this a 9
      leftylikejimi
      Excellent lesson,I think I know this guy from a Joe Satriani fan site,that I have been to he has good stuff there too! Joe is the best out there,and certainly one of the best of all time!Rock on!
      HenryJoe
      i agree with the claim at the top i know a kid at school who thinks slash is a god and i said no he isnt then he asked me to name someone better i named 50 and it goes to show how much the shred gods are underapreiciated
      |Guitarhead|
      An absolutely awesome lesson, thanks so much for this, Joe Satriani is the best at his trade!!!!!
      moosedotorg
      hey dude this is pretty good lesson but if you havnt already listen to his song searching its my favorite so far.he plays on a 7 string guitar and makes a small bass like part in the beginning also at around 10 he starts doing this slide thing with wah wah and whammy and its the coolest sound that i have ever heard on guitar ever. so plz listen to it.
      BassTalk
      I have yet to find out another guitar player who can rival Satch in terms of combining musical, technical and theoretical complicacies to make music which would impress even a non-guitar player. Seriously. And, BTW, this lesson is aimed at intermediate-level players (like me) who already know all their stuff and just have to bring it to perfection.
      Iron Horse
      I don't mean that I wouldn't like Satch, but saying that he owns, in every possible ways Slash, is quite dumb. Because although Satch is GRRREAT, and he knows how to compose music, and how to play guitar, and he usually 'plays for the song', but still it's like saying Mustard is better than tomato sauce, because mustard is stronger.
      Iron Horse
      Loosen your Strings. Sometimes it's quite fookin hard to realize that speed and technique isn't everything. I can prove this by saying simply this: Who of you thinks that the Whammy-bar acid trips of Steve Vai are more musical than any solo played by Slash.
      Bendybaws
      Satch just isn't as widely know as Slash, etc but in the circles in which he is known he is very much appreciated. He's a guitarist guitar player and one of the true virtuosos, along with Vai and probably Petrucci, although Joe is King. As for the guy slagging Neil Young - Eat Shit
      sixstringer311
      To the guy who was wanting Slash scales and such, it's called pentatonic minor for the most part, with a lot of wide bends. Ascending and descending. Not dissing on Slash cuz I like him, but I can play his stuff pretty easily. Satch on the other hand, now that can take some work.
      acdcrock2000
      This was an awsome lesson. Lots of info there. I totally agree with you. He doesn't get as much reconition as he should. Artists like the malmsteen and Paul Gilbert and Angelo Bato don't because they are shredders. We don't look at shred music as much as we should and it's a shame because they are technically excellent. I want to be a shredder but am only just starting to get to grips with it. It's very hard. Anyways, some tips for part two of the satch techniques: 1. add some tabs for examples rather than telling us what part of the song it is in. What if we don't have that song. Thats all i can fault you on this tab mate. Excellent work.
      PinksPalace
      I've been listening to Satch since I was a baby little did I know I was listening to a true musical genius. His songs can lure me to sleep or send me into wild impulse. Something I did as a child was mouth his notes like he was singing. Likewise if you like at him live or Vai Live they make very flamboyant exaggerated movements which resembles lead singers and even MOZART!!
      SurfinWithSatch
      ___MUSICA___ wrote: Some Of Satch Songs: Midnight- this music create an illusion of being alone in a dark room at 0000hours. Always With Me Always With You- even without any clue about the title you can feel that this portrays a very sad love story. Starry Night- its not hard to imagine stargazing in an open field even when it is 1200hours. Just Look Up- a song which can uplift a discourage soul. His songs doesn't need lyrics to portray complex emotions. Not just basic happiness, fear, anger or sadness but a WHOLE STORY and STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS. He has achieve a level of a true musical genius. But sadly doesn't even included in Rolling Stone 2003's 100 Greatest Guitarist of All Time.
