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Joe Satriani – Mr Instrumental who taught the worlds Great Guitar Players How To Play

Posted by The MindMusicMentor on December 17, 2009

Joe Satriani


The man who brought instrumental high tech guitar to the masses

during the Dance Music Era And…

who taught the world’s great Guitar Players how to play!

What have Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, Steve Vai, Lick Library’s Danny Gill and a whole host of other world class Guitarists, well known and not so well known all got in common?

Well the answer is at one time or another, they were all taught by Joe Satriani – even when Kirk Hammett left Exodus to join Metallica, he was getting lessons from Joe.

More than just a Guitar Teacher

However Joe was much more than “just a Guitar Teacher” – he was key in bringing instrumental high-tech rock to the masses since the late 1980s – however the Joe Satriani story really begins in…

September 1970 – red letter day for Guitar

As you may know – this was the month, that at the peak of his Guitar Playing, Jimi Hendrix died. At the time in a school American football practice session – someone told a little Joe Satriani about this; that very same day Joe decides to quit football and dedicate his life to exploring the Guitar and all the possibilities he could discover — and over the years he has discovered a lot of possibilities!

Here’s Joe telling this story on video :-



Little Joey and Lennie Tristano

And so Joe’s life long adventure with the guitar began. By the early 1970s he was seeking out teachers, and one of Joe’s earliest and most demanding teachers was Lennie Tristano –a very accomplished Jazz Player, who some claim recorded the first avant garde totally improvised Jazz Music as early as the 1940s.

Lennie was very strict, Joe recalls how Lennie would always demand payment upfront, and as soon as there was a mistake, that meant Joe hadn’t practiced and the lesson was over!

Lennie also insisted that his students, like Joe, be able to sing whatever part they were  trying to learn on the guitar – this was something that Joe absolutely hated – and caused him to have several 2 minute lessons!! But this was what would years later distinguish Joe from the other Shredders of the 1980s and give his playing a very unique lyrical edge.

Here’s Lennie doing a solo “Tangerine” at his famous Copenhagen concert of 1965 :-

Not Bad Joey…

In one of their later lessons, lasting all the way through and not just two minutes; Lennie would turn round and say “Not bad Joey, you could do something really interesting, in about 15 years … and 15 years later in 1987 was the release of Joe’s landmark album – Surfing with The Alien.

But before then…

Joe was actively teaching from around 1978, with students including Steve Vai, and also playing in different covers bands including the Squares.

Towards the end of their lessons, Steve Vai would say how he would just jam with Joe; the two would stand back to back, one would start playing and the other just had to keep up and play something that fit.

Not of this Earth

By the mid 1980s, Joe decided to go solo, and released his first commercial record, Not of this Earth; during the recording of the track “The Snake” – his engineer John Cuniberti’s car, had been broken into, and John cut his hand – with the clock ticking, they were almost out of studio time, and out of fresh tape – John “using his bloodied hands” spliced, (joined together) used bits of tape to complete the mix for this track – a “funk/jazz fusion” type number.

Here’s Joe playing The Snake From Not Of This Earth :-

Putting Instrumental Rock back on the map with 1987’s Surfing with The Alien

This was the first Guitar instrumental album to chart in the US, since Jeff Beck’s Blow by Blow in 1973 – now at this time the charts were full of dance music, Guns and Roses were about to break through, and while there was a whole army of technical shredding playing going on, which had started with Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising force a few years earlier; it was this album and in particular Joe’s title track Surfing with the Alien which caught the attention and ear of music fans, guitar players and non-guitar players alike.

Free Ibanez Guitar anyone!

At my local music store, they had a fines list… anyone playing Stairway to heaven would be fined £5, Smoke on the Water was around £10… but if you could play Surfing With The Alien, then they would give you a brand new Free Ibanez Guitar worth around £500 in those days.

This sound was that new… and nobody could figure out how it was done… not in 1987 anyway.

Here’s Surfing with the alien, original album version :-

This track had a really subtle use of a wah wah pedal all the way through, also there was very unorthodox whammy bar use, for that time, edge of the pick tapping, and also closing with Chuck Berry type double stops but done in a very modern style.

Surfing Number 2 … Back to Shalla Bal from Flying in a Blue Dream 1990 :-

A lesser known track off the 1990 album, when Joe started to tour the world for the first time as a solo artist, here’s the link to Bak to Shalla Bal :-



By the time of Nirvana, it seemed that Guitar solos were out of fashion, and many shredders of the 1980s fell by the wayside – except for Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen and of course Joe Satriani.

Here’s the three of them, on the G3 tour doing the Hendrix number Voodoo Chile :-



The crush of love

Originally featuring as a flexidisc on the cover of Guitar Player magazine in 1987 – shows a melodic side to Joe’s playing, here’s Joe demonstrating this at a Russian Music show in 2004: –

Out of all the virtuoso guitarists that appeared on the scene in the 1980s, Joe is probably the most known amongst Guitar Players and non-guitarists – both for having taught many of the top guitar players in the world today, and also for the many albums and tours he has done since.

Here’s Joe playing Surfing live a few years ago :-


Making A YouTube Dream Come True

One of the most watched Guitar instrumentals of all time is Pachelbel’s Canon Rock – originally arranged by Guitarist Jerry C – although the most popular version is by an “unknown” Guitarist playing along infront of their computer hiding under their base ball camp.. After much searching, YouTube discovered the identity of this “popular Bedroom” Guitarist and invited “Fun Two” to play the most popular instrumental with Joe Satriani’s Touring band at YouTube’s live awards show…

In the video you see someone playing the Game Guitar Hero, before Joe Satriani plays extracts from Satch Boogie and Surfing With The Alien, before being joined on stage by an “extremely happy” Fun Two who looks like he can’t believe what a huge audience he is playing with, and also the fact that he has Joe Satriani playing Rhythm Guitar for him…

Joe’s adventure with the Guitar started way back in 1970 – he influenced a whole generation of guitar players and continues to inspire Guitarists and Music Fans all around the world with his own brand of “Strange Beautifull Music” – long may Joe’s adventure continue!




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