Joe Satriani: 'I Was the Luckiest Guitar Teacher Ever'

"I just had a lot of great students," the guitar master adds.

Ultimate Guitar

Guitar god Joe Satriani recently touched on the matter of his guitar teaching days, admitting that he considers himself very lucky for the opportunity to work with a vast array of future axe masters.

Chatting with Rolling Stone, Joe was asked about what it was like to be teaching the likes of Steve Vai, Metallica's Kirk Hammett, Larry LaLonde of Primus and Testament guitarist Alex Skolnick.

"I always thought I was the luckiest guitar teacher ever," he replied. "I did have just a lot of great students. You'd have Larry come in, and he would say, 'Man, listen to these songs we're writing. How do you play over that? What kind of a solo can I do?' He was such an interesting student, as were Kirk and Alex.

"They had great technical facility, which made teaching them really great because you could show them something and six days later they had it down," the guitarist added.

Asked about the experience of giving Vai guitar lessons, Satriani commented, "You couldn't make a Steve Vai [laughs]. That's a one-in-a-billion type of personality that comes out together with an incredible talent facility. You grow it; you help them grow it. Hopefully, it matures and they don't hit any roadblocks along the way."

Finally, Joe focused on Kirk, saying, "He had a very interesting thing going on. He was in Exodus at the time we started lessons and, then all of a sudden, he got into Metallica, and they were making a record and they were on tour. So he would come in with stuff that was going to be on the Metallica records.

"He had a real need to get things figured out. He was totally into Michael Schenker and Hendrix and stuff like that, but it didn't really apply to what he was writing with James [Hetfield] and Lars [Ulrich], and I really was there to show him the possibilities and then sit back and watch it turn into something.

"He loved it. He would say, 'Lay it on. Give me as much information to choose from as possible,' and then he would go on and make his own decision about it and how to apply it. And the guys in the band must have encouraged it as well, because all that stuff wound up on the records and it was so cool to hear it," Satch concluded.

25 comments sorted by best / new / date

    A good teacher is 90% of what makes a good student
    I don't quite agree with that. I think that a lot depends on the student's motivation and commitment. You can have the best teacher in the world, but if you're not really motivated, you just won't make it.
    Though that may also have to do with the teacher not being able to motivate you. A really good teacher can find a way to motivate anybody (though I'm not sure if a teacher like that exists). But yeah, of course motivation has to do with yourself. But a teacher can motivate you by finding the right ways to approach stuff. Different ways work for different people.
    Satriani is refreshingly humble for a player with such talent, watching him perform live is indescribable
    I was lucky enough to have Chris Broderick as my guitar instructor for a few years in High School. People see him as this shredder type player, but he was so versatile, and knows theory like the back of his hand. Good times.
    Hopefully he'll be able to show off his skills on the next Megadeth record. Endgame was promising, but it feels like Mustaine held him back on Th1rt3en and Super Collider.
    Totally agree. I don't see the point of even having someone like Chris in your band when you are basically using them as touring guitarist. I know Megadeth is his baby, but Mustaine needs to let up a little and let Chris have some more input into the next one.
    Chris Martin from Coldplay should take some lessons from Satch....then he would not need to steal Satch's music
    Regardless if Chris Martin stole from Satch or not, how does the comment even make sense? Essentially all students "steal" something, be it an idea, melodic concept, or technique from their students, the only difference be that we call it "influencing" though it's directly borrowing. Besides, what makes Coldplay any different from, say, Led Zeppelin that "stole" many ideas, riffs, and even pieces of lyrics to their songs?
    It's nearly impossible to come up with something 100% original these days, best most people can hope to do is start from someone else's idea and reshape it to fit your own vision
    It's pretty much what music has always done - Classical music is often built upon the previous style (medieval, baroque, renessaince, romatism), often changing the sound or style, but still in its basic form being built upon an old house. It's the same with rythmic music, rock'n'roll was built upon the blues musicians of the previous decades and directly taking song structures, riffs, melodic ideas and applying them in a new format. From there, all the different genres of rock took their form, building upon the old, in varying degrees of originality - Sometimes noticably unique, often distinct but rather similar, and sometimes generically reshaping a musical idea to an insufficient, lazy point. Either way, favoritism often affects how people view this - A band can take an idea and make it somewhat similar, but if it's a band that gets a lot of flak, people will accuse them of plagerising, however if it's a band that is well respected and loved that has directly taken an idea and not even bothered to give it any peticular altering, then people will state that the bands was "heavily influenced". So has it been for decades, let alone centuries, and so it will be for long time to come.
    You can't write anything without being influenced by something first. Even if what you do is completely the opposite of what is hip at the time, it is still influenced by something. Because you notice that everybody sounds the same and that influences you to write something different. Nothing is 100% original. And if you come up with something really original, I'm not sure if people will be ready for it because it has nothing in common with anything. Music develops all the time. If you write a metal song, it is influenced by the genre. If you write any song that belongs to any existing genre, it is influenced by something. But if you create a whole new genre that sounds like nothing before, you could say it's 100% original. But people would most likely not listen to it.
    I was one of the luckiest children in North America. My mother always had very good taste. I was blessed by the fact that she owned a copy of Crystal Planet and showed it to me as a kid. Satriani is most definitely an amazing teacher and musician!
    My guitar teacher was once a student of Satriani which is cool because Joe's my favorite.