Get the Sound of… Steve Vai

Mar 16, 2017


One of the great rock gods of this or any other time, Steve Vai’s nimble fingers are known for getting amazing sounds out of relatively simple performance rigs. So far in this series we’ve mostly looked at performers’ recent guitar rigs, but we felt it was time to contrast those with a classic performer using more basic equipment.

So what do you need to get Steve Vai’s sound? Let’s take a look at his 1999 concert loadout…

The Guitars

Vai favours Ibanez guitars exclusively. In 1999 he was playing with a 7-string, a Jem 6-string, and a Strat-Style all from their range.

The Rack

The guitar feeds first into a Dunlop wah pedal, then the Boss DS-1 Distortion, a Roland volume pedal, and lastly a Digitech whammy pedal.

The Amp

Vai uses twin Carvin Legacy heads each with four X12 cabinets. It’s here that his effects loop is hooked up, with an Eventide ultra-harmonizer connecting to twin Roland SDE-3000 delays, a TC Electronic G-Force, and lastly a TC Electronic Fireworx.

The Aftermath

Eighteen years on and much of Vai’s rig is unavailable, replaced by new products or incorporated into later amps. This is a much simpler rig than many we’ve featured, though, and Steve Vai got utterly iconic sounds out of it.

By picking up more modern equivalents where these have been replaced (and our team will be very happy to help you out – just get in touch!) you can easily set up a rig that offers the same possibilities – and more.

To us, that sounds like a fascinating challenge – one that Danny B attempted here. How close do you think he got?