      Definately mate, another good example in my opinion is Summer Song, whenever I am listening to that sitting outside in the sun drinking a beer I get a chill down my spine from pure elation. Another one is Motorcyle Driver, I must have listened to that song a hundred times by now, and every single time I have got goose bumps, like I'm on a motorcycle going at 100mph, so intense. Anyway about the article, I loved it, it's so refreshing to see someone with as much passion about Joes music as myself. I must say that while most people who respect him, respect him for his ability with his fingers, for me it isn't just that. I met him backstage at a show about half a year ago, and even though so much many idolise him (and he knows it) and he could see I was clearly shaking (anyone who has met him knows what i mean, you cant help but shake when you shake the hand that create such magic) besides all that, I have never met a nicer man in my life. So humble, the first thing he did when he entered the room was say "ok, how many signatures am I writing" then he laughed, and he took 5 minutes to talk to each person and have a photo taken, just such a down to earth guy that you could easily say "allo" to in a pub and have a general chat with you know. Aswell as that he got his manager to give us all a bunch of posters for free. Anyway back to the music, when I discovered Joe I had been playing guitar for only about 2 months and was considering giving up, then I heard Big Bad Moon and though "hey I like this, what else does this guy have" I got flying in a blue dream and was hooked after that, ever since I have been determined to become a good guitar player just to emulate my idol. Sorry about the very long post about my admiration for Joe but I really can't help it lol
      olschoolfool
      Satch is what inspired me to become better.As ive been around since the late fifties,he is one of the most accomplished pure guitarist Ive ever seen.A man with little to say except thru his guitar,HE is the best.....Rock_On!!!!
      STEALmyDOG
      I feel like Satriani Uses what he knows and what he can do, to make music, but Vai and Petrucci use music to show what they know and can do.
      ___MUSICA___
      Some Of Satch Songs: Midnight- this music create an illusion of being alone in a dark room at 0000hours. Always With Me Always With You- even without any clue about the title you can feel that this portrays a very sad love story. Starry Night- its not hard to imagine stargazing in an open field even when it is 1200hours. Just Look Up- a song which can uplift a discourage soul. His songs doesn't need lyrics to portray complex emotions. Not just basic happiness, fear, anger or sadness but a WHOLE STORY and STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS. He has achieve a level of a true musical genius. But sadly doesn't even included in Rolling Stone 2003's 100 Greatest Guitarist of All Time.
      kennethdave
      Ur so right man, satriani is one guitarist i respect lots...and i'm waitin for part 2 man...where is it??
      brush200400
      good intro, good lesson. there are some english errors that make it hard to understand some sentences. oh well every lesson is like that
      -XM-
      Midnight is one of the most underrated guitar tracks in history... it should of started a guitar revolution in my opinion.
      sitek
      very good article. it is a shame though that vai and satch and yngwie are unappreciated and underplayed. some of the best music i've ever heard has come from those guys
      Caseyrh43
      To be quite honest the reason all these great guitarist's aren't more famous is because nobody but guitarist's really want to listen to it. I mean what is so enjoyable about listening to shredding when you can listen to something melodic and meaningful. Not saying that satch isn't, but Malsteem is over the top boring dude. OMG sweeping arpeggios, not that hard really once you get down to it, just practice. And Kurt Kobain was not a guitarist, he was a lyricist, just like Jim Morrison. Although Kurt was a lot more technically proficient than his music needed. He was playing grunge, why do you need an extremely fast solo when all you are doing is pumping on distortion and nailing out power chords? Oh and man, please use spell check. Lessons are a lot easier to read and absorb when you don't have to deal with all the spelling and grammatical errors. Kudo's good lesson.
      ZeligtheAxMan
      Ah Cobain-Bashing... I try not to get involved in these but bashers, here's food for thought:When was the last time you wrote a million-dollar song? Great lesson Man! I give it a 10!
      ibaneztron
      Great lesson, i dont see what's so amazing about Slash and Kobain. I mean, of course they're both really good, but they have been given way more credit than they deserve. Anyone agree?
      Reckzilla
      Okay one no hating on kurt cobain he may not be eddie van halen but he has a style of his own and he was famous for it. Great job though im glad to there is someone who see's joe satriani as i do as more than a guitarist but as a composer. And sir i would be honored if you would make many more parts because Joe is a truly complex guitarist.
