Steve Vai Guitar Techniques 'Review'

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so happy
Posts: 147
Joined: Tue Nov 08, 2005 7:06 am

Hi There,

I took this course when it first opened at Berklee online, and more recently was asked by someone here to post a 'review' of the course.

Well it gets all 5 shiny, bright stars from myself.... So read on if you are considering it.
Basic info:

It costs around 1400$ for credit (points toward a master/degree certificate), around 1100$ without official credits. There is no difference at all in the content etc between these, just the grading is more specific if you pay for the points.

It is 12 lessons over 12 weeks... one lesson a week. You must submit an assignment at the end of each week via MP3 upload displaying the techniques / ideas covered in that week, by playing along to a Naked trax vamp that is provided.

Each week focuses on a particular set of techniques utilised in of one of Steve's tracks, The naked Vamp for that track is then provided for you to adorn with your own flavours, incorporating said techniques.

For each assignment (and this is important for those in morbid fear of even coming close to Steve's ability!!) There are, for each weeks assignment, a set of options that cater very well for basically ANY level of playing ability. Each option carries the same marking, or 'score' potential. Some are options to record at half speed, or slower, and in most cases there is an alternative that allows for more individual expression that is less 'rigid' to the themes covered.

You will not have access to the full content of the course at the beginning. Each weeks lesson is 'unlocked' online 2-3 days before that weeks lesson starts. This is a GOOD thing... trust me!! If you had access to the full content midway through week 1 you would have fried your brains with fear and anticipation by the end of that first week!!... This course should be taken one step at a time, keeping the lesson content locked until it is time to work with it maximises focus and keeps you more 'in the moment'.

The course is administered on a daily basis by one or other of the resident Berklee guitar teachers... all of whom are great personalities and epic guitar players / teachers in their own right. The level of personal support and encouragement they provide is second to none. There is a 1 hr video conference for the whole class (usually around 10-15 students) each week at times that are varied to accommodate students in different time zones. These are not mandatory, but fun and always informative... an opportunity to ask questions in real time, discuss ideas, get help with obstacles etc. They are recorded and can be reviewed at any time by class members later (even if you weren't present).

The whole online teaching / web platform that Berklee have designed is EXTREMELY well organised and easy to navigate.

There is the opportunity for each class to have a 1 hr video conference... as a group.. with Steve himself at SOME point during the 12 weeks. The timing of this is dependent on Steve's schedule, so it may be midway, near the beginning, near the end of the course etc. It may be that Steve is the only one talking and questions are submitted by typing in the chat interface, one student at a time, to minimise 'fan frenzy assault' for Steve, with everyone wanting to talk at the same time... getting really excited etc!!

Late submissions of assignments are tolerated to a degree, but ALL assignments must be in by the end of the course or the student generates an ungraded status for the whole course.

Course content:

The main body of teaching is provided by videos of Steve himself, sitting with his guitar in front of the camera, explaining and demonstrating the various techniques, their background (how they came about) tips on proficiency etc. and other aspects. He comes over as extremely 'present' capable, easy going, warm, sincere, and impressively 'open' about everything. There is a lot of humour in his manner, and a very supportive openness, i.e : 'Well, we're all human, and trust me.... every time I go to play this track I find it utterly Harrowing!!"

In each weeks lesson there are several pages of technique, and teaching relative to the art of guitar playing, with these videos strategically placed alongside exercises, food for thought topics, breakdowns of the techniques etc. So it all flows and fits together really well.

The Bottom line on content:

Despite what I have implied, this course is NOT a technical shred fest.... or a theory based brain fry exercise!! The content covers just as much about the mental, emotional,spiritual, and basic humanitarian processes involved in mastering the instrument, as it does theory etc. in fact, the former content significantly out weighs the theory side.

I think the total time of all the Steve video presentations has to add up to a good number of hours, there is no skimping here... he talks in great depth and with great sincerity on pretty much every topic... you will NOT be left wanting... or guessing!!. You will basically get Steve... in your room... sharing his inner-most physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual processes relating to the guitar... and in many instances.. about life in general. There are many personal anecdotes, some hilarious... and many of which you will not find him speaking of elsewhere.

You will become privy to a MASSIVE amount of exclusive "Steve VAI in person" content!! Die hard fans would probably die to get hold of the great majority of these video discourses.. even if they don't intend to play or learn guitar!!

