Why Steve Vai’s vibrato is unlike any other guitar player’s – and how he came up with his innovative ‘circular’ approach

Steve Vai performs in concert during Noches del Botanico music festival at Real Jardín Botánico Alfonso XIII on July 18, 2022 in Madrid, Spain.
(Image credit: Mariano Regidor/Redferns)

Vibrato is, in essence, a guitar player’s calling card. It signifies the intent of the note, and indeed, the intensity, with players like Zakk Wylde and B.B. King shaping their entire careers around the distinctive way they wobble those strings.

Yet no vibrato is quite so technically unique as that of Steve Vai, who fashioned his own ‘circular’ style in order to manipulate the note’s pitch according to his own artistic vision.

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Michael Astley-Brown
Editor-in-Chief, GuitarWorld.com

Mike is Editor-in-Chief of GuitarWorld.com, in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He has a master's degree in journalism from Cardiff University, and over a decade's experience writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitarist, as well as 20 years of recording and live experience in original and function bands. During his career, he has interviewed the likes of John Frusciante, Chris Cornell, Tom Morello, Matt Bellamy, Kirk Hammett, Jerry Cantrell, Joe Satriani, Tom DeLonge, Ed O'Brien, Polyphia, Tosin Abasi, Yvette Young and many more. In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe.