Mailbag 83

Back in 1990, Guitar School magazine held a drawing for which the grand prize was an Ibanez Universe UV7 guitar and a lesson with Steve Vai. I sent in ONE entry on the exact date of the deadline and basically forgot about it ( no one actually wins these things – especially guys like me, right? ). I was just hoping to win one of the 2nd or 3rd prizes: a copy of “Passion and Warfare” or a tab book of the same. Well, you guessed it, a month or so later the magazine called to inform me that my name had been drawn and I was the grand-prize winner. It took them a few minutes to convince me that it was legit and not one of my friends just messing with me. It ended up taking several months for Ibanez to deliver the guitar to me – something about having problems with the Lo-Pro. The lesson with Vai happened about a year later due to conflicts with Vai’s schedule and due to the fact that I had moved twice and they had trouble finding me. But one day I got a call from Steve’s sister and she invited me down to Steve’s house for the lesson.

My wife and I arrived at his house at 10 am on a Saturday morning. Steve himself answered the door and invited us in. I thought I would be extremely nervous and intimidated by him but he was very “normal” and down to earth and made us feel comfortable and welcome to be there. We ended up spending about two hours in his studio listening to tapes (mine and his) going over areas such as theory, technique, and creativity. The most amazing part of the lesson was when he talked about pushing oneself beyond playing one’s basic repetoire of licks and riffs to come up with something new. He said to do this you need to take an entire day and do nothing but play without any outside distractions. He briefly demonstrated by standing about 10 feet in front of me and improvised riff after riff after riff for a good ten or fifteen minutes. Needless to say I was absolutely AMAZED. I wasn’t sure if I should start practicing 12 hours per day or just give up.

Anyway, that’s my Vai story. Hope you enjoyed it.

Donald McCue