      Aliens-exist182
      Jawshuwa wrote: "Satriani for example regularly looses to guitarists such as Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain and Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash." Slash is understandable; he and Satriani are very melodic most of the time, but can shred if they so please. Cobain, on the other hand, is quite possibly the worst famous guitarist to have ever lived. Oh yeah, powerchords with no progression in the songs, just repetition, definitely a good guitarist. That last statement bleeds with sarcasm, if you didn't catch it.
      u sir are a douchebag, to the max
      iPhantom
      riprandyrhoads wrote: thats pretty much all true dude. malmsteen is boring, and u said satch isnt very melodic, i would disagree, he is the most melodic guitarist on the face of the earth, and ur right about only guitarists listening to him, cause it takes one of true musical understanding to grasp the intensity of his style of playing, very very complicated music. best guitarist on earth. period. i really hope his lawsuit with coldplay goes well, i mean he really deserves those millions of dollars coldplay made of of him... good lesson man. but for sum reason, i cant seem to find part two, and this was posted 2 years ago....
      Nope, you're terribly wrong when thinking only guitarists should be able to judge who is the best guitarist. Guitarists play for everyday normal people, and historically the best music has been the one which the majority of people loves, not the one the majority of guitarists do. To be honest, guitar players judgement is way worse, because they look too much into technic and aren't able to judge musical wise the same as someone who hasn't played the instrument.
      Josh0909
      Great Lesson, but I really wish people would stop arguing about whos a better Guitarist because their never going to find an answer personally I think Steve Vai is better than anyone else I've seen lisyed on here but thats just because he has a ton of passion
      twinrecoil
      do another one man that lessson is pretty good but yeh focus more on how he creates his stuff and things like that. peace out
      riprandyrhoads
      Caseyrh43 wrote: To be quite honest the reason all these great guitarist's aren't more famous is because nobody but guitarist's really want to listen to it. I mean what is so enjoyable about listening to shredding when you can listen to something melodic and meaningful. Not saying that satch isn't, but Malsteem is over the top boring dude. OMG sweeping arpeggios, not that hard really once you get down to it, just practice. And Kurt Kobain was not a guitarist, he was a lyricist, just like Jim Morrison. Although Kurt was a lot more technically proficient than his music needed. He was playing grunge, why do you need an extremely fast solo when all you are doing is pumping on distortion and nailing out power chords? Oh and man, please use spell check. Lessons are a lot easier to read and absorb when you don't have to deal with all the spelling and grammatical errors. Kudo's good lesson.
      thats pretty much all true dude. malmsteen is boring, and u said satch isnt very melodic, i would disagree, he is the most melodic guitarist on the face of the earth, and ur right about only guitarists listening to him, cause it takes one of true musical understanding to grasp the intensity of his style of playing, very very complicated music. best guitarist on earth. period. i really hope his lawsuit with coldplay goes well, i mean he really deserves those millions of dollars coldplay made of of him... good lesson man. but for sum reason, i cant seem to find part two, and this was posted 2 years ago....
      LOSTintheOZONE
      i tought myself to play satch music. and i did basically do what you say in this article. so, yea, good lesson.
      joseche
      595Metallica595 wrote: satriani may not shred fast as malsteen but he sure makes better music
      TRUE !!!
      R.Christie
      Found vitually nothing in this article that informed me in any depth about Mr Satriani's style. Perhaps a follow up lesson will take it further. It is a reasonably good lesson on general common sense methods of practising.
      cluster_one
      we are thousands of guitarists around the world trying to play like Satriani at that moment, Can you imagine that !!! We could fill a stadium and play altogether in cacophonia.
      Renegade45
      im a by ear player, and trying to learn... Love Satriani's music and have learned some of his easier songs... so this lesson i am taking!
      |Guitarhead|
      I have studied many diciplins and am compitent at many styles.
      ...except spelling lol. No, seriously, this is a very good lesson. It misses out quite a lot, but covers the main Satch stuff. Thanks very much for this!
      Jonzors
      satch is great, nuff said Moving along, this article was pretty good, it was quick interesting read with some helpful pointers. Thanks
      will-loves-zep
      SATRIANI IS BETTER THAN MOST GUITARISTS IN THE WORLD WHEN IT COMES TO TECHNICAL ABILITY, IT DOESN'T MEAN OTHERS AREN'T AS GOOD GUITARISTS, SLASH IN NO DOUBT AWESOME AND KURT COBAIN COULD RIP A MEAN SOLO, IN TERMS OF TECHNIQUE THOUGH, THEY'RE NOT VERY HIGH UP.