The Point:

Here's the thing. Yes... the course is called 'Steve Vai Guitar techniques'... But at EVERY step of the way.. the dominant emphasis Steve makes is for the student to to use these techniques / philosophies / mental approaches etc. in their OWN way to develop his or her OWN UNIQUE VOICE on the instrument... because ultimately it cannot... and should not... be any other way if you are sincerely following and nurturing your own musical path.

Through working to develop proficiency with all that is taught here (much of which goes WAY BEYOND the simple act of plucking strings stretched across a bit of wood), you will inevitably make contact with the inner you that is here to express itself in it's own unique way!!

Steve says at one point: "Playing guitar really well is only 10% here (holds up left hand with fingers spread).... AND... 90% HERE !! (Taps side of brain with finger!!).

Yes... we can all think it's a great idea to sound like Steve Vai... but you never will.... just as much as Steve would never really be able to sound like any of you guitar players reading this... you are all unique... and you are ALL uniquely gifted... the only issue governing the 'wholeness and accuracy' of your musical souls' expression is the level of commitment you apply to opening that channel, and nurturing that voice...... and that is the other real key to this course (as with anything really)...The more you put into it... the more you will get out of it.

And you will have a HUGE amount of fun generally twisting and contorting those naked vamps of Steve's into a blurring myriad of new directions!! I guarantee it!!

I took this course when it first opened, as I said, and the bonds of friendship that it engendered between the students was quite remarkable.. It has been a real honour to be a part of the deeply profound and positive effect that this course has had on the great majority of those who have taken it (I can't speak for all, for sure, but this has been my experience).

Shortly after completing that first semester of the Vai course we set up an exclusive group using facebook. It is a closed group exclusively for people who have completed this course. Since it's creation it has become an amazing place to hang out. We share music, projects, we do our own assignments, there is a group compilation album project on the go, we're designing T-Shirts, making a youtube channel for all the videos people are doing... and generally having a real ball!!

The group is called "The Ascended (I slayed the Vai course at Berklee) Guitarists society".

We do have an open page called simply 'The Ascended guitarists Society' with some 'skeletal' content that a few members have posted... but the real spirit of the group exists in the former mentioned closed group page. The atmosphere is extremely positive, creative, uplifting, and full of support and encouragement between each and every member to assist each to grow with their art... it's a cool thing ;~)

If you do the course.... you can join and see for yourself!

I hope this rap gives a good idea of what to expect, and I hope it assists anyone interested to make an informed and appropriate choice when considering this course. It really is an amazing journey... and if you really want to touch your soul and encourage it to speak through your guitar then there really is nothing better out there.
Sure there's a ton of shred classes etc out there... but this course will open doors of perception that you may very well never have known even existed within you. You have to trust me on that!!

Below are some examples of just how much fun I personally had with the vamps from the course !!


Gavin (so happy). :D :D :lol: :guitar :headbang :headbang :mrgreen:" onclick=";return false; (Bad horsie) ... -workout-1" onclick=";return false;" onclick=";return false; (Boston rain melody) ... -4-gavin-g" onclick=";return false; (The blood and tears)
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Posts: 628
Joined: Fri May 14, 2004 12:00 am

Gavin, thank you so much for this post! I would so love to take the course at some point... maybe one day!

I enjoyed your audio (and video-from previous posts) clips very much, your playing sounds very "vivid" to me. I believe Steve has the most vivid playing I've ever heard, but I think you're on the right path!

I also really like the feeling of selfless love that transpires from your writing. It brings back fond memories of feelings I usually get at Steve's shows. I guess you know what I mean. :)

Thank you!
so happy
Posts: 147
Joined: Tue Nov 08, 2005 7:06 am

Thanks ;~) That's very kind. I think by the end of the course I couldn't help but find myself digging into That sound! But it is a means to an end.. the eternal search, so to speak. I'm doing an album at the moment, the first for 12 years, having spent a bunch of years making music for TV, which was very 'revealing'... but now with this Album I am finding myself absorbed in a very 'relieving' reality!!

Anyway. it's such a great course I felt to write about it. I feel (as us sentient beings do!) that for the right person... at the right time.. It has the power.. and prowess... to be a truly life changing...uplifting.... and enlightening experience ;~)

God Bless,

G. :wink:
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