by Steve Vai
(Part 7 of 7, originally published August 1989).
If you’ve been following these articles, you’ve probably noticed that my approach is rather unorthodox. Oh well, I trust you can find information on all the technicalities of music and performance in a host of publications. I hope that what I’ve said has inspired you to delve into your imagination, heart, and soul. If any of these articles inspires you to create an original or personal sound on your instrument, it will have been a success for me. But what it all boils down to is you and your attitude.
Attitude is probably the most important ingredient in any form of education or progressive evolution. Always keep your attitude in check. It’s not easy, because you must first figure out what a healthy attitude is. I can’t tell you, nor can any book, because everyone is on their own path. But I firmly believe that in our hearts we know the answers to the questions that we ask ourselves. A healthy attitude makes it easier to appreciate the works and teachings of others, and a healthy attitude will reflect itself in your own performance and self-esteem — in fact, a good attitude is the main ingredient. Don’t ever take for granted the power of human morality.
I’ve seen many great musicians — especially while attending Berklee College of Music — whose technical abilities far overpowered mine. But some of them lacked a healthy attitude about their music and themselves. I’m not saying that you should be an egomaniac, but if you don’t appreciate what you’re capable of doing, how can you expect others to?
Making music can seem baffling at times, and you may sometimes feel confused about all your inspirations. As you play, you may wonder, “Am I thinking right? Am I getting the picture across? Is this the best note to play here? Should I be playing fast, slow, loud, or whatever?” Sometimes, “just playing” is the hardest part of creating music. You must clear your mind and let divine inspiration take over. No lesson can teach you how to do this, but if you set it in your mind as a goal, you will see changes in your consciousness and your playing. But it’s important to remember not to get strung out on these things. Don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t always work out the way you would like. When it happens, let it happen. When it doesn’t, well, big deal, maybe next time.
The guitar is a beautiful instrument, and it deserves our respect. As you go through your playing career, you will touch that instrument in a way that you will never touch anything or anybody in your life. It will bear the brunt of your sorrows and joys. It will see and feel your passion, your anger, your love, and your hate. It will lead you to your victories and your humiliations. Although a guitar is just wire and wood, you may feel that it possesses a soul of its own, and rightly so. But it is a reflection of you. Grow with it, and respect it.
In closing, I’d like to thank you for all your support. Your inspiration and influence have been monumental for me. My best wishes to you all.