Joe Satriani Names the Most Underrated Guitarist—Plus Five Personal Revelations

(Image credit: Xavi Torrent/Getty Images)

Joe Satriani recently sat down with Classic Rock for a revealing look into his musical history and outlook.

Among the fascinating tidbits, we learned what song made him want to play guitar, the first thing he learned on guitar, the album he wants to be buried with, and—most interesting—the guitarist he feels is the most underrated in history.

Here are excerpts from the interview.

The song that made Joe want to pick up the guitar: “ ‘The Wind Cries Mary,’ Jimi Hendrix. It was just so totally different to me as a nine year-old kid. Where did this guy come from that his playing could be so in-the-pocket, so musical and so sexy?”

The first thing he learned on guitar: “Well, my older sister Marion was a folk guitarist and she let me play her nylon-string guitar. She had this ‘magic chord sheet,’ with about 17 chords she used to write her songs. Since I couldn’t figure out how to work out other people’s songs, I immediately started writing my own two- or three-chord songs using that sheet. That’s how I started making my own music.”

The most underrated guitarist in history?George Harrison, without a doubt. Just think about this, here’s a young kid at the start of a movement. Not someone who ever thought he’d be a virtuoso on the instrument, he was an all-round musician, and he was destined to write two of the most popular Beatles songs of all time, ‘Something’ and ‘Here Comes the Sun.’ His guitar playing just got better and better, right up to his untimely death…

“I want to shout this, I want to put this in capital letters—HE WAS ALWAYS, ALWAYS MUSICAL! Most people can get good physically on the guitar, it’s not really that hard, but to be musical? That’s the real trick. There are a thousand other guitar players that could play rings around George, but what have they played that you really keep in your heart?”

On a scale of one to 10, Joe rates himself as a…: “[Laughs] One—help me! Every musician knows that in the night, after a good show, you’re with your mates and you’ve had a few and you’re thinking, ‘Ah, it feels good to be a 10!’ But in the morning reality seeps in, you’re nearer a one and you have to claw your way to a higher number...”

The album he wants to be buried with is…: “I just came across some songs my son recorded at high school for a musical project, and I love those songs. I’m so fascinated with his musical approach. He never wanted to become a virtuoso guitar player, and he works in the film industry now. But he’s got a great ear and I love those songs, so if there was an afterlife, I’d want to take those with me.”

His favorite musician joke: “How many guitarists does it take to screw in a lightbulb? One to screw it in, six others to tell him how he should have done it differently.”

Check out Joe’s complete answers and his responses to many more questions at

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Christopher Scapelliti

Christopher Scapelliti is editor-in-chief of Guitar Player magazine, the world’s longest-running guitar magazine, founded in 1967. In his extensive career, he has authored in-depth interviews with such guitarists as Pete Townshend, Slash, Billy Corgan, Jack White, Elvis Costello and Todd Rundgren, and audio professionals including Beatles engineers Geoff Emerick and Ken Scott. He is the co-author of Guitar Aficionado: The Collections: The Most Famous, Rare, and Valuable Guitars in the World, a founding editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine, and a former editor with Guitar WorldGuitar for the Practicing Musician and Maximum Guitar. Apart from guitars, he maintains a collection of more than 30 vintage analog synthesizers.