Joe Satriani: What I Came Up with When I Wanted to Take Tapping to a New Level

(Image credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Awhile back, Music Radar sat down with Joe Satriani to discuss his landmark 1987 album, Surfing with the Alien.

Although it shouldn't be much of a surprise, Satch said he had certain goals in mind when writing and recording the album, including taking two-handed tapping to the next level. He says we can hear the results in two Surfing songs in particular: "Midnight" and the bridge section of "Satch Boogie." Let's start with the latter.

"Satch Boogie"

"For the middle pitch axis section, I wanted to take two-handed tapping to some different level, so with 'Midnight' and with this section I was thinking, 'What has Eddie [Van Halen] not done?' I mean, Eddie is just a genius. He's the Number 1 guitar player of my generation, but I thought, 'I'm not going to step on his toes.' 

"And so I applied things to the idea of tapping the 'board that I thought moved into an area that Eddie hadn't explored. And then using it as a bridge in a boogie song I thought was the weirdest thing. I just love that. I love it when you do a bridge that's so completely weird that when the song starts up again, you go, 'Oh, that's right, it's the boogie!'"


"Like I said, I was a big Eddie Van Halen fan, and I just loved playing his stuff, but I could sit back and if I was going to be analytical I could say, 'Well, he's not doing this. He's taking it in that direction, but what about all this other stuff you could do with it?' And, so, again, I tried to be as respectful as I could—I thought, 'Well, maybe the way to do it is to write a song first and then see if you can interpret it as a two-handed piece.'

"I wrote a piece of music based on this baroque music that I'd been listening to and I literally wrote it out on manuscript, and it was just chords and a looping melody. And then I thought, 'Okay, now how can I turn this into a two-handed piece?' And I spent months taking the thing apart and trying to figure out a way to play it like it was Beethoven or Chopin or something. And that's what I wound up with.

"Then I thought, 'Okay, now I've got it, it's rather mechanical... how do I create a recording that's rather fantastical?' Because that was the other thing. I mean, Eddie was all about rock and roll, like fun rock and roll band. Giant guitar hero playing loud, wearing striped clothes and jumping around and trying to avoid the crazy lead singer, that kind of thing. And I thought, 'What about a pure fantastical thing, like music that is accompanying some weird ceremony in the middle of the night, in the middle of a forest?'

For the entire track-by-track interview, head to

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Damian Fanelli
Editor-in-Chief, Guitar World

Damian is Editor-in-Chief of Guitar World magazine. In past lives, he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor. He's written liner notes for major-label releases, including Stevie Ray Vaughan's 'The Complete Epic Recordings Collection' (Sony Legacy) and has interviewed everyone from Yngwie Malmsteen to Kevin Bacon (with a few memorable Eric Clapton chats thrown into the mix). Damian, a former member of Brooklyn's The Gas House Gorillas, was the sole guitarist in Mister Neutron, a trio that toured the U.S. and released three albums. He now plays in two NYC-area bands.