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Lyle Ronglien >> Satriani-Vai styles >>

In The Style of Steve Vai - part 3

Intro sample.mp3 (906k)

Lyle: We will be looking examples of the Vai style through a song called "Shifting Winds" by The Joe Blair Project off the CD - Watch Out For The Curve. The bass guitar is by Joe Blair, drums by Jonathan Mover, and all guitars and synths by me. Let's start with the intro lick of "Shifting Winds". Use a clean sound with a thick "chorus" effect. Set a digital delay to repeat eighth and quarter note rhythmic echoes if you have one.

Lyle: I used my guitar synth to overdub an acoustic guitar mixed with strings to create a rich blend of voices for this sound. The intro lick uses two chords, Csus2 and Bbmaj7sus2. Learn these first before you learn the intro lick.



Lyle: Here's the intro lick:

intro lick  

Jan: sus2 means that there is a 2nd in the chord instead of 3rd?

Lyle: Jan, that's right! - maj7 chord= 1-3-5-7, maj7sus2=1-2-5-7, maj7sus4= 1-4-5-7

Lyle: Here's a jam track you can play along to:

Looping Sound Clip 1

Lyle: Before we get to the theory part of this lick, let's look at the production end of it. Vai, among others, use digital delays on their guitar signals to "sweeten" the sound. If you use a digital delay effect on your guitar, it's very important to have the speed/tempo of the delay synchronized to the tempo of the song. I recorded this song at a tempo of 122bpm. I wanted a combination of eighth and quarter note delays to echo what I was playing in the intro lick.

Lyle: The formula to figure out the delay times is: 60,000 divided by bpm x length of note = how many milliseconds to set your delay at.

a length of note value of 2 will give you a half note echo, or 2 beats worth,
a length of note value of 1 will give you a quarter note echo,
a length of note value of .5 will give you an eighth note echo
a length of note value of .75 will give you a dotted eighth etc.

Lyle: Let's look at an example with this song which is at 122bpm. 60,000 divided by 122bpm x 1 = 491.8ms will produce a quarter note echo, 60,000 divided by 122bpm x .5 = 245.9ms will produce an eighth note echo. I used a stereo delay unit on my guitar for the intro lick. I set the left side at 491.8 with several repeats, and set the right side at 245.9 with several repeats. Notice that the intro guitar lick is playing the exact same lick as the bass, but in a different register of course.

Lyle: Ok, now a little theory. The intro lick is made up of just two chords, Csus2 and Bbmaj7sus2. When you have 2 major chords together, one whole step apart, they most likely are the 4 & 5 chords of a particular key. In this case, the Csus2 is the 5 chord and the Bbmaj7sus2 is the 4 chord of the key of F. These two chords are the 4 & 5 in the key of  F maj. Try playing the F major scale over the jam track and you'll hear how this works.

Lyle: Since the intro lick progression is centered around the Csus2 chord, the 5 chord in the key of F, you can use the C mixolydian mode as well.

Lyle: Both of these two scales will work over the jam track for your improvisation practice.

Lyle: The lead guitar part used to play the melodies in this song has a thick overdrive and longer delay times. I used a delay setting of 983.6 to create a 2 beat or half note echo. Formula: 60,000 divided by 122(bpm) x 2 (beats) = 983.6ms. With such a long delay setting, it can be possible to harmonize with yourself without multi-tracking or overdubs. Vai uses this type of delay effect in a couple songs. Check out "Hina" from David Lee Roth's Skyscraper CD, and "The Boy From Seattle" from Vai's Alien Love Secrets CD. Here's the melody I used for the verse. It's played over the intro jam track.

Lyle: During the last 2 bars of the verse lick, you'll be playing a C mixolydian scale, note for note, up the neck to create a simple melodic phrase which transitions into the pre chorus.

Lyle: Next is the pre-chorus lick. During this section, the key has changed. The chords are A to G, back to A. Look at what type of chords they are and their distance from each other to find out what key they're in. Two major chords a whole step apart = the 4 and 5 chords of a key. A is the 5, G is the 4 of D major. This pre chorus section is now in D major. Check out the lick I played for this.

pre chorus lick

Lyle: Listen to this audio sample. It starts with the last 2 measures of the verse lick, the climbing C mixolydian scale, then into the pre-chorus. This can help you hear how these two parts fit together.

pre chorus sample

Lyle: You can practice this lick over this jam track.

Looping Sound Clip 2

Lyle: Next, the chorus lick. This Vai style lick still uses the long delay setting from the verse. The chorus part in the Vai song "Touching Tongues" on the Sex and Religion cd inspired me for this type of lick. This lick uses the notes from the D major pentatonic scale, a 5 tone scale built from the 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 in the key of D. Here's the scale pattern you can learn which will help you when it comes time for the chorus lick.

Lyle: Once you've learned the D major pentatonic, try this chorus lick:

chorus lick

Lyle: The combination of a long delay and sliding notes all synchronized together create this Vai style lick. Once you learn this lick, try playing it along to the looping jam track.

Looping Sound Clip 3

Lyle: Here's an audio sample clip of the chorus:

chorus 1 sample

Lyle: Next, the song moves right into the solo. It is played over the verse groove which is back in the key of C mixolydian/ F major.


Lyle: Here's an mp3 sample of the solo you can listen to:

solo 1 sample

Lyle: You'll hear the long delay creating several harmonized licks through the solo. The solo is really pretty simple until the last 4 bars. In bars 13 and 14, you'll play an F maj scale ascending on the 2nd string with a diatonic 5ths leading the way under each note of the 2nd string. In bar 15, you'll play a Bb Lydian scale descending, followed by a C mixolydian scale in the final 16th bar. Here's a close up video clip of the last 4 bars of the solo.

solo ending lick

Lyle: Here's a long jam track of all the sections you just learned. It goes: 16 bar verse, pre-chorus, chorus.

Looping Sound Clip 4

Lyle: That wraps up this lesson and series on two of my favorite guitarists. If you would like further study on this topic or any other topic, email me at for info on how you can get your own customized guitar lessons like this using Riff Interactive technology. Your private lessons can be downloaded to your pc for anytime, anywhere study. Thanks and see you at the next lesson. - Lyle

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