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Is Steve improvising or are his solos written out?

Posted: Sun Dec 16, 2007 7:30 pm
by Dyens
My friend and I were having a discussion the other day while watching the Live DVD. Steve plays the solos from the record in concert. Does he write them out before he records them or does he improvise on the record and then learn them afterwards? It seems like he could improvise if he wanted to, but his solos interact with the backing track so much, and on top of that, it seems like when we learn his music or see it live, we are expect to learn steve's solos note for note and we want to here them thusly every time.

I have been listening to jazz A LOT lately. When you want to play a jazz tune you (this is a watered down explaination) read from a lead sheet. It shows you the head (the main melody) and the chords. From there, you solo over the chords show to you. Is Steve doing this when he plays - playing the melody and then improvising over the chords that were under the melody - or is he writing the whole thing out and not improvising at all?

Posted: Sun Dec 16, 2007 7:44 pm
by GregN
im almost postive that steve works all of that stuff out.

I think i remember hearing somewhere that satriani did some improve stuff on his records...but i coudl easily be wrong.

Posted: Sun Dec 16, 2007 8:51 pm
by euterpe
theres some magazines and videos were vai says that he has the rhythm guitar worked out and then he improvises over it and comes up with either the melody or the solo
he talks about that in the video with him explaining freak show excess,

Posted: Sun Dec 16, 2007 9:42 pm
by Dyens
What do you guys think of this? Would you rather know that he can improvise and hear him playing on the spot? Or do you like the fact that he works it out before hand? I feel like improvising takes a little bit more balls and represents his artistic mind a little bit more because it doesn't get the chance to pass through a filter like tweaking, multiple takes, and a number of other things that you get to do when you are composing rather than improvising. But writing it out shows a lot of good qualities as well. It lets him get a big picture with what he is playing and there can be a lot more interaction with the backing track.

Posted: Sun Dec 16, 2007 10:53 pm
by GregN
well, im sure that we can all agree that he could improvise unbeliveably well if he wanted...But i think that he takes his music too "seroisly" (for the lack of a better word) to ever fully improvise on an entire CD. I personally think that a cd would be better if stuff is worked out beforehand becuase i just feel like since it takes so much more time, the final out come will always be better.

see what im saying? :?

Posted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 6:52 am
by Big Bad Bill
Yeah, I have to agree: Steve must work out his solos initially since they respond to the underlying harmony so precisely. I can't believe that anyone cam be that good on the fly. However, I'm sure he improvises and plays around with the solos when playing live.

Posted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 7:37 am
by guyver_dio
I don't think steve would limit himself to one method of writing. I wouldn't doubt that he might use improvisation as a way to maybe start some ideas or get himself thinking, do numerous takes and pick out thing that seem to jump out from the ordinary noodling, something that seems daring or contributes to the flow of the song or just simply something different. Even after that, I could see him taking these little pieces and manipulating them slightly to put a different spin on it that he'd find more fitting. He seems very particular on what he wants to use in his songs and I'd assume he'd take all the time it needs to get exactly what he wants. He's stated in an interview once that in the studio he's a tinkerer and will just try out things to see what happens, if it doesn't work out then go back and try again or take what he's made and alter out the imperfections as he sees fit. As much brilliant creativity and skill the guy has, I don't think anyone on earth can achieve exactly what they were looking for just off the cuff everytime, especially at the complexity steve writes, it would just have to take a lot of time molding to get everything to flow correctly. Also I remember steve saying something to the nature that him and some mates used to sit in a dark room with a projector, look at a picture of a beach or anything and just get into a deep thought about it and let his imagination create something for that scene. It was either that or they'd put on a track and then think of images to go with it (been awhile and my memory isn't clear) but the point is he'd sit back and allow himself to use his imagination first, alot of people are familiar with creating like this and it seems to work so this is also one method I can see steve using. He's a perfectionist, he'll use whatever it takes to get things EXACTLY how he wants it. He'll also take technical ideas from different kinds of music, like the riff from Freak Show Excess, he'd spend ages on that one riff selecting the appropriate fingers to get that exact sound he was looking for.

Posted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 8:55 am
by Big Bad Bill
Yeah, what guyver_dio says!

Posted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 9:45 pm
by Dyens
In response to the statement saying that Steve would rather not leave it to chance and that expression is more clear when it is worked out before hand, I will not try to argue and get off the subject, but I will say that you have a lot of jazz to listen to.

Posted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 11:58 pm
by smj
guyver_dio wrote:I don't think steve would limit himself to one method of writing. I wouldn't doubt that he might use improvisation as a way to maybe start some ideas or get himself thinking, do numerous takes and pick out thing that seem to jump out from the ordinary noodling, something that seems daring or contributes to the flow of the song or just simply something different.
I think that's pretty accurate. When he's on stage, he's pretty much playing the melodies and solos from the album. If the ideas are improvised at the start, ultimately he commits to an idea(s) at some point and that becomes the songs identity. Somehow I think most of his songs are pieced together from different snippets of improving/things he hears in his head. I really don't see the majority of his work coming out in one random take.

Most of his songs are not really set up for improvising. He kind of has to play the solos from the album. Many of them are long format songs and they don't really lend themselves to jamming. For the Love of God is a good example. You only really hear him improvise at the end in the rubato section... but he plays the same licks for the bulk of the song.

As far as improving though... I've watched the G3 videos and have seen him live several times. To me improving is not his strong point. It always comes across as him showing his "tricks" and playing flashy rather than crafting lines.

Sean Meredith-Jones

Posted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 8:32 am
by Dyens
I don't like the way that people are calling improvising "random". There is so much more to it than that.

Posted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 11:28 am
by boswell
I'd argue that few rock guitarists truely improvise at all.
Most when they "improvise" actually string together licks and ideas they already know just altering the tempo/rhythm to suit the style of the track.

Posted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 2:15 pm
by Big Bad Bill
I used to think exactly that and it's probably partly true. But my recent experience is suggesting the 'tried and tested licks' are sort of 'places that give you thinking time' to allow you to come up with new stuff. I assume one eventually transcends even this stage and one improvises 90% +, like out tutor, Ainsley does.

Posted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 5:03 pm
by theollieb
I think he plans it out but some of his stuff sounds sort of improvised 'cause it doesn't show a direct relation to the song harmonywise, except for the fact that it's in the right key. His solos direct more to what he's feeling in what the music's illustrating, you know?

Posted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 5:23 pm
by Girv
I think steve could easily be improvising he is artistic and creative enough to pull it off and last time I saw Vai (Zappa Plays Zappa - Adelaide) He did a lot of improvising with like saxophones and marimbas and bass and electric etc. in the backround so yeah I guess they could be improvised but then again they could be just as easily thought out and planned

personally I think he improvises