Steve Vai Shares Words of Wisdom

Steve Vai

Intergalactic Six String Shaman Steve Vai had some insights to share with other guitarists. Talking about the upcoming Vai Academy (with Eric Johnson & Sonny Landreth) Steve gave five tips for a player's development . Content courtesy of Music Radar.

1. Identify the way you feel about what you're doing

"Whatever you do - whether you have to change the batteries in your stomp box, whether you have to talk to attorneys or managers, if you're deciding how you’re going to make a record or how you’re going to make a living - all that stuff is important, but it’s not of absolute importance. What's of absolute importance is the quality of your inspiration. Everything else comes from that.

"Even before the quality of the inspiration, you need to know how you feel, because the way you feel flows into all of your actions. That's not even debatable, nor is it my opinion - it's just the way it works.

"You need to get in touch with the thoughts you're thinking in regards to what you need to do. Once you identify the way you’re thinking, you have the freedom - and this is virtually the one freedom you have that nobody can touch - to choose the thoughts you want to think to change the way you feel.

"That takes a lot of courage because you first have to be able to see that you’re feeling. Most people don't do that - they're just engrossed 100 percent in the way they feel without any kind of self-reflection. So there you go: Adjust your thoughts accordingly."

2. Create a goal

"Now that you've discovered that you have the ability to enjoy any situation, you need to create a goal. I should state that it's not entirely necessary to create a goal - you can just go along playing, and whatever comes comes. That's fine. But it’s nice to look forward and say, 'You know what? I would like to do this.'

"Now, that goal can be something very simple, like making the decision to go out and buy a guitar. Or it can be deciding to go to music school or not, or who you’re going to perform with. It's great to be able to create a goal, and then you go back to No. 1 and say, 'All right, now how do I feel about that goal?' You'll know if there’s any disturbance inside or a contraction, and if there is, it's only because you're feeling insecure, overwhelmed or unworthy."

3. Educate yourself about the music business

"It's always good to know as much as you can about the business you're actually in. Even a little bit can help. Here again, you've got to go back to tips No. 1 and 2, and once you do hopefully the way you approach your understanding of the music business is exciting to you."

4. Learn how to own and operate the word 'no'

"That's a Frank Zappa quote. The Vai translation is 'Don't panic.' It’s true - you should never panic or feel desperate. Always know that your instincts are coming from a place that will pay off in the long run.

"It can take a lot of courage to follow your instincts, because there's a barrage of storms you're going to hit in the music business. But if you follow steps 1 and 2, you'll understand number 4. A high-quality 'no' means 'Although I'd love to have my music in this film, and they're going to pay me X amount of dollars, the film doesn't resonate with me. It's not something I want to be a part of or contribute to.'

"As you say that to yourself, a little voice creeps up: 'Yeah, but it’s a lot of money, and so-and-so is connected with it, and it's...' You start to question your decision and try to talk yourself out of it. But really, if there's any kind of discomfort in you, honor that. Your response can be a very high-quality 'no,' because you're following your instincts. There's such power in that."

5. Be friendly with yourself

"Go easy on yourself. There is nothing so serious that you can't get through it in a peaceful, calm and smooth manner. Life is about feeling good and having fun - there, I said it. Being friendly with yourself also means being friendly with the people around you - the musicians, the attorneys, everybody you come in contact with.

"Be OK with the mistakes you make, because there are no mistakes. You'll always get a chance to do it again. The situations and the conditions will be different, but you'll always be confronted by the same moral values that are continuing to be fine-tuned. Now that you know that, you can work on that and adjust your thinking